Define the Target Audience: 3 Variables That All Organizations Should Consider

The first step to execute your social media strategy is defining your target audience, so that you can customize your message and ways of delivering the messages. Different organizations have different groups of audience. For business, this is usually your potential buyers. For a nonprofit, it can be donors to support a cause or potential clients for a program. For government entities, it can be voters, constituents or general citizens. Within one organization, target audience may vary when conducting different campaigns.


(Image from Yahoo!)

Though the business, nonprofit and government face different social media audience, they share common variables when trying to define their audience.

Objective of initiatives:

To achieve different objectives, you need to go to different people. So always keep in mind your objectives. For example, to generate profit, a business will target people who have potential needs for that particular products or services. If a nonprofit plan to fundraise for its organization, it would cover existing donors and people who care about the cause. The elected officials and their organizations would pay much more attention to the constituent communities if they want to compete for those areas.

Demographics of audience:

Knowing the characters of your target audience makes your target shooting more accurate. Should your audience be young or middle aged? Are they with college or higher education? Are they more attachable to mobile or computers? No matter you are with a business, nonprofit or government, answering questions like these will help you narrow down the general public into more specific groups that you can more easily target with appropriate messaging.

Media preference of audience:

What social media platform are your target audience using? If they are more interested in images than videos, you may need to consider Pinterest rather than Youtube. If you are targeting well-educated professionals, people on LinkedIn would be your first choice. Moreover, organizations in business, nonprofit and government sectors have their own preference on content management. So when trying to define the target audience, matching what you have on your platform and what they are interested is also very important.

Apart from above mentioned variables that all organizations need to consider when defining target audience, there are specific aspects that require each organization to think about. The key is focusing on a well defined group of audience who are closely related to your products and causes. And then monitor what they say, response to them at a personal level, amplify the positive while desalting the negative, and finally lead the audience to take actions you want them to.

Reading source:

Demystifying Social Media, McKinsey & Company

Who is Your Social Media Audience? Really, Who is it?, Kelly Jennex, February 14, 2013

Social Media in Government: Five Considerations, HootSuite White Paper, 2013


Different Type of Organizations, Different Social Media Strategies

Nowadays, social media has become a significant aspect of the success for all organizations, which usually fall into 3 types: business, non-profit and government. As their organizational objectives are different, their social media strategies vary from each other. However, one thing in common is that, the social media objectives need to be aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives.

After aligning the social media objectives with organizational objectives, the development of a social media strategy usually consists of the components indicated in the following graphic: listening to influences, content design, engagement with community and evaluation of approaches. With the graphic, we can have an easy understanding on the substantive differences between the social media strategies used for business, non-profit and government.


Listening to influences:

Businesses have to listen to what the customer say about their products or services in order to make the sales more profitable and satisfying. Non-profit organizations rely a lot on what the donors think about their causes. While government need to pay attention to constituents’ sentiments towards the policies and campaigns.

Content design:

Customers expect to find on a business’ social web the information on products, and ways of solving problems around products. So business should be ready to shoot any problem or inquiry there. For non-profit, social web content is more about how is the cause going on and what impact the cause has made. Government tend to bring up opinions and policies in a more social and personal way on its web presence.

Community engagement:

Social media changed the business approach of one-way influence into two-way conversations. Customers are never so connected with product and service providers like they are now. Non-profit make the operation of a cause more transparent to donors and volunteers via social media. Promoting a cause or appreciating donors are never done so naturally. Government, though utilizing social media with great cautions, is engaging target proponents faster and broader today.


Is the social media strategy successful or not? When asking such a question, make sure you have your social media objectives in mind. All social media approaches are supposed to accelerate the achievement of social media objectives. For business, it could be avenue, brand awareness or customer satisfaction; for non-profit it means more donations or more support from supporters; for government it could be larger coverage in a constituent community or a win in the election.

As seen from the graphic, different type of organizations have different social media strategies, based on which different social media objectives and approaches are developed, and different type of content is optimized. Various approaches of engagement also lead to different results.

