2.3.1 Social media performance potential Audience usage format: Application

Topic performance potential audience learning objective: The following content will enable you to

  • Understand the audience as a social media usage format and
  • Assess the potential and limitations of an audience for developing a social media strategy.
  • assess the performance of social media channels for the audience usage format more competently and thus avoid bad investments.

Reading time: approx. 16 minutes

Exercises: Exercises are in the PDF of all exercises of this course. Download it from here.

This content is not intended to be an instruction manual for the construction or practical use of an Audience, although it does include guidance for its practical use. The goal of this content is to show you how an audience works to the point where you can evaluate the use of an audience in a social media strategy.

Application performance potential audience

Application levels

The practical application of Audience as a component of strategy development has two levels. The decisions that are made to use an audience as part of a social media strategy and the strategically relevant elements of implementation.


If we decide to take the audience usage format into account in our strategy development, this results in a number of decisions. In these decisions, we not only define the nature and type of our audience, we also determine what contribution the audience should make to the company’s success through social media as part of our strategy.

Overview of the decision-making levels

To use our Audience, we require decisions at the following levels:

  • Topics
  • Company goals
  • Social media goals
  • CorporateBenefits
  • User benefit
  • Content sources
  • User motivation
  • User participation
  • Audience platform(s)
  • Company resources


Strategic decision topics
  • That’s what we have to decide: we determine the topics we want to cover with our audience. This decision can be very simple – especially if we can work on all topics (markets) we want to work on with this strategy in a common audience within our social media strategy. The prerequisite for this, however, is that these subject areas are compatible and homogeneous with each other. If this is not the case and we are dealing with very different subject areas that are not compatible with each other, this can lead to the fact that we need more than one audience to form homogeneous and compatible subject areas in this audience. This becomes all the more relevant the less we can use interest profiling and selective content distribution.
  • StrategicSignificance and criteria of the decisionWe use the topics to define not only the markets we address with our audience, but also the competition we face and, last but not least, the media standards we have to meet in this competition in order to be successful. Criteria are
    • Markets we want to reach with Audience.
    • Topics we can cover with a common audience. (Homogeneity / compatibility of the subject areas)
  • Information base: subject areas of our markets, performance and attention competitors in these topics.
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision: we determine the market we address through the subject areas. If we do not use a relevant topic area, we miss out on part of the attention of this market. If we interpret the topics too broadly, we may lose relevance as a source and thus market impact. If our subject area is broad and occupied by many active and efficient competitors, this results in a high demand for media performance, which we have to meet on a permanent basis. With corresponding effects on the resource side in our company.
  • Impact of the decision: The topic structure of an Audience is a very fundamental determination that is difficult and risky to adjust later. The decision has implications for
    • the potential market impact, in particular the potential benefit to the company from the Audience,
    • the competitive situation in social media,
    • the competitive situation of the company,
    • Resource and competence requirements
    • the support of the business model (degree, scope)
Competitive position topics

Topics are competitive positions. We probably have to compete with our topics with content providers on the same topics and pass this competition. If we do not succeed in taking a leading or the leading position in social media in relevant topics / subject areas, our opportunities to influence this market via social media are very small.

  • The mix of topics in our audience can help to secure this competitive position by offering a range of content that is more useful to the user.
  • The quality of our content in terms of the usefulness of the content for the user can strengthen our competitive position. To do this, we must have the appropriate media expertise and resources.
  • The availability and handling of our content can strengthen our competitive position. For example, by making content easier to find, ergonomically available archives and search functions. This requires suitable technical functions.
  • Motivation and participation can lead to a higher attractiveness and relevance of our audience for social media.

Company goals

This is about the business goals we want to support through social media.

  • That’s what we have to decide: We decide which business goals we want to support with this audience. Depending on the social media affinity of each market, the opportunity for social media to support business goals can vary significantly.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision: through the company goals we define the benefit of the company from the operation of the Audience. We take care to consider all relevant business objectives and not to overtax the audience’s capabilities.
  • Information basis: Audience performance potential, business model analysis.
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision: The opportunity lies in the optimum possible benefit of the audience for the entire company. The risk lies in the fact that we use the audience only one-sidedly and thus part of the possible benefit for the company falls by the wayside. A further risk lies in overtaxing the possibilities of the audience (egg-laying willy-willy sow).
  • Implications of the decision: From the corporate goals, there are implications for subject areas, sources of content, methods of motivation, opportunities for participation, corporate competencies and resources.

