What Social Data can Teach You about Audiences

My son is a senior in high school and I am beginning to help him with his search for the right school.  One of the aspects of college life that he is looking forward to is belonging to a university with strong school spirit. So to help with this, I suggested that we use football teams as a proxy to find the right environment.

With this in mind, we set out to find a simple list of “2011 NCAA Football Rankings” – an easy Google search is there ever was one. I assumed that the top result, ESPN’s 2011 NCAA Football Rankings, would be the perfect match for our search, until I looked at the data.

ESPN’s site lists one ranking by the Associated Press, one from a USA Today poll, one from an ESPN poll, and one from ESPNU fan ranking. This made me wonder which one of these polls was best for my son as the intended audience. The intent of these polls was purely statistical and did not meet the needs of a college bound high school senior, and therefore provided little help for our cause.

After this discovery, I contacted my Audience Development team here at Networked Insights and asked them to develop a series of lists of the top NCAA football teams for various audience categories. I wanted to focus my research on Millennial Males, Moms (of course his mom is going to have a say!), and a list of teams by Geeks who love Consumer Tech (my son and I both fit into that one!)

The research that I received from the team was really interesting because  each of the audiences had completely different lists of favorites!

The Millennial Males would say LSU, Oregon, and Auburn are tops; while their Moms would prefer Florida, Alabama, and Auburn; and the Geeks like Texas, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

Whether you agree with using ESPN’s Top Ranked College Football teams as proxy for strong school spirit is not the point. If you are marketer – you need to know what your specific audience cares about. High-level survey data (like the data from the AP, USA Today and ESPN) can lead you in the wrong direction if your target is Millennials, Moms, or Consumer Tech buyers!

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