True or false? The better you know your key demographic, the more likely you are to convert them into loyal customers. True! This one was an easy one since all marketers understand the value of sending the right message, to the right lead, at the right time.

True or false? There are many secrets, tricks, and strategies for behavioral targeting that most brands and experts don’t use. Also true, we spoke with industry insiders to understand the most effective methods of making behavioral targeting part of a marketing plan. In this guide, we’ll explore why this tactic is essential, as well as hidden opportunities you could be discounting or missing altogether.

Why behavioral targeting matters in marketing

Examples of behavioral targeting

As a creative social media strategist, Gigi Robinson likes to think of behavioral targeting as understanding insights, analytics, and reading data regarding how influencers work — and how their audiences work.

While Robinson focuses on influencers specifically, the same can be valid for a variety of marketing vehicles, including blog content, paid and organic ads, newsletters and email blasts, social platform content, website copy, and so on.

Behavioral targeting is at the heart of all of these functions since learning and predicting a user’s actions allow marketers to interact and win them over.

As an example with influencers, Robinson says the majority of the behavioral targeting work can be done during the campaign ideation phase, where the brand selects a suite of creators who will be amplifying the campaign through their own audiences.

“Typically, the influencer sends the brand all of their demographics regarding their audience, engagement, reach, active posting times, clickthrough rates, and more. Ultimately, any campaign can be strengthened by doing extra research regarding who is consuming/using what you are selling and then looking further into digital creators and artists who have similar audiences,” Robinson said.

In essence, exploring behavioral targeting data and analytics is the ‘pause’ and ‘gut check’ marketers need before moving forward. They ask themselves if the content makes sense if it’s being served at the right time, if the spend is worth the investment (with influencers or anything else), and so on.

The secrets and tricks of behavioral targeting you need to know

As you implement behavioral targeting into your suite of services, you can go a step above by turning to the best tricks of the trade. This may be a learning curve, but one that you can master with practice, iterations, and, of course, time. The top suggestions from industry insiders include:

  • Always have a pulse on the latest trends.
  • Choose a niche creator.
  • Invest in community engagement.
  • Use audience insights.
  • Don’t discount the value of hashtags.
  • Look for alternative wormholes.
  • Listen to your instincts.

Always have a pulse on the latest trends.

Marketing isn’t a one-trick show. Instead, it requires you to wear countless hats, adapt on the fly, and be the biggest champion for your business or clients.

Though behavioral targeting is all about watching, analyzing, and better understanding your audience, it also requires you to have a pulse on the latest trends. In fact, trend spotting is the deadliest (and ahem, most effective) weapon in marketing, if you ask Alexander Ferzan, the CEO of Zaddy, LLC.

“If you can spot a trope, a trend, or a fad before it’s sunken its teeth into commercial media, you can win twice,” she explains. “Once by being first to the party and ‘ahead of the game,’ and once by gaining the audience’s attention before everyone else frantically land grabs in response to your efforts.”

However, it’s not enough to hop on a meme, a viral TikTok series, or a GIF that is making its round. Savvy marketers take it a step further by getting into the minds of their demographic.

To do this, Ferzan suggests following this rule: It’s not about what you think is a good idea. It’s about what they believe is a good idea.

“So if you think they will think something is cool because you’ve gleaned behavioral trend data, then you might be onto something special,” she adds.

Choose a niche

Choose a niche and stick to it.

No matter if it’s a product, a service, or a person you’re attempting to sell, your client has a niche. And while they may make sense in a few industries, try to narrow them down to one segment so you can streamline efforts.

Then, as you execute behavioral targeting best practices, you can bring in highly specified creators, influencers, trends, and tools to meet your customer exactly where they are.

“Choosing a niche creator will ultimately help them tailor your brand or product to their audience,” Robinson shares. “This helps the brand by being ultra-specific in their social media marketing, thus leading to higher clickthrough and conversion rates among the contractors, influencers, and creators.”

When you boil it down to the basics, it makes sense: Users land on your website or social media channels because they are searching for a specific something. If all of the content you serve them answers their questions and meets their needs, they’re more likely to take action.

Invest in community engagement.

All too often, marketers put content into the world and then consider it done.

But with behavioral targeting, Ferzan puts it bluntly: “It’s in the comments, man!”

Whether you hire someone to track comments, likes, shares, and follows, or make it part of your responsibilities, it’s vital to invest in community engagement because you need to see what people are saying in real-time. Yep, that includes the good — and the not-so-good.

“Use antagonistic or provocative content to drive feedback — positive or negative,” Ferzan continues. “Keep eyes on what the responses look like, and even consider ghost accounts to reply and engage with people to understand the idiosyncrasies of it all. Stand with the people.”

And then: win the people over.

Use audience insights.

Since behavioral targeting focuses on nailing the ideal lead, a marketer should prioritize learning everything they can about them. This is called audience insights, and as Robinson explains, it includes a long list of data points, including:

  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Location.
  • Past purchases.
  • Time on website.
  • Follower status (following or not on social).
  • Other brand affiliations.
  • Estimated household income.
  • …and many more.

“Using audience insights is a common hack that a lot of marketers within the social media and influencer marketing space use,” she continues. “This is generally what they will use as a baseline to choosing the best people to work with.”

Don’t discount the value of hashtags.

Don’t discount the value of hashtags.

Maybe you’re exhausted researching the latest hashtags and tired of using them on postings. But in an ever-digital landscape, these record-keepers aren’t going anywhere soon.

Whether you use them to grow social campaigns and engagement or you sift through them to find trends, they are an essential part of behavioral targeting.

“The more that the campaigners know about certain hashtags and the way people interact with them, the more effective a marketing campaign will be, mainly because of the specificity of it,” Robinson says. “This is another layer to finding people you can market to outside of your specific campaign, but in a related field.”

Look for alternative wormholes.

From YouTube and Reddit to enthusiast message boards, you need to know about the rumblings in the local communities, Ferzan reminds.

“Just like the news, national trends are usually broke on a local level, so it’s important to get local with your research,” she says.

For example, if you’re learning about pickup trucks, get on the F150 and Tacoma boards, see what people are talking about, what they like, and what they don’t like. Or, if like Ferzan, you’re starting a porta-potty company, sit in on the digital seminars, attend Zoom conferences, and get into the private Facebook groups.

“It’s so important to do targeted listening where people are active and impassioned; they’re the ones that boil over into a movement; they’re the dreamers of the dreams,” she says.

Listen to your instincts.

While behavioral targeting is rooted in data, being a human still matters. What do we mean? Don’t merely create a piece of content, an ad, or a campaign because numbers are pointing you in a specific direction. If, in your gut, you don’t feel like it makes sense for your audience, refrain from pushing forward purely based on stats.

“It is very important for marketers and companies to shift away from exclusively emphasizing numbers and looking more at how people interact and respond to media campaigns,” Robinson says. “This is especially present on social media as brands improve strategies in their own marketing. It’s a recipe for success.”

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