Vira Marketing Audience Segmentation Defined

When referring to a viral marketing audience, we should define further what is meant by “segmentation.” The concept of audience segmentation, especially in social marketing such as the WIC campaign I mentioned earlier or the ongoing “Click it or Ticket” seat-belt campaigns, is that not all consumers are alike.

Each group of consumers can be grouped into various “segments” which allow you to design campaigns to focus your scarce resources where they are most likely to do accomplish the most good.

For instance, in the seat-belt campaign it became obvious that the primary target audience, Hispanic families who had strong feelings about God causing death and injury, were unlikely to be convinced to belt their children due to risk or education. They were more likely to accede to cost-driven aspects such as being forced to do so or pay a fine that they could ill afford.

This drove the campaign to take the current model where the advertisements are more a warning of the potential actions and penalties you will incur rather then an educational treatment showing the damage that you could avoid by using the existing seat belts available to you!

The types of information that were used to identify which specific groups made up the real target audience for this particular social marketing campaign included information about the:


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” Incidence or severity of the problem
” Prevalence of risk factors
” Size of the group affected
” Relative defenselessness (if applicable)

Often in social marketing such as this the audience segments are described by a wide variety of variables such as:

” Those at risk for the health problem
” Attitudes of those segments
” Perceptions
” Demographics
” Preferred information channels

Much of this type of information can be gathered directly in the form of polls and questionnaires, but often the real research and leg work necessary to correctly target your audience has to take place through trial and error. The process of segmenting your audience starts by first making a list of all the primary audience segments that you wish to target, then defining each of those segments in terms of:

” Demographics (e.g., age and race/ethnicity)
” Behavioral determinants that distinguished “doers” from “non-doers” For example, if you are trying to promote forwarding e-mails for a motorcycle campaign, identify bike riders who have actively participated in the past rather then just all bike riders in your database.

For each of the potential segments listed, pull the following information from your research findings:

” Goals/drivers for the users in the segment
” What has previously and historically worked to influence this segment
” Which contact and information channels appeal to the users, e-mail, website links, newsletters, etc.
” How receptive they are to direct contact


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Another aspect that you should bear in mind when working with target segments is the secondary or “influencing” audience segments. For example, if you are targeting bikers, then motorcycle dealerships are a secondary or “influencing” segment which has some control and/or input to your target audience. As such, that “influencing” segment may also be worth targeting as directly or in a related campaign.

In the WIC-Breastfeeding social marketing campaign we mentioned in the Viral Marketing course, a secondary audience segment that was found to be influential to woman’s decision to breastfeed or not was identified and included and resulted in a significant increase in response once involved. Making the difficult decision to prioritize segments and focusing your efforts early on is vital to a successful campaign, especially when limited resources are available!

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