There’s no question that social media constitutes a powerful and convenient vehicle for interacting with millions of people and reaching new potential clients. With well over a billion current and former users, Facebook is the biggest platform by far. LinkedIn, Twitter and all the rest claim a few hundred thousand apiece, so these sites undoubtedly represent a vast audience. But who is that audience?
Like most businesses, accounting firms frequently rely on demographics to help them target their ads and sponsored social media content. The assumption is that selecting recipients based on demographic data will ensure your message reaches the right users, but that’s not always the case. If your CPA firm targets audiences on Facebook and other social media platforms this way, consider this surprising fact: “there are more 18 year old men using Facebook today than there are 18 year old men living on Earth.”
The confusing statement comes from Simon Kemp, who took a deep dive into Facebook’s demographic data. What he found were a number of telling anomalies that call into question the wisdom of relying heavily on demographically limited audiences.
As Simon’s research indicates, social media demographics don’t always reflect the true nature of their users. Bots compose a portion of the user base, as do children who misrepresent their age to evade limits on use by minors. Most marketers know that these two elements will be a factor in their audiences on most social media platforms, no matter how carefully they try to screen them out. What few consider is the fact that fully human users of legal age also tend to fudge the facts when completing their profiles (which are the source of the demographic data marketers depend on when targeting an audience).
Some mask their true identities because of political repression, gender bias that discourages female participation in public discourse or other kinds of threats. In an age of increasing concerns about online privacy, however, a rapidly growing number of everyday Americans – your client base – are loath to share their personal information with corporate, government or criminal observers (not to imply these categories are mutually exclusive).
These wary internet users have no real fear of political or religious persecution. Instead, they’re concerned about preserving some shred of privacy for themselves and their families, which makes them hesitant to provide accurate data regarding their age, gender, profession or location. Using this self-reported and often inaccurate data to limit audiences by setting demographic parameters can mean you’re preventing prime candidates from receiving your marketing messages.
That makes the ability to select audiences based on previous behavior on the platform especially valuable. What to users click on, read and like? What are their interests? Their actions will, as always, speak more loudly than their words. People who click on content and advertising focused on business and financial matters, for example, or those who have previously engaged with your page will likely be a receptive audience.
Social media behavior yields valuable clues to identities and interests, and thus to the potential of becoming a valued client at your accounting firm. Make behavior the basis for deciding where to focus your energy and marketing dollars, instead of trusting unreliable demographic data.