One of the questions I get asked most often is, “How do I find out where my ideal clients are online?”
There are many places where you can get in front of your customers online to build your visibility, but most often when I’m asked this question it relates to social media sites, so that’s where I’m focusing this article.
Your Ideal Client
I’m assuming you have clarity around your ideal client, as that would be the first step to take before conducting any research. It will be a waste of time if you don’t have a good idea of who you want to serve and who you’re searching for.
For more information on identifying your ideal client, check out my post on the right social media platforms for your event where I cover this briefly.
Now, on to the search….
Searching Each Social Media Site
There are specific capabilities within each social media platform that can help you figure out if your ideal client is active on that site. I’ll focus on the most popular sites here: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
With 3 billion users on Facebook there’s a good chance your ideal client will be there. There are a few ways you can search on this platform, beyond just typing in someone’s name or keywords in the search bar.
An easy way to find your clients on Facebook is to search for groups based on selected keywords. For example, if you’re a health coach, search for words like “nutrition” or “fitness,” depending on your area of focus, and then click on “Groups” along the top to refine your search.
You may need to be a bit more specific with your keywords in order to find groups that relate to your exact client. For instance, instead of “nutrition” you might enter “paleo,” and instead of “fitness” enter “HIIT” (high intensity interval training).
You’ll be able to see the size and description of the resulting groups. With private groups that’s all you will be able to see. If the group is public, then you can click through and check out posts and members. If it’s a private group, and you think your ideal client may be included, request to join the group and then spend 2 – 3 weeks observing the conversations.
If you find it’s the right group then start offering value and answering questions in the group to build your authority.
Facebook Ads Manager
You don’t need to pay for an ad to take advantage of this. Go into your Ads Manager (click on Manage Ads under the top right drop down arrow). Choose “+Create” to get started.
For this purpose don’t worry about the objective. Just choose something, such as Brand Awareness or Traffic, to move to the next step.
Now here’s where it gets fun! Use the Audience section to narrow the numbers based on the criteria that would fit your ideal client. You can narrow down based on demographics, such as age range, gender, and location. As you select these you will see the audience size change.
To really get to your audience though, enter topics in the Detailed Targeting section. These can be other Facebook pages your audience would follow or topics that they like. As you start to enter the words Facebook will make suggestions. You will also be able to choose whether the keyword relates to interests, job titles, or employers.
Check out the audience size once you’ve narrowed this down and that will give you an idea of how many of your ideal clients are on Facebook.
BONUS TIP: Facebook Ads Manager is a good tool for getting pure numbers, but to really get to know your audience check out Facebook’s Audience Insights: https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience-insights. Enter the appropriate demographics on the left side and include at least one Interest. This can be a page or topic. Once entered, click on “Page Likes.” This will show you a range of things your ideal client responds to, including writers, TV shows, authors and products. There’s lots of other information in Audience Insights that can help you really get to know your ideal client so spend some time here.
Conduct a poll
You can conduct a poll on your Facebook page, in your group, or in a group where you’re a member (if that’s allowed by the administrator.) Keep it to the point with short answer options to make it easier for people to answer. Besides finding your audience this can also provide you with some good insight. Make sure to specify who should answer the question (narrow it down using demographics of your ideal client) as this tends to get a better response and you will be sure to hear from the audience you want.
Hashtags are as important on Instagram as they are on Twitter, and are a great way to search for your clients.
If you have existing clients, or know of any potential clients, check out their Instagram feeds to see which hashtags they’re using with their posts. Also, check out influencers in your niche, your competitors, and complementary businesses and look at those hashtags as well.
Then click on the hashtags in their posts that would relate to your business to see the activity around that word and how many people are talking about that topic. You can then click through to the profiles of those users to make sure they’re your ideal client.
Going back to the posts from the influencers, competitors and complementary businesses, check out the level of engagement they’re getting on their posts. Also see who’s commenting. Click on the usernames and check out their profiles to see if they’re your ideal client.
This may feel a bit like going down a rabbit hole but it’s a great way to find if your audience is on Instagram.
Geotags in Instagram are a way for users to show where their image is located. It’s a great way to connect with people in your local area.
To search for local customers, click the search icon on the bottom, then in the search bar at the top of the app, select Places and enter your location. Go through the posts and see who’s in your area who may be your ideal client. As with the general Instagram search you can view their posts, seeing who’s commenting on them, and see who they follow. Rinse and repeat for others who seem like your ideal client in your area.
BONUS TIP: While you’re in there, like and comment on their posts. You can even DM them to see if they’d be interested in working together!
