How to Identify Your Target Audience: Your Instagram Growth Strategy Guide

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Heidi Lang

Instagram Growth | Jan 21, 2022

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On Instagram, as it is everywhere else online, content is king. But if you don’t know how to identify your target audience — the King’s loyal subjects, so to speak — then your content will “rule over” a non-existent kingdom. The relationship between content and its target audience is like that of the proverbial chicken and egg. In order to create great content, you must know who your target audience is and what they’re interested in. To target your ideal audience, you need great content. So which comes first, the content or its intended audience?

Unlike the chicken and the egg conundrum, it’s an established fact in the realm of the social media marketing that you must identify your target audience first in order to craft the kind of content that will appeal to them. With the right audience for your business and the right content to draw them in, you’ll have two of the most important components you need to build your brand on Instagram.

Audience chairs in a theater to demonstrate the importance of knowing how to identify a target audience for Instagram.

Why Is It Important to Identify Your Target Audience?

Organic growth is the gold standard for Instagram growth, and the quality of your followers is of the utmost importance if you want to sustain this growth. Let’s break down the reasons why it’s important to identify your target audience.

  1. When you know how to identify your target audience, you’ll be able to produce the right content that will interest them and encourage them to hit your follow button and engage with your brand.
  2. When you’re able to properly identify your target audience, you’ll learn when the best time is to reach them with your content.  
  3. Identifying the right target audience will help you optimize your Instagram ads strategy and spending.
  4. Appropriate audience targeting ensures you’ll get quality followers who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer, will consistently deliver quality engagement, and will stick around for a long time. 
  5. Having the right audience who consistently engage with your content will help boost your visibility and your Instagram metrics.

When you’re striving for higher follower numbers, it may seem counterintuitive to prioritize quality over quantity. But always keep your eyes on the big prize — the long-term Instagram goals you’ve defined for your brand, and which you can only achieve when you build your brand with and earn followers from the right target market.

How Do You Identify Your Target Audience: Finding Your Ideal Match

Before we get down to the brass tacks of how to identify your target audience, here’s a quick overview of what a target audience means on Instagram.

What is a Target Audience?

Let’s first define what a target audience is for Instagram posts. Whether or not you boost your posts, you have to identify a target audience for your content. Boosting an Instagram post, however, will turn it into an Instagram ad and give you the advantage of optimized audience targeting so that you can reach more of the right people. Through optimized audience targeting, you can define your target audience according to the following:

  • Demographics
  • People you already know, e.g. your current followers and other users who have engaged with your content previously. 
  • Specific audience groups, or Custom Audiences, from people who have already shown an interest in your business or product and which you can find from your customer contacts, website traffic, mobile app, or previous content engagement.
  • Lookalike audiences, which are groups of people who are similar to those already engaging with your business.

Target Audience Example

A good target audience example is your customer list if you already have an existing list of customer contacts. Your customer list is as good a place as any from which to identify your target audience and to start creating your Custom Audience for an Instagram ad.

When you make a Custom Audience from your customer list, your customers’ information, which typically includes customers’ email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses, will be matched against Instagram users’ profiles. The more customer information you can provide, the better matches you’ll get for your Custom Audience. You have full control over the “identifiers,” or customer information, to use to specify the Custom Audience for your boosted post.

A room filled with an attentive audience to show an effective audience targeting strategy for Instagram.

How to Identify Your Target Audience: Social Media Audience Research

Who is your ideal customer?

Create your ideal customer’s profile or your buyer/audience persona through these key descriptions:

  1. Age
  2. Location
  3. Language
  4. Spending power and patterns
  5. Interests
  6. Personality/traits 
  7. Goals 
  8. Challenges
  9. Stage of life
  10. Brands they support
  11. Social channels they use
  12. For B2B, the business size and who makes the purchasing decisions

You can get the data you need from social media analytics, such as Facebook Insights, and/or competitor research.

Take a look at your Instagram Insights to identify your target audience

Instagram Insights will let you take a closer look at your current audience to get more guidance on how to identify your target audience. Learn more about your current audience’s engagement with your previous posts, Stories, videos, Reels, Live videos, as well as current and previous ads, if applicable. These insights will let you know what types of people to target with what types of content, what your ideal audience is most interested in, when and where to find your target audience, and how you can further optimize your content strategy to gain more of the right followers.

Phone displaying Instagram Insights about audience targeting.

Check out the competition to identify your target audience

Take a peek at your competitors’ Instagram accounts. More specifically, look at their followers to help you identify your target audience. Browse through their follower list. Scroll through their posts and take note of the people who hit like and post comments frequently. This will give you not only actual potential followers to target; you’ll also get useful insight about what your competitor’s most engaged followers are interested in. You’ll be able to hit two birds with one stone; identify your potential target audience and get ideas for future content.

There are third-party tools you can use to do your target audience analysis. These tools will provide you with essential information about your competitor’s followers, such as their locations, demographics, and brand mentions.

Discover trends through social listening

Social listening is an audience research approach that monitors online conversations about an industry, brands, products, services, and relevant keywords and mentions. Social media listening tools help deliver this information so you can identify your target audience by analyzing and understanding what people are talking about, what they’re looking for, how they feel, and what they think.

