LAST UPDATE: 3.6.2022 | Scroll down for the complete list of the top social audience intelligence platforms & tools that can generate deep customer insights.
Understanding audiences is critical for gaining deeper insights into your customers’ preferences, needs, and behaviors. To do this effectively, you need to invest in advanced audience analytics tools to do a thorough audience analysis and uncover these insights.
Audiences can be defined in several ways, including a B2B buyer, a Gen Z audience interested in hip-hop music, the top 25 travel journalists, or a group of influencers. Depending upon who the audience is and who it’s for, I sometimes refer to it as influencer analytics which essentially means the same thing.
I remember a time when social intelligence was the next big thing. Big brands were investing a lot of money using social media monitoring tools to listen to online conversations, specifically people mentioning their company. Some used social tools like BuzzMetrics to monitor “brand mentions” and “share of voice” over time. Then came the talk of the town, Radian6, which revolutionized social intelligence, brand engagement, and audience analytics.
They used highly complex Boolean searches to ensure they got the most relevant results possible. For example, this approach would yield any mention of the keywords in the query within news articles, blogs, forums, and social media-both negative and positive sentiment.
This is still important today, especially to better understand what I call the “market conversation” about a brand or a topic. However, there’s an additional way to uncover data insights using audience analytics – actual people, your customers, prospects, or whoever else you care about. This approach disregards the random people sharing articles without reading the headlines, anonymous people commenting on a Reddit post, and all the social media trolls.
The concept is simple. Build a social media audience first and then listen to and monitor their conversations. I call it audience intelligence, and it looks something like this:
Define and build the audience + listen to the audience = target the audience with creative content
Audience intelligence can be used for general customer insights & research or for building a buyer persona. Several audience insights can be gained from these types of analyses, including what keywords they use the most (topical relevance); what media publications they are reading and sharing (media consumption); what channels they prefer to use, and why (channel preferences), and their interests and characteristics that make them unique from everyone else (e.g., the audience might like using Spotify versus Pandora).
I get asked how to build these audiences, and there are several ways to do it. So I put together this guide for audience and influencer analytics which breaks down the entire process. You can also read the below summaries of the social and audience intelligence platforms and audience analysis software and tools I use today or have used in the past.
I have been using Audiense for several years now. Their audience analytics platform provides excellent social media audience segmentation tools for analyzing audiences to better understand their interests, characteristics, media consumption, and basic demographics. They have also integrated Personality Insights powered by IBM Watson to discover the personality of specific audiences and Buying and Online habits that can uncover the purchasing influence factors, customer behavior, and online patterns of the audience. They have two different audience products–Audiense Insights and Audiense Connect–which complement each other differently. A powerful feature is audience segmentation and the ability to drill down on each segment. You can watch my video review on G2.
I am pleasantly surprised with Brandwatch’s audience intelligence platform. It’s fast and straightforward to use. You can build audiences using various filters and variables to include: bio, content, followers of specific accounts, interests, location, and others. What makes this platform even better is the ability to migrate audiences into Brandwatch Consumer Research (BCR). In addition, you can listen to audience conversations for real-time listening and content engagement. They have one of the most innovative audience intelligence platforms in the market.
Many consider Onalytica a tool primarily for building an influencer program for B2B and tech companies. I find it to be much more than that. They have advanced search functionality that combines laser-focused boolean search for bios and shared content. They are unique because they only yield results for those who have published or shared content within the last 180 days. Their ranking algorithm and influencer analytics are second to none and the best in the market. Once you identify your audience, you can export them into a CSV file, but it doesn’t stop there. You can then upload them into their IRM-Influencer Relationship Management tool for further analysis. The only disadvantage with the IRM is that you have to know what exactly it is that you are looking for. You can search for keywords, topics, brands, etc. The output is a dashboard showing you various data points like share of conversation, brand mentions, etc.
There are several ways to build audiences using Buzzsumo. Their core product is all about content analysis based on a search query. For example, if I searched for “Artificial Intelligence,” the platform would display every article with “Artificial Intelligence” in the headline. It would also show me how many shares each article received on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. You can “view sharers” of each article and export the Twitter handles. They also have an influencer search based on bio terms and lists. So, if you are targeting “accountants,” the results will show you users who have “accountant” in their bio and are a part of a Twitter list with the word “accountant” in it. Think of the Twitter lists as an audience crowdsourced by the community. Unfortunately, there is no further analysis once the audience is identified, so exporting is the only option. Here’s a Buzzsumo alternative in case you are interested.
People Pattern is an audience analysis software, almost like a Google Search for audience analytics. They have a database of several million Twitter users that will allow you to build audiences based on a bio search for keywords, basic demographics, geography, etc. They also allow for uploading Twitter handles and IDs as well.
Their audience segmentation software clusters the audiences into pre-identified segments/personas and will break down the data into various topics like news, media, sports, entertainment, and technology. The only issue is that People Pattern pulls in spam accounts or Twitter handles that haven’t been used in years, making some of the data questionable. Also, they only pull in the last 200 pieces of content shared by each audience member, which could be problematic if specific audiences aren’t that active.