Since existing social media platforms carry multiple features, organizations from 3 sectors may choose the most suitable platforms according to their unique needs and resources. For example, Google plus and Facebook may be useful social webs for organizations with abundant photo, video, article and text. Pinterest is a good choice for those who regard qualified images as their unique content and have more female audience. In one word, through understanding the differences between social media strategies used by different organizations, one can achieve the organizational objectives with the social media efforts.


SMD102 Week4 Course Documents – Strategy development process

Social Media Strategy Workbook: The 12-Step Guide to Creating Your Social Media Strategy

Moving from Stakeholder to Weaver: Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits

Social Media Strategy for Government Organizations

Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons: Website Data Comparison on SimilarWeb

Tim Hortons is Canada’s largest fast food service with over 3,000 stores nationwide. One of Tim Hortons’ competitors in Canada is Starbucks, which is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 20,891 stores in 62 countries, including 1,324 in Canada. SimilarWeb is a free web traffic analysis service that provides traffic activity for a given domain including website ranking, traffic sources breakdown, leading referring sites, leading paid and organic keywords, geographic breakdown and also visited sites. I used SimilarWeb to compare the website data of Tim Hortons( and Starbucks(, with the aim of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each site.


(Figure 1)

Website Traffic Overview Analysis

The two websites’ global ranks are very close. SimilarWeb ranks Starbucks 40,776 versus Tim Hortons 40,967. Starbucks ranks 433 higher than Tim Hortons in Canada. However, Tim Hortons’ weekly number of visits in last 6 months is far more than that of Starbucks, according to the comparison graph as above. I also noticed that the number of visits on Starbucks website is very steady, which means the site owns steady audience.

The Time On Site for Starbucks and Tim Hortons are the same as two and half minutes. The Bounce Rate on two websites are also very close, with Starbucks 35.76% versus Tim Horton 35.99%. However, visitors on Starbucks website viewed more pages (4.82) than those who visit Tim Hortons website (3.40). With the almost same bounce rate, it is obvious that Starbucks website is more attractive and can maintain more audience on it. When I viewed Starbucks website, I found that they placed a few appealing videos on the home page. This type of content is a blend of visual and aural impact, which usually is more inviting to audience. The data tells us it works.

Traffic Sources Analysis


(Figure 2)

As can be seen from the graph above, about 40% of the traffic share on Starbucks website is from referrals, much more than the percentage (10.85%) of Tim Hortons website. At the same time, there are about 38% traffic is direct and only 21% is from search.


(Figure 3)

As to Tim Hortons Website, more than 50% of the traffic share in last 3 months is from search, while more than 33% is direct traffic and almost 11% is from referrals.

This seems to me that Starbucks has built up good relationship with other websites and created a lot of linking-ins. However, the web search power of Tim Horton website is more powerful than Starbucks website.

It is interesting to find that, Tim Hortons’ traffic share from Social, which is 3.39%, is almost 3 times of that for Starbucks, which is only 1.30%. It means Tim Hortons utilized social web tools in better ways to generate more traffic on their website. I found on Tim Hortons website homepage an embedded tweets window, inviting you jump into a conversation at any time. Considering the popularity of Twitter in Canada, this is absolutely a great approach to engage the website visitors. Though Starbucks website got icons connecting visitors with social platforms, they are just not so inviting.

Search Result Analysis

 Image (Figure 4)

As we can see from the graph above, 21% of total Starbucks website traffic in last 3 months is search, and among this amount, 100% are organic search. Organic search results are “listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms, as opposed to their being advertisements.” This data here infers to us that Starbucks website has optimized their webpage content and spread links pointing to the website. Relevant content also help build trust between the visitors and the website, which is another way to attain website traffic. Starbucks website did a good job on this.


(Figure 5)

In comparison, more than 50% of Tim Hortons website traffic in last 3 months is search, among which 6.77% are generated from paid search and 93.23% are from organic search. For Tim Hortons, to have half of their traffic generated from search, the paid search from Google has accelerated the result. So a budget for paid search of a website is worthy to consider.