Hashtags originated on Twitter and are still a powerful way of finding information on specific topics and see who’s talking about them. Do a search for a topic that relates to your niche and take a look at the posts. Are there many posts? Are people retweeting, liking, conversing? It’s best to get more specific with your hashtag search than searching for generic terms, like with the Facebook group search mentioned above.
You can also drill down a bit once you find some users talking about those topics. Click through to learn more about that person and see if they’re your ideal client. If so, do some more digging – look to see how many followers they have, who else they’re following, and how often they’re tweeting. If you find a bunch of people who are your ideal clients who are active on Twitter and getting good engagement with others then that’s a sign that it’s probably a good platform for you.
Twitter Chats are another great way to find out if your ideal clients are active on that platform. You can look for chats that relate to your niche here: Tweet Reports. This is the best list I’ve found of Twitter chats, but it may be a bit outdated.
Check out some of the chats and see what types of conversations are occurring. You can even chime in and add value and showcase your knowledge!
These chats usually happen at the same time each week so add it to your calendar. Although the amount of Twitter Chats have decreased, there are still a lot of good ones out there.
Advanced Twitter Search
Using the advanced Twitter search tool (twitter.com/search-advanced) brings up different results than hashtag searches. It will look for your keywords in users’ posts and not just in the hashtags they’re using.
Twitter advertising (ads.twitter.com) doesn’t have the granularity of Facebook advertising but it does let you search by gender, age, location, keywords, interests, behaviors, and follower-lookalike accounts, which are accounts your audience may follow. The platform also suggests follower-lookalike accounts based on the keywords you enter.
Enter the appropriate criteria and Twitter will provide an estimate of the potential audience size on that platform.
Pinterest is not a social media site like the other platforms mentioned – it’s actually more of a search engine! And it’s gone way beyond recipes and home decor. There are many businesses who are quite successful getting clients on Pinterest.
Since Pinterest is based so heavily on its search capability, the search function is the best way to find your clients on this platform.
The first thing to do, as with other social media sites, is check out the influencers in your niche, your competitors and complementary businesses to see how many boards and pins they have, which will show how active they are on Pinterest. Of course, if they’re pinning a lot it doesn’t mean that their audience is there and commenting or repinning, but it will show if they think the platform is worth their time.
Another way to look for your clients is to search keywords. Hopefully in other research you’ve done you’ve collected a good amount of relevant keywords. Enter some of those and check out the volume of resulting pins that you get.
To help in your keyword search, when you start typing in the search bar, Pinterest will auto-suggest other keywords to give you more ideas.
Unfortunately Pinterest doesn’t show the total number of results for that keyword so it’s hard to tell which topics are the most popular and resonating with users, but you can see individual user board and follower counts under the “People” drop down.
In 2017, Pinterest took away the individual repin count, which used to show up right beside each image, but there is a hack that allows you to see this. Click on a specific pin and in the URL, after pinterest.com/pin number, add “activity/saved/”. You can scroll down and see the number who reportedly tried as well as repinned that pin.
Since one in three professionals in the world are on LinkedIn, according to the site, if you are targeting professionals then LinkedIn is a good bet for you.
You can use the search function to find people who used your keyword in their profile. And you can narrow this list by location and company. There is not an easy way to see the volume of results so the best way to tell if your clients are on the platform is to use LinkedIn Groups.
There are over 1.7 million LinkedIn Groups, so more than likely there are at least a few related to your niche.
To search for groups that may include your clients, enter your keyword and select “groups” from the drop down in the search bar. If “groups” does not appear as an option, you will need to enter a keyword and get those results first. Then, on that results page there will be a drop down option under “More” in the top navigation and you can select “groups” from there. This will show you all the groups related to that keyword.
From this list you will not only see the amount of groups related to that keyword but the number of members as well. This is a good indication of the amount of interest in those topics.
Another way to find relevant groups is to view the profile of a current client or someone who represents your ideal client and see what groups they belong to. You should also do this with your competitors, influencers and complementary businesses – although you will have to search for employees at companies since individuals, not organizations, belong to groups.
It’s a good idea to join some of those groups to check out the level of engagement and types of conversations and comments that are posted there.
Invest the Time to Research
To maximize any social media marketing efforts you need to know who you want to serve and where they are online, so you can get the right message in front of the right people.
It’s always best to talk directly to your customers for your research but that’s not always possible. The results and numbers you’ll find by searching on each of the social media sites as described above aren’t definitive but they will give you a good idea of which social media sites would be best for your business.
Finding your audience online is one step in figuring out which social media platforms are best for your business. In my article on Which Social Media Platforms are Right for You I describe the 4 other steps to take to help you in that decision.
Have you figured out where your clients are?