Social Media

Target Audience vs. Target Market: How to Leverage Both for Referral Marketing Programs

Do you know the differences between target audience and target market? Learn about each, and how to use them to create a profitable referral marketing program.

Do you know the legend of William Tell? In the early 1500s, the emperors of Austria were seeking to take over what is now known as Switzerland. In a cruel act of dominance over one particular Swiss village called Altdorf, an Austrian governor (Gessler) placed his hat on top of a tall pole in the marketplace, and he demanded that the villagers bow to it whenever they passed by. During a visit to Altdorf, William Tell and his son refused to bow to Gessler’s hat, so they were arrested and sentenced to be executed. Since Tell was a well-known mountaineer and expert marksman in the region, Gessler devised an especially clever punishment for him. He promised that Tell and his son would be released if Tell could shoot an apple off his son’s head with a crossbow—in just one attempt. Obviously, such a feat requires immense amounts of targeting skill.

Mistargeting your fans and followers on social media doesn’t have the potentially catastrophic consequences of Tell’s task. But in many cases, targeting the right message to the right customer at the right time can be a matter of life and death for your business.

In late March of this year, Facebook announced a redesign of its news feed that placed a greater emphasis on images. At the same time, they also announced a new feature that allows brands to target their posts based on people’s interests. Rather than be confined to the limitations of who actually likes their page, company status updates appear in the news feeds of users who are interested in a brand’s product, but may not have heard of the brand.

Facebook aside, these new features bring up an extremely important concept for any referral marketer to keep in mind: target market versus target audience.

Building A World-Class Referral Program eBook


A target market is a segment of consumers who are primed to make a purchase and understand the value of your product. This audience is defined by demographic data such as age, location, ethnicity, and so on.

A target audience is a bit different. These people are influencers on social media sites, so you really want them sharing and promoting your products—regardless of their purchasing intent. With enhanced targeting features on social networks, subtle changes in language and content can make a huge impact on this group.

Segmenting your target audience should heavily focus on interest and influence. Going back to Facebook, a post to your target market (let’s say B2B company owners in their mid-30s) should be product driven and highlight the utility of your software based on need. A post aimed at a target audience, however, should be driven more by content and thought leadership, prompting engaged influencers to share your brand throughout their personal networks.

These same techniques can be applied when choosing which landing page to drive a demographic to and creating your initial ask. Target audiences should be driven to a blog post or other relevant page that gives you an opportunity to engage them in your content and prompt them to share it. A post directed at your target market, however, can be driven to a landing page geared more toward the actual sale—perhaps one that details your referral program.

Of course the goal of any social media marketing campaign is driving sales, but in many cases (especially in regard to referral marketing) one share or post from a trusted online source that’s familiar with your brand can mean huge dividends in referrals and newly acquired brand ambassadors.

Identifying and segmenting a target market versus a target audience requires a good deal of analysis regarding where, how, and why customers are interacting with your brand. But with the right software backing up your referral marketing program, your brand will become as good a marksman as William Tell, able to target posts and truly engage a broad spectrum of social media users with a single shot. 

Building A World-Class Referral Program eBook


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