According to the analysis, though Tim Hortons website has more visitors than Starbucks website, Starbucks still have many advantages to compete with Tim Hortons. That’s mainly because visitors on Starbucks website are more engaged. They tend to view more pages within the same time length. Moreover, users are more easily to get to Starbucks website because they optimized the website content and created more inbound referrals. In addition, Starbucks’ website SEO is more successful. They have a better search result for a cost-effective organic search. All these aspects will ensure the steady status of the website traffic, so the online engagement with the visitors, which are customers and prospective, will be strong and lasting.

What needs to be done on Starbucks website is: Firstly, make it more searchable for users so that more traffic will be generated. Secondly, optimize the utilization of social media to interact with visitors and lead them to the website eventually.

On the other hand, Tim Hortons’ ability on attracting more traffic from search engines and social media is much stronger than Starbucks. At the meantime, it would be necessary for Tim Hortons to optimize the website content to sustain the visitors and increase their engagement level.

Works Cited:

“Starbucks.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 October 2013. Web. 9 October 2013.

“Tim Hortons.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 October 2013. Web. 9 October 2013.

“SimilarWeb.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 October 2013. Web. 9 October 2013.

“Organic Search Engine Optimization (Organic SEO).” Janalta Interactive Inc., N.d. Web. 9 October 2013.

Figure 1: and Tim website traffic overview comparison graph. SimilarGroup. N.d. Web. 9 October 2013.

Figure 2: website traffic sources graph. SimilarGroup. N.d. Web. 9 October 2013.

Figure 3: Tim website traffic sources graph. SimilarGroup. N.d. Web. 9 October 2013.

Figure 4: website traffic sources – search graph. SimilarGroup. N.d. Web. 9 October 2013.

Figure 5: Tim website traffic sources – search graph. SimilarGroup. N.d. Web. 9 October 2013.

Influence Over Online Networks

The definition of Influence I found in my online dictionary is: Power to sway or affect based on prestige, wealth, ability, or position. When we talk about the influence over online networks, wealth, ability and position seem not so important. What matters the most is your prestige, in other words, your power of attracting people and affecting their behaviors and thoughts through the online networks matter.

Influence is generated within networks. Influence doesn’t happen if you shut the world out of your room. Influence doesn’t happen if an organization isolates its self in the industry. The influence of individuals or organizations increase when their networks expand. This is the underlying motivation for business, government and non-profits to build up and extend their networks, aiming to enhance their influence.

Business always watches out for profit, making it the efficient sector that utilizes online networks to influence its customers and try to convert a transaction. Despite some governmental functions are willing to influence their audience via online networks, they are very cautions in how to play it and look good at the same time. I think their specific model of game playing is still under development. Online networks just offer nonprofits another easy, natural and cost-effective way to publically recognize their donors and volunteers. Nonprofits are influencing their audience with glory and appeal over online networks.

The ways how business, government and nonprofits influence their target vary. Hence the core factors that define their influence in online networks are different. However, one key factor to evaluate the success of online influence is how many followers you have got. Technology and tools now enable us to track the degree of the engagement between influencer and target. So besides the numbers in the surface, influencers should pay more attention to the percentage of audience that lastingly engage with them. I believe this is the pure influence of any public and private sector.

How to choose the right social media platform for your business?


In this fast-paced ever-evolving digital world, every few months a new social media platform launches, urging businesses to create an account and catch up the new features of this new “toy”, with the goal of attracting more fans in mind.

It’s very crucial to choose the right social media platform with the mindset of putting PEOPLE first, technology second. Regardless your thorough understanding of all the traits of each social media platform, if your social media platform hasn’t been chosen via the first consideration of your PEOPLE – customer and prospective, your engagement with your social media audience will be facing great challenges. We are not saying it’s not important to monitor the evolution of technology, it is only less important when it comes to the decision-making point of which platform and what strategy you are going to adopt.


Choosing the right social platform for high quality engagement

By Ian Stockley | August 5, 2013 |