One of the common themes among any good resource on learning about your audience will tell you to find where they hang out, read their problems and even get into the discussion.
In my experience there are two goldmines when it comes to finding your audience. Forums and Facebook.
Facebook is great for the validation phase because you can target specific groups of people with ads based on a whole lot of criteria. These include their interests, what pages they like and what groups they are a part of. There are some tricky methods for the later stuff. You might be thinking “but my target audience doesn’t live on Facebook”. There are a lot of “interests” that Facebook discovers about people that aren’t very helpful for targeting, but you may be surprised at the number of groups and pages out there that have a ton of followers in your target audience.
For finding your audience on Facebook, graph search is awesome. It allows you to search for some pretty exact things in plain English. Things like
“people who are members of GROUPNAME”
and you can extend to
“people who are members of GROUPNAME and like the page PAGENAME and are female from CITY”
“women over the age of XY who like PAGENAME and ….”
You get the point.
You can pretty quickly build a big list of people that fit very specific criteria, and see what stuff they like. You can also get involved in their groups and ask questions. Just make sure you offer value before being a pest.
Forums are arguably the best way to get involved in communities of your target audience. Finding these forums is as easy as going to Google and searching for your niche and the word “forum”.
For example, if you wanted to find some dog owners, Google “dog owners forum”. You could find some plumbing professionals by searching “plumber business forum” or “professional plumber forum”.
A lot of searches will also turn up sub-forums which fit your niche. For example, you might find a small business owners forum with a tradesman section where there are some plumbers that hang out.
Tracking it all
In one session, you can easily find a whole lot of resources on Facebook and Google. As you go along you’ll discover some extra keywords to search for and may end up finding more options than you know what to do with. It’s a good idea to keep track of everything you find for future reference.
Depending on how many pages you are trying to find, simply using a text file in Notepad can keep track of all the Facebook pages and forums you want to follow up with. Alternatively you can put them in Excel with some notes like “5,000 members, very active etc”.
One awesome tool I’ve found for this is the Diigo Chrome extension. With a couple of clicks you can save the current page you are on, and break them into lists. I name my lists something like “Plumbing – Facebook – Australia”, “Plumbing – Forum”. You can add notes and tags so they are easy to find later, and Diigo lets you export them all to CSV later if you need.