I have never fully used Spredfast’s Social Media Audience Intelligence platforms in complete transparency. I have dabbled in it for a few hours and participated in a few demos over the last few years, but it’s not the same as getting my hands dirty in the technology. I am not sure what it can and can’t do related to finding, building, and monitoring audiences in real-time. Still, in looking at its capabilities on its website, it seems relatively sophisticated. As it relates to social media marketing management and customer care, the product is second to none, and I highly recommend it for enterprise companies. I can’t say they have the best social media audience segmentation tools, but the rest of their suite of services is excellent.
I have used DemographicsPro for years, and it continues to deliver. It hasn’t changed much since then and still looks like Craigs List, but it’s still a platform to consider as a part of your tech stack. You can analyze several different audiences like followers of a brand and hashtag usage, and you can also upload a CSV file of Twitter handles. The results allow you to see what topics and affinities (media, specific journalists, sports teams, technologies, blogs, etc.) your audience over-indexes when compared to the general population. The higher the index, the more unique the audience. The only disadvantage is the UI. It’s hard to learn it, but once you know it, it’s gold.
I have not used this social media audience software, but I did see an hour-long demo, and I was pretty impressed. Wiland maps billions of customer relationships and interests across social media and ties them to individual-level offline data such as demographics, purchase data, buying styles, automotive ownership, geography, occupation, financial data, and brand affinities. Then, they use artificial intelligence to compare that group to a general index to learn what is unique about the audience. What’s unique is that the audiences can be sent to any digital marketing platform programmatically for targeting purposes.
Affinio has pretty advanced audience segmentation tools on the market. You can build audiences in a variety of different ways. For example, you can find people connected by what they follow, where they live, how they self-describe, or what they are saying on social media using advanced boolean or specific URL sharers. You can also upload audiences from a CSV file. Once the audience is built is where the real power kicks in. Affinio clusters the audience into smaller groups, allowing for further, deep-dive analysis of each audience – brands they follow, celebrities they like, shop, who they mention the most, which hashtags they use, what they read, and the list goes on. The UI is easy to use for marketers of all skill levels.
Their audience analysis tools overlay detailed interest graph data onto an existing social media audience to better understand their interests, including media preferences, brand affinities, and what drives them. I tested this platform early in 2020, but it took me a long time to understand how it works. This tells me that the UI and workflow are more complicated than the others. I am a power user in most technology software programs and can catch on pretty quickly, but I had to get support from their sales team to learn how to build audiences. I’ve heard some incredible things from a few industry colleagues who use the platform. As with most new technology, the best way to learn it is by repetition.
I have participated in a few demos but have not used the platform. They released a report analyzing employees’ personality traits who work for technology companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. I assume they built their social media audience segmentation through Bio search for those who self-identify as working for those companies. I’m not entirely sure. Those interested in seeing live reports do have a portion of their site where they offer sample reports. Here is one analyzing the American Express “tribe.”In looking at the American Express report, I was impressed by how they cluster sub audiences or personas.
First, let me say that I am a massive fan of their social intelligence platform. Outside of the data limitations, I would say that it’s one of the best on the market, especially if you support traditional media reporting and coverage in addition to social analytics. I’m also a fan of how you can build influencer audiences and manage engagement, and track progress with influencers directly on the platform. The Synthesio Profiler is one of the more exciting audience intelligence platforms. I watched a webinar that talked about audience intelligence and gave a demo of the platform. The functionality mirrors many of the other platforms, but I think the UI is clean and straightforward to use. However, I’m a little unsure of where the data comes from. They talk about the Facebook business manager in the webinar, but I’m still unclear about the data source.
I have known about Sparktoro since the beginning of 2020. I have purposely ignored it for a variety of reasons. Whenever a new social media audience intelligence platform comes to market, I tend to spend too much time trying to learn it and understand how it may be different from the other platforms I have used in the past. However, I did give their Premium Plan a try for one month. The first thing that I noticed is how easy it is to run a report. Once you plug in your search parameters, you scroll down to see audience insights, what they read, watch, listen to, and who they follow. You can drill down in each area to explore more of the results if you have a paid plan. You can also export the data into Excel and a PDF document with the paid plan. I might try one month of a paid plan to drill down a little more into the functionality. But on the surface, this would be an excellent tool for someone just learning how to use audience intelligence, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with data analytics.
I was initially excited to test out their custom audiences. The instructions say that you can upload LinkedIn and Instagram handles, and they match those handles with a Twitter handle. I tried uploading 500 unique LinkedIn URLs and got no matches. I did the same with 5000 Instagram handles with no matches. Here’s a Sparktoro Review I did back in 2021.
Infegy Atlas is a social media and text analytics platform. Initially, I classified them more as a social intelligence platform, but that is not the case. We recently had a two-week trial, where I spent close to 45+ hours on the platform, learning how to use it and testing its capabilities. They build audiences differently; it’s more dynamic but very effective. The way they add filters and behaviors to two other variables and datasets is most likely the best on the market.
They also have powerful text analytics capabilities, which provide contextual insights into audience conversations. During the trial, we did an Elon Musk Twitter analysis to understand better who was having these conversations. For context, the study took about 30 minutes. The below screenshot does not do Infegy any justice, but it’s all I could find.
Here’s an audience analysis example I recently did on an engineering audience. There are others below in case you are interested.