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All You Need to Know About Audience Fragmentation Part 1: The Art of Segmentation
Posted by Cameron Francis on March 15, 2016 in Digital Marketing

All You Need to Know About Audience Fragmentation

In the traditional world of analogue media, distribution of content was scarce while audience attention was plentiful. In that former world, content of average quality was almost guaranteed to garner a lot of audience attention.

Times have changed.

In the age of smartphones and citizen journalism, distribution of content is aplenty.

But…

Audience attention is missing.

The most faultlessly produced content today cannot offer the same kind of engagement delivered by traditional media a few decades ago.

Who would have thought that despite the internet having gained massive reach throughout the world, marketers would still be grappling to get a few precious seconds of their audience’s attention?

Many of us thought that the availability of various communication media would increase our reach.

But that is not what we are seeing.

It has become increasingly hard to generate attention and engagement with the content that we create.

The modern consumer is bombarded with messages of all nature that he has in all respect stopped caring.

Add to that the fact that your audience is granularly divided across all manner of social and traditional media.

You have yourself a big problem ‑ audience fragmentation.

In 2013, ESPN.com, General Electric, Champ Sports, among others started putting their Tumblr profiles on display and TV advertisements.

These are some of the world’s top businesses trying to come to grips with audience fragmentation.

Tumblr was on the rise with more than 102 million blogs, and brands had realised that the new media was not to be ignored.

Today, audience fragmentation is on full throttle. Digital marketing is no longer about setting up a website and creating a Facebook and Twitter profile for the business.

Your audience is hanging in places you never thought they would hang out. They are on Flirchi, Snapchat, Tinder, WeChat, and tens of other social networks.

 

What is Audience Fragmentation?

The Dictionary of Marketing defines audience segmentation as “division of audiences into small groups due to the wide spectrum of media outlets.”

I could not have defined it any better. But to put it in simpler terms, audiences have become less of ‘mass audience’. They are more fragmented than ever before, and mass communication is on its deathbed.

Fragmentation results from consumers having a myriad of interests:

  • Following friends and trends
  • Flitting from one fad to the next
  • Following celebrities
  • Picking up new identities

And everywhere they go, brands compete for their attention.

In addition, your customers now prefer to consume content on media that they can identify with and media that relate to their niches.

Let us put this into context using conventional media:

A few years ago, Cable television was the in-thing. Today we have Netflix, On-Demand, Amazon, Roku, and other similar services.

Nowadays, people are ditching cable television, preferring to watch their favourite programmes on media that best work for them.

Just to get an idea on how fragmented today’s audience is, Edison, a consumer survey firm, did a research.

Their findings were mind-boggling.

According to their report, 256 million US citizens are on TV, 243 million are on radio, 232 M are on the internet, and 139 M are on mobile devices.

media and digital platforms comparison 2003 vs 2013

Although audience fragmentation was first reported in old media it has gradually found its way into new media.

Take the case of Facebook.

Facebook used to be the dominant social media network a few years ago.

Although it is still claiming a large chunk of digital advertising budgets, emerging social media networks such as Snapchat and WeChat are dicing up Facebook’s audience.

Snapchat’s new geofilters feature has made advertising on the millennials-favoured social app a walk in the park, and much cheaper than their initial offering.

WeChat has a feature that allows businesses to post ads in other brand’s WeChat profiles. For example, a hair gel brand on WeChat can post ads on a facial cleanser’s profile, allowing it to tap into an adjacent market.

Similarly, Twitter and Pinterest are constantly adding new features aimed at enticing marketers to give them more money.

It is a fierce competition for the media and social media networks.

various social media platforms

 

Audience Fragmentation in Marketing

Audience fragmentation is not just affecting traditional media and owners of social media networks. It is also a big challenge to marketers like you who advertise on these media.

Your audience is no longer located on one strategic media. They are everywhere.

As a marketer you have to take audience fragmentation into account when you are allocating advertising budgets.

You need to step out of your comfort zone.

Familiarise yourself with the different advertising media. You can’t just stick to one platform as your customers are not using one platform only.

Your goal as a marketer is to distribute content in as many of these media as your marketing budget can allow.

 

The Two Types of Audience Fragmentation

In digital advertising, audience fragmentation happens in two broad ways:

  1. Audience fragmentation
  2. Marketing fragmentation

Because of advances in consumer trends and new technology, the two occur in ways that were not applicable 10 years ago.

