The Three Biggest Problems Folks Have When Searching SparkToro

Tens of thousands of marketers, researchers, product managers, and more are using SparkToro to learn more about their audiences. That’s inspiring. I love it. And also… Some of y’all are getting stuck. It’s not your fault! SparkToro’s a new tool, with a new search paradigm, and new kinds of audience data. So, it’s up to us to help out.

In this post, I’ll cover the top three problems folks contact us about, and walk you through some fast, easy solutions to solving them in the product. Those problems are:

  1. The searched-for audience is too small to deliver useful results
  2. The sources of influence returned in a search are ones you already knew about
  3. Searches in a niche keep returning similar results

Let’s dive into solutions…

#1: The Audience is Too Small

Say you’re helping out The Japanese Pantry, who’s seeking to sell their amazing Black Sesame Paste (pictured below).

You might be tempted to try a query in SparkToro like My audience frequently talks about: “Japanese Black Sesame Pastee”. Sadly, only 13 people in our index of 75M+ have frequently used those word in their public shares and content over the last ~120 days. No surprise—black sesame paste is a fairly specialized ingredient, and uncommon recipe ingredients already aren’t topics that get a ton of discussion on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. (the sources where SparkToro gets its data).

All you’ve got to do is pivot your search mindset. SparkToro doesn’t have any data on what people search for in Google or Bing. We only have data on what they talk about or use in their profiles on public, social sites (specifically, these ten).

So while using “Japanese black sesame paste” as a query in a keyword research tool like Moz, Ahrefs, Google Suggest, etc. would be perfectly reasonable, it’s not a great method for getting data from SparkToro.

Instead, you want to think about the audience who might be interested in that product. What do they talk about publicly online? How do they describe themselves? What social accounts might they follow? What websites do they visit and share? What hashtags do they use?

Those are the ways you can effectively search SparkToro’s data.

Search keywords? Not so much.

So, when I think about how to use SparkToro to find the audience that might buy Japanese Black Sesame Paste, I’m gonna try queries like:

Those attributes reveal audiences that are likely to have interest in products like the sesame paste. It’s a broader way of thinking about who to reach (and how to reach them) vs. search keywords, but can be immensely effective for branding, digital PR, advertising, and more. Just a little mindset-shift is all it takes to search SparkToro like a pro.

#2: The Sources of Influence Are Too Obvious

I get this one a lot, especially from marketers themselves testing out SparkToro by looking at marketing-centric audiences. Don’t get me wrong! Using an audience you know and are part of is a great way to put a tool through its paces, but it frequently results in emails like:

“Uh, yeah, we all know people who use SEO in their bio visit SearchEngineLand and SearchEngineJournal and Moz. What else you got?”

In fairness, almost everyone who does reach out is far more cordial than that, but we get the jist. You’re not looking for obvious, big name publications that are likely near the top of most Google searches in the field. You want those special, undiscovered sources that are shockingly influential despite not being very mainstream. The coveted places that influence the influencers, right? Don’t worry, I got you.

Tactic 1) Use the “hidden gems” filter. It’s right up at the top.

Check that “Only Gems” option in either the websites or social tab and suddenly, the results get a lot less obvious.

Now, if you’re already deep in the SEO field, you’ve probably heard of SEER and Cognitive SEO, but keep scrolling down and you’ll find gem after gem outside the mainstream.

Tactic 2) When you search SparkToro, we show a maximum of 250 results on any given tab. But, we usually have way more sources than that we could show, it’d just make the page unreasonably long to load (and scroll). By using the filters at the top (any of them), and hitting “apply filter,” you’re modifying which 250 results are displayed. That can expose thousands upon thousands of sources with a single query credit. Talk about value!

Tactic 3) Use the Compare Audiences function.

That link right next to “Add Location” allows you to see the overlap of any two queries in a single search. And if you’re looking for undiscovered gold, you really should try it.

Using “Compare,” you can see the accounts that have any two features SparkToro’s search supports, then download the overlap of the social accounts they follow, the websites they visit, the podcasts they listen-to, etc.

Gems ahoy!

#3: All the Searches in a Niche Show the Same Results

Sometimes, even using the tactics above, folks will find that in certain niches, the same results are all that come up. This happens most often in fields where the number of influential people and publications is relatively limited.

The top results in most of these cases will look the same (which shows that the product is working! If a few adjectives consistently changed the top % numbers, you might guess our division was off). But, scroll down, and heaps of new sources often appear. This is just as true when I searched around “Japanese Recipes” as with “Ecommerce SEO”—the top results look similar to just “recipes” or “SEO,” but scroll down or filter, and the gems emerge.

I ran into this recently while helping a medical-sector marketer reach cardiac technicians, surgeons, and hospitals. The same few dozen social accounts and websites were all we could find…

… That is, until we began iterating on the attributes appearing in the Audience Insights tab.

Clicking on any of those words+phrases in either column (“Frequently used words/phrases in shares and content” and “Frequently used words/phrases in profile bios“) will take you to a search for that audience. Sometimes, the hashtags can be even more useful:

Turns out that in this case, the hashtags were a perfect solution to our medical marketing dilemma. Using searches for audiences that employ #Cardiotwitter, #Echofirst, and #CardioEd gave us new, previously-undiscovered sources and a wealth of different ways of searching for the cardiac specialists who might not be employing the exact keywords-in-bio we started searching for.

With these tactics at your disposal, remarkable audience research should be just a few clicks away. If you don’t yet have a SparkToro account, good news: you can sign up for free and get 10 searches/month.

And should you run into trouble formatting a query or finding the audience you’re after, just drop me a line (rand at sparktoro dot com). I spend ~15% of my day helping folks out in this way, and I’d be happy to help you, too.