It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword, with the advent of the Internet and it’s wide effects on business and marketing, companies have a been able to expand their customer base from a smaller, local reach to a worldwide potential consumer base. While this has opened up the expansion for many organizations, it has also created a great challenge for marketing and the ability to make a significant impression on such a massive potential customer base.
However large the potential base is, of the millions of users on the Internet, only a small percentage will be likely to convert into clients or consumers making target marketing online even more important.
To reach the right audience among the millions online you have to get to know who might be interested in your product or service and understand better than ever before who your target market really is. Not only do you need to understand who your target audience is, but you need to understand how best to communicate with them to truly get your message across in the giant sea that is the Internet landscape today.

Understanding Your Target Audience Online

The Internet is huge-- it is massive. As of 2016, there were over 4.62 billion active websites indexed on the Internet. Each day Google runs 3.5 billion searches. With this massive activity, how does one find the audience they are truly wanting to reach online?
The first step is to know your real audience and find ways to understand their habits online.

1. What are the demographics of my target audience?
Think about basic human factors like gender and age, as well as geographical location, economic and social status.

2. How many target audiences do I have?
A certain product of service may have more than one different audience that you can benefit from targeting. Thinking about different sects of people that are potentially the most profitable will help you deliver the most effective ad to the person who should see it most.

3. What makes your product/service stand out?
A good way to define your target audience is to consider what your products or service offers that perhaps your competitors don’t. If you are able to focus in on what you do best and consider who in your audience will benefit most from that value, you can target ads to these potential clients and capitalize on what your business does that makes you special.

4. Think specifically
Of course, you want to market your whole business, but honing in on particular services or products you offer gives you a much better chance of converting a website visitor into a buyer. Consider the user flow, if a user sees a product they may want in a social media ad and they click, we want them to land on a page where they can make a purchase immediately. We want the buying process to be as simple as possible. If you can take a user from the ad to a purchase page within one click you have made the process so easy it’s almost impossible for a truly interested consumer to not to make a purchase.

Researching Your Target Audience

Once you have a better understanding of some of the specific details about your consumer, you need to begin to understand their habits, especially what they do and how they interact online.

5. Ask your current customers
If you have a current business, utilize your own customers for research. Ask them where they spend time online and as you begin to see patterns with their habits you can apply the data you receive to your online marketing plan.
If you have a current Facebook page with a significant following, you can also use Facebook Audience Insights, to better understand the demographics and interests of your current following.

6. Check out the competition
There is nothing wrong with taking a look at what other companies like yours are doing online. Where do they have social profiles? What groups are in they in and what pages to they like? What keywords are they using? What pages do their fans follow? You can apply this information to find new places to advertise and new information to better target your potential market.

7. Join groups online
Social media sites often utilize groups to further conversations on specific topics. Take some time to research and join groups that are related to your industry, or if applicable to the industry where your target audience may be employed. Don’t just join the groups, add to conversations and make yourself a notable presence. Make sure you take some time to observe before you start posting, to better define your voice and message to the audience in the group.

Finding Your Audience

8. Think about user demographics
Once you have a better idea of who you are looking to target you can begin to decide where best to find them. Age, gender, and geographical factors are often great indicators of where you might be able to reach your target audience. For instance, if your target market includes women, you might consider Pinterest advertising where 80% of their users are reported as female.

9. How does your consumer make a purchase?
To really decipher where best to focus your advertising dollars it be imperative to know the most likely way your potential consumer will make a purchase. If you are selling a service and people often call you directly, your best bet may be in Google pay-per-click ads where your business phone number can appear easily to encourage a call to action. Make sure you consider how a user will find you. Will they search for you or perhaps they might look you up through social media channels. Knowing the process a consumer takes from thought to action will help you decide where you best focus your advertising efforts.

By the time you have really researched your target audience, you will begin to feel like you know your audience as well as you know yourself. This insight can help any company use their advertising dollars effectively and make a greater mark on the digital marketing world.

Author's Bio: 

Amber Henning is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist for Social Eyes Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency. She has run successful digital campaigns for politicians, businesses, and organizations such as the American Cancer Society. She is passionate about helping businesses and organizations succeed, especially online.