Therefore, marketers must reacquaint themselves with audience fragmentation.

At the core of it, marketers want to go where their audience hangs out. But audience fragmentation poses one big challenge: Your target audience is dispersed all over the internet.

Some are on Twitter. Others are on Facebook. And the rest are on the remaining 1001 social media networks.

It makes it much harder for you get into the eyeballs of all your target audience in one place.

Clearly, there is nothing much we can do to reconsolidate our prospects in one strategic place. But we can learn how to fragment or segment our marketing so that we are reaching the right audience in their favourite hang outs on their favourite devices.

 

Examples of Audience Fragmentation

It is hard, if not entirely impossible, to divorce content from digital marketing. The web thrives on content. Without understanding your audience, your content marketing budget could get quite hefty.

However, thanks to audience fragmentation, you can write content that is targeted to your particular niche.

But as we have seen, niches can also have sub-audiences. Here are a few examples of how a niche audience could be in different segments altogether.

1. Hierarchy fragmentation

Your target audience might be at different levels of familiarity with your product:

  • There are those who are expert at using it
  • Some are hearing about it for the first time

This is what we call hierarchy fragmentation.

You are probably in the digital marketing niche, but within that niche, your audience might be at different levels. Some are very new to the field while others are deeply ingrained in it.

You could solve this by going further and establishing whether your blog is intended for newbies or experts only.

But here is one thing to keep in mind.

While newbies are hungry for new information, it is the experts who contribute to most of the discussion in the comments section.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if you didn’t alienate any of the audiences?

  • You could create content that is a mix of both. Use categories to differentiate between content for new readers and for expert readers
  • Use email marketing to segment your audience. Serve each group content that is appropriate to them

Ultimately, newbies graduate into experts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to keep them instead of watching them leave?

  • Your audience is segmented by how they receive and consume information

At the beginning of 2015, more than 90% of all US households had more than 3 internet connected devices. Although this data represents households, not individuals, Cisco predicts that by 2017 most people in the US will have more than 5 internet-connected devices.

With this in mind, is it too hard to imagine a household in Australia where every individual has a tablet, a Laptop, a Smartphone, and an OTT device? I don’t think this is improbable.

The rise of connected devices empowers consumers to access a bank of information anytime, anywhere.

Has your marketing adapted to serving content on various types of devices? If you haven’t, you are missing out on a larger segment of your target audience.

Responsive websites are no longer a fancy thing to have. They are a requisite for any business that wants to meet the needs of its audiences.

2. Social fragmentation

Your audience is hanging out in more than one place online. Some are on Twitter. Others are on Facebook, and yet others prefer Vine and YouTube.

Should you be marketing on all of the channels? We will find out in a while.

  • Your audience is segmented by their purchasing power

This goes without saying, and without sounding so crass, I think you should be spending more of your efforts on an audience that has more purchasing power.

However, never take for granted the audience that currently does not have purchasing ability. Who knows, they could be your best customers tomorrow.

I could go on and on about how the present-day audience is fragmented, but I hope you get my point.

Fragmentation is real.

You should be adapting your marketing to reach as much of your target audience as you possibly can.

 

Fragmentation is Not Always a Bad Thing

Fragmentation should be the last thing digital marketers need worry about.

True, you might have to divide your budget among several digital channels. You may also have to learn how to use whichever social network app is in fad, which can be time consuming.

But there are positives.

Audience segmentation is forcing brands to pay keen attention to their audience. In fact, I’d go as far and say that fragmentation is the cure for lazy marketing.

Yes, someone out there is willing to listen to you; if only you can reach them through their favourite network or device.

Any marketer who desires to launch a successful digital marketing campaign must first seek to understand what makes their prospects tick. They also have to research the relevant context to facilitate conversations with them.

To see fragmentation as a positive, you will have to look at marketing through a different lens.

Fragmentation puts a smaller, more defined group of consumers into focus:

  • We can launch marketing campaigns with specific buyer personas in mind;
  • Reach the exact demographic that we are targeting; and
  • Deliver content that’s more aligned with our prospect’s needs

If you spend enough time and effort defining your target audience correctly, you can achieve more relevant conversations on the right environment.

Fragmentation also means that we can reach prospects through a number of channels using the same relevant content.

This increases the effectiveness of the content that we create.