Use hashtags to identify your target audience

Identify your target audience by using target hashtags. These are hashtags that your target market is using themselves or are frequently searching both on Instagram and everywhere else online. More often than not, these hashtags are relevant to your industry and specific business. They won’t look out of place when you use them in your captions. With the right hashtags, you’ll get your content in front of the right audience. People who are looking for exactly the kind of content you’re offering will also discover you more quickly through the hashtags you use.

You can also do a hashtag search to find potential new followers. Look through the post results, and like those that are most relevant to your own brand of content. Take it one step further and check out the profile of the person who posted the content. If they look like they’re a good fit for your target audience, then give them a follow and comment on one or two of their most recent posts as a way to introduce yourself. Again, be subtle about how you present your brand. You want a potential new follower to be interested enough to check out your profile and, hopefully, give you a follow back.

mage of hashtagged word “#LeaveNoOneBehind” to represent how to effectively identify a target audience for Instagram.

Identify your target audience through location tagging

You can literally put your content in the right place for maximum visibility and to identify your target audience through location tagging. Instagram’s location tagging feature will make your tagged posts show up in relevant searches. The people who search for the location/s you tag are generally those who might also be interested in your content. Location tagging is especially useful when you’re part of an event.

How to Identify Your Target Audience: Take the Direct Approach

Conduct customer surveys

Identify your target audience by going right to the source: your existing followers on Instagram. Run a poll on your Instagram Stories; ask relevant questions that tap into your audience’s needs, interests, or expectations. You can easily discover your followers’ preferences, behaviors, or even their dislikes. Their input will give you a better understanding of your audience and help you improve your targeting strategy on the platform.

Don’t shy away from posing questions for your followers or asking for their feedback on your feed, as well. Create a post specifically for the purpose of conducting an informal survey. Alternatively, you can always end any regular post’s caption with an engaging question so you can get a feel for what your followers like.

Identify your target audience by getting to know your followers

Another way to identify your target audience is by learning more about the followers who frequently engage with your posts. The best time to get to know them is while you’re responding to their comments on your posts or to their DMs. Visit a follower’s profile and browse through their most recent posts. What do they like to talk about? What hashtags do they use most often? What’s their language style? If you see a pattern among your most active followers, you can adapt your captioning style to their way of speaking, use the same hashtags, , and talk about the same topics to make your posts more relatable and attract more of the same audience. Just make sure to stay on brand.

The hashtags they use and topics they talk about will also tell you what your followers are most interested in. You can go ahead and find out what other Instagram accounts they’re following to get a clearer picture of your followers’ preferences. Use the information you gather to create content that will resonate with your ideal audience.

Communicate with your followers directly

You can identify your target audience by directly communicating with the audience you already have. Send a new follower a DM is a great way to show your appreciation, give them a warm welcome, and ask them what they’re looking for (be subtle, but make it interesting!). You can ask them what kind of content they would like to see more of from your page, or how you can help make their feed more enjoyable and interesting. Use their input to craft or redesign your content strategy so that your posts will be appealing to the right audience.

Don’t miss a chance to send a DM to followers who frequently like and/or comment on your posts. Make your message short and sweet. Thank them for the love, and casually ask them for quick feedback so you can make their Instagram experience better. 

Identify your target audience by collaborating with the right influencers

Influencers who specialize in niches that are relevant to your brand can help you identify and connect with your target audience. You can get in touch with an influencer with a huge follower base and more areas of expertise (which include your niche). But keep in mind that such an influencer may have the luxury of being picky with the brands they promote and may demand higher fees.

You can opt for an influencer with a smaller but more dedicated following. While their reach is limited (just make sure it’s greater than your own audience reach), you can be sure that their followers’ interests are aligned with your niche. The influencer may also be more accommodating and flexible when it comes to the terms of your collaboration. Partnering with the right influencer will give you direct access to your ideal audience and give your business the exposure it needs.

An Instagram influencer taking a photo to publish for her targeted audience.

Final Thoughts: Stay On-Target With Your Audience Research

Identifying your ideal target audience for Instagram is a crucial step towards lasting growth for your business. An effective content strategy largely depends on catering to your target audience’s interests, likes, and preferences. You have to spend a lot of time and effort on proper audience research to get to know them well enough and deliver the kind of content that will pique their interest and earn you a lot of followers.

Keep in mind that getting to know your target audience is a continuous process as their interests also change with the times. You must stay up-to-date with what they’re currently looking for and what their current needs are so you can appropriately refine your content strategy and audience targeting.  

Over time, you’ll figure out an effective strategy to identify the right target audience for your brand — one that works most of the time and regardless of changing trends. Stick to what works, but also be flexible enough whenever it’s necessary to take a slightly altered or completely new approach towards your Instagram growth. You might also want to consider teaming up with a reliable growth partner, such as Path Social. You can take advantage of Path Social’s proprietary AI targeting technology to ensure that you’ll always “hit the mark” when it comes to identifying your target audience. Start growing and gaining instagram followers today with real followers who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer!