Since our launch in 2020, SparkToro has helped thousands of marketers uncover the most popular demographic and behavioral attributes of their target audiences. Emphasis on “most popular” 😉. That data is undoubtedly valuable: it helps folks know where and how to reach their customers online.
But, in the two years SparkToro’s been active, we observed a handful of our smartest, most diligent customers searching for the same audiences over and over, month after month. Why? Because they wanted to see what changed. They weren’t just seeking out the most popular podcasts or the most-used phrases; they wanted to know what was new, emerging, rising, falling—changing.
Starting today, we’re making that 1000X easier. No longer do you need to search every month, export to Excel, calculate deltas, and extract those changes manually. From now on, Audience Tracking will do it for you automatically. Here’s what that looks like:
If you’re ready to try tracking (and you have a paid SparkToro subscription) you’ll find the “Track Audience” button available in the top-right corner of every search overview page:
If you don’t yet have a paid account, or you want to see what Audience Tracking looks like in action, check out these examples queries, which are available to everyone with a free or paid account:
- Frequently uses the hashtag: #cancerresearch
- Follows the social account: @EducationWeek
- Uses these word(s) in their profile: nutritionist
Let’s dive into the how, what, and why.
Why Should You Track Your Audience?
Usually, when I recommend SparkToro to marketers, it’s when they have a specific problem they need to solve—problems like:
- Which podcasts and YouTube channels should I pitch for guest appearances?
- Who should I invite on my webinars, conferences, podcasts, interviews, etc. to bring the right viewers/listeners?
- What topics is my audience talking about that I should follow (or create content about)?
- How can I better target my advertising on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Display, YouTube, etc. when those networks have pulled so much audience behavior data out of their tools?
- And dozens more…
Those are all valid use-cases for Audience Tracking, too, but with this new feature, SparkToro isn’t just about solving a problem when you’ve got it—it’s also about identifying serendipitous opportunities as they materialize, long before anyone else spots them. Opportunities like:
- What hashtags are rising in popularity with my audience that I might want to use in my social media posts over the next week?
- Which words and phrases are rising in use that I should consider employing in content creation? (BTW – this might help you get a significant jump on topics that later become popular in search, since social chatter usually precedes search volume)
- Which social accounts are rising (and falling) in engagement with my audiences, and can I work with those rising stars before they become too big to answer my DMs/emails?
- Which websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, and press sources are gaining traction with my audience that might accept guest contributions/pitches?
- What was hot last week/month that’s on the decline this week/month? (use these to help de-prioritize trends that might not be as lasting as they once appeared)
Above: I’m tracking Interior Designers, and can see accounts like DecoratorsBest, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and Laura U Design Collective all rising in engagement/following with this audience
And perhaps even more saliently:
- Can someone please remind me every week of what my audience is up to so I can build better holistic tactics and strategy to reach them in the places they pay attention with the messages that resonate most?
Above: the weekly reminder to check out my audience’s shifting behavior is also a nudge to take actions like outreach, content creation, and social postings
Audience Tracking’s got your back, even when you don’t know you need it.
What Can You Do with Audience Tracking Data?
One of the constant challenges folks have with market and audience research is: “OK… what now?”
Solving that problem is mostly a challenge of creativity and the time to execute on a serious outreach, content creation, social posting, or PR/guest pitching process. That’s what I love about Audience Tracking—it switches the work mode from “I should put a few hours/days on the calendar to seriously invest in this project” to “Oh, a new rising trend? Might as well take 5 minutes to drop them a line/write a tweet/make a LinkedIn post/etc.”
Suddenly, serendipitous opportunities pop into your inbox every week. For me, that’s a game-changer.
Here’s a good example:
After I shared this, a very cool thing happened:
I did something similar on LinkedIn the prior week, and got an equally kind (and brand-boosting) private message. In neither case was my intent to push these folks to amplify SparkToro. It just so happened to work out that way. But, neither would have happened without the nudge from my Audience Tracking emails (three cheers to building a product that solves your own pain points!).
You might try a message as simple as “Hi XYZ! I noticed a bunch of folks in my network started following you/your publication in the last month, so I had to check out your blog/podcast/YouTube channel/feed; really impressed with what you’re doing around ABC. Would you be up to join our podcast/be interviewed on our show/do a joint content piece/test out our product and give a review?”
I’d recommend putting a little effort into personalizing, and maybe get a friendly intro if you’ve got shared connections, but you get the idea. New/rising sources of influence are often much easier to connect-with and co-market with than established leaders in a field. The same goes for rising topics, hashtags, phrases—less competition means greater odds of visibility.
In this quick video, I’ve got another example of this serendipitous marketing nudge in action:
Get the email. See interesting trends with my audience. Check out the rising profiles, websites, topics, hashtags, what-have-you, and open a potential door for some highly-relevant, timely marketing. Pretty cool, right?
How Do You Start Tracking an Audience?
This part is easy as pie. Just run a search for any audience in SparkToro, and when the results return, you’ll see the “Track Audience” option in the top-right-hand corner next to the “Export All” button. When you click that (assuming you haven’t already used up your account’s Tracked Audiences), SparkToro will start collecting and processing your data each week.
It can sometimes take up to 2 weeks to get your first Audience Tracking report, but it’s usually just 7 days.
How many audiences you can track depends on your subscription level:
- Free accounts – 0 audiences – unfortunately, because Audience Tracking is an expensive storage and processing task (even for beefy cloud computing machines), we don’t offer it at the free tier, but you can see what it looks like on free queries like nutritionist.
- Basic accounts ($50/month) – 1 audience
- Standard accounts ($150/month) – 10 audiences
- Agency accounts ($300/month) – 100 audiences
Over time, as we scale this product, we hope to be able to offer more access, but have learned it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than the inverse.
Which Audiences Should You Track?
My advice is to start with the following, in this order:
- If you/your brand has a popular social account that’s active on some combination of Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and/or Facebook, I’d start with that. E.G. If I were working on marketing for the wireframing tool, Balsamiq, I’d track audiences that follow @Balsamiq.
- Your most important, ideal customer profile (ICP), generally by a word or phrase that commonly appears in their bio on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. E.G. If my ICP were interior designers, I’d look for audiences whose profiles use the words: Interior Designer.
- Competitors: their websites and/or social accounts, especially if those competitors get a good amount of social engagement or URL sharing on networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. These don’t have to be direct product competitors! Sites/accounts that compete for your audience’s attention can be just as valuable or better. E.G. If I were at Figma, I might track audiences who frequently visit: Canva.com.
- Trade publications, industry associations, or niche sources of influence that everyone in your field reads/consumes/watches. In most B2B cases, this is pretty easy to uncover, but if you don’t yet know who these sources are, SparkToro’s Audience Research tool is quite good at pointing you in the right direction. E.G. if I were trying to reach advertising professionals, I’d track audiences who follow the social account: @AdAge.
- Popular hashtags that your would-be customers are likely to use. Make sure they’re unique to your audience, E.G. If I were after product design professionals, I wouldn’t track #design, but I would go after audiences that frequently use the hashtag: #prototyping.
- Popular phrases that suggest a unique connection to your ICP. What I mean is that you don’t want to target words or phrases that are regularly used on social networks by folks who *aren’t* likely to be your customers, only those that are. E.G. If I was targeting interior desginers, I would NOT use audiences that frequently talk about “interior design,” (a consumer term) but I would use audiences that frequently talk about “interior design awards” (much more of an industry-insider phrase).
If you’re an agency or consultant, I might set up the first 2-3 from this list above for your top clients, and then figure out how you’d like to include that data in your reporting and your marketing efforts on their behalf. Y’all (agencies and consultants) were the impetus for this feature, and we know some of you have been doing this manually, so we’re hopeful this can significantly smooth that workload.
Lastly: if you need help figuring out which audience(s) to track, don’t hesitate to drop us a line: [email protected]. Amanda, Casey, and I are happy to help point you in some recommended directions.
Can You Walk Me Through the Highlights in a Short Video?
So convenient of you to ask, because I was just about to paste this in here:
Early Excitement for Audience Tracking
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve shared this upcoming feature on Mastodon, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and received some terrific feedback. I want to give a special shoutout here to folks who’ve been cheerleading this very difficult to build and launch feature. Casey Henry, my cofounder, who built this beast of a product solo, deserves all this praise and more. But, also, it’s just a joy to see folks following along in the weird, BELUX, SparkToro journey.
Love to hear that John! And love to see all the other sweet comments on these posts.
Absolutely, Howard. The better we know our audiences needs and changing behaviors, the better we can do marketing they’ll find interesting and valuable (instead of intrusively annoying).
Now that it’s live, and especially after your first few weeks of data come in, we’d love to know what you think. This feature was almost a year in concept and development, but now that it’s launched, I think it will quickly become one of the core elements of SparkToro. Look forward to hearing your experiences and (hopefully) a lot of success stories.