Fragmentation means less wastage of the content you create.

On the one hand, audience fragmentation provides an opportunity to deliver targeted advertising to your audience. At the same time, it poses a challenge if your customers are not on the channel that you are using to promote your business.

 

How to Deal With Audience Fragmentation

Apparently, mass communication is dead. Today’s marketing is all about personalising experiences for your audience.

This calls for you to understand each one of your prospects at an individual level:

  • Know where they hang out
  • Know what they do
  • Know who they talk to
  • Know the kind of language they use

The best way to deal with audience fragmentation is to reciprocate in kind.

Create market segments for your business.

market segments for business

Market segmentation is the process of sub-dividing your customers into smaller chunks based on varying characteristics.

Traditionally, there are four broad types of market segmentation:

1. Demographic segmentation

This is segmentation based on age, gender, religion, income and other characteristics that define us as people

2. Geographic segmentation

This groups customers based on their geographical locations.

3. Psychographic segmentation

Segmentation based on customer’s traits and preferences, values and lifestyle, as well as attitudes and interests. After the US Supreme court legalised same sex marriages, proactive marketers, such as Coca-Cola, had already created marketing campaigns based on psychographic segmentation of the gay community.

Coca-Cola psychographic segmentation

4. Behavioural segmentation

Segmenting potential customers based on their knowledge levels, uses, and responses to a product. You may choose to target your customers by how much information they know about your product, whether they are cost-oriented, or solution-oriented.

 

How to Get Segmentation Data on for your Audience Segment

When it comes to collecting and analysing data about your audience, nothing beats Google Analytics.

It is a beast at audience segmentation.

If you are not using Google Analytics, you could be missing important data about people who are interested in your services or products.

Google Analytics Segment

To start using Google Analytics, you must have first installed the tracking code on your website.

Once installed on your website the Google Analytics tracking code starts collecting important data on the visitors arriving on your website.

The collected data in turn are grouped according to various useful physiognomies:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Interests
  • Behaviours
  • Other important demographic factors

The real power of Google Analytics, however, lies in creating custom audiences.

Custom segments allow you to isolate certain traffic to your website in order to learn more about them. You can for instance set custom segments to show you the demographic of the traffic coming from your social media campaigns. You could also set custom segment for traffic that is landing on a particular article on your website.

If Google Analytics is not your cup of tea, you’ll be pleased to learn about Facebook’s audience insights feature.

Although Facebook’s Audience Insights is not as powerful as Google Analytics, it still reveals important demographic metrics about the audience interacting with your content on the social network.

Audience Insights, which is accessible through the Ad Manager in Facebook, is free to use and provides rich data about your audience’s demographics.

Just like Google Analytics, you’ll need to install a Facebook Pixel code on your website to start collecting data of visitors landing on your website.

 

Moving Past Classical Audience Segmentation to Personalisation

With the above classic segmentation, customers were segmented into groups with similar buying patterns.

Unfortunately, we cannot continue thinking along these lines.

True, market segmentation has its place. You still need to know the age, gender, and interests of the bulk of your customers.

However, market segmentation alone is not enough to catapult your business to the next level.

At the very core, digital consumers have distinct reactions to different circumstances. This new digital age calls for a deeply different way of thinking about consumers.

It used to be assumed that customers in a market segment exhibit same buying patterns.

This is no longer true.

Today, experts emphasise that no two customers are exactly the same.

We are moving away from sweeping generalisations that used to define what influences consumer buying decisions.

If you don’t believe me, look at the number of emerging digital startups that are dedicated to developing platforms, tools, and strategies to enable brands reach their prospects using mobile technologies.

Each aims at reaching a potential customer. The approach is greatly personalised and structured based on a unique set of preferences that the customer exhibits.

So far you’ve learned the art of segmenting your audience. You’ve discovered how finding the right audience can enhance your customer engagement.

But, if you want to become a leader in your market niche, this is not the end of it all.

You need to carry the strategy a step further.

It is time to move from segmentation to personalisation, to drive even more engagement and revenue to your business.

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Cameron Francis

Co-Founder

Cameron Francis is the CoFounder & Managing Director of ETRAFFIC, Melbourne's #1 Creative & Digital Marketing Agency. For over a decade Cameron has been providing growth marketing and digital strategies for over 2,000 small businesses, start-ups & entrepreneurs around the country.
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