Social media goals

  • This is what we have to decide: we determine what quantitative and qualitative goals in social media we need to achieve with this audience in order to be able to reach our business goals.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision: without sufficient success in social media, we will not achieve our business goals. Critics for the social media goals include the reach and activity of the audience and the company benefit (i.e., what specific benefit we want to achieve from the audience).
  • Information basis: corporate goals, performance potential, competition.
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision: Social media goals are always subject to risk in their realization. If we underestimate the competition, if the competition changes or if user behavior changes, the achievement of social media goals is at risk. Another risk lies in the required competence and resources of the company. Both must be permanently secured. Limited changes due to thin staffing levels or budget changes, for example, can have a lasting negative impact.
  • Effects of the decision: Resources


  • That’s what we have to decide: we decide what specific business benefit we want to achieve from the audience, how and for what business goals.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision: the company benefit aligns the Audience to a company success. In other words, the more concretely (and measurably) the audience contributes to the company’s success – via the defined corporate goals – the more successful the audience is for the company. The criteria of the decision result from the chosen company benefit.
  • Information base: corporate goals and their corporate benefits from the Audience.
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision: the very concrete alignment of the Audience with the company benefit ensures the economic benefit of the Audience. If this is neglected conceptually or not implemented in everyday life, the economic benefit – and thus the justification – for the audience dwindles.
  • Impact of the decision: Requirements from the desired corporate benefit for topics and content, user participation, platforms (for the technical implementation of the corporate benefit) Social media goals (e.g., activity and reach of the audience).

User benefit

  • That’s what we have to decide: we decide what concrete benefit for the users we produce with the Audience.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision: User benefit is a success factor in social media. Lack of or weak value prevents success in social media. The criteria of user benefit are user behavior and its fundamentals as well as the competitive situation. In addition, it is advisable not to locate user benefits too far away from the company’s performance.
  • Information basis: user behavior, user needs, competitive situation
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision: a convincing user benefit is a key success factor and a valuable competitive position. A weak UserBenefit contributes little or nothing to the competitive quality of the Audience. The user benefit is also a basis for user motivation and participation.
  • Impact of the decision: audience success, social media user engagement.
Competitive Position UserBenefit

With the UserBenefit of our Audience, we compete for attention with other providers of the same, similar or comparable content.

The analysis of the user benefits of the (attention) competition provides us with the requirements that we must meet or exceed with our user benefits in order to survive in the competition.

Explanation by means of examples:

  • If the UserBenefit – for the user – of a competitor is clearly evident, we have a competitive advantage with a clearly evident UserBenefit in our audience. This competitive advantage can be offset by corresponding behavior on the part of the competitor.
  • If we act with a more social user benefit – i.e., a user benefit that increases through social interaction – we have a temporary competitive advantage over other providers.
  • If our UserBenefit has elements that our competition cannot replicate, this enables structural competitive advantages. Starting points for this lie in the connection of user benefits with user participation or in motivational structures.

Content sources

  • This is what we have to decide: we determine from which sources the content of our Audience should come.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision:
  • Information basis: subject areas, competitive situation, user benefits, user behavior and needs.
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision:
  • Impact of the decision: resource requirements, user participation, user benefits.
Competitive position

The sources of our content have a direct impact on its quality and quantity, and thus on our competitive position in content quality and quantity.

In addition, we can strengthen our competitive position by integrating external sources (of an editorial nature to user-generated content), provided that our competitors do not use this option.


  • That’s what we have to decide: we decide,
    • what kind of UserMotivation we use (intrinsic or extrinsic motivation)
    • whether we use systems for user motivation
    • what behavior we motivate our users to engage in.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision: user motivation is a success factor. If we succeed in motivating our users to participate in our sense, this has a direct impact on the success of the audience – in individual cases as well as in general – depending on where and how we design the user motivation.
  • Information base: behaviors and motivations of our users.
  • Chances and risks of the decision: If our motivation works, the Audience achieves a stronger impact. The effect that can be achieved depends on both the conception of the audience and the motivation used. Examples of this effect: content goes viral, the importance of the audience as a source of information grows, the audience is recommended by its users and actively supported. If our motivation does not work, a key success factor for our audience – as a core of the social media strategy – fails completely or has a significantly lower impact.
  • Impact of the decision: success factor of the usage format and the social media strategy.
Competitive position motivation

The level of motivation enables us to set ourselves apart from the competition from providers who do not use this tool or do not use it to the same extent and quality. If we succeed in motivating users in our audience to behave in our way – for example, to regularly share content – this strengthens the position and performance of our audience in competition.


  • That’s for us to decide: we define the level of engagement we offer our social media users in our audience.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision: This is how we determine which social media resources (resources from social media user participation) to use for our Audience. Social media resources relieve the burden on corporate resources and enable effects that are not possible, or not possible to the same extent, with in-house resources alone. Criteria for assessing participation in an audience are the type and extent of user involvement. In this way, we define, for example, whether users are involved in the distribution of content, or can also be active in the production or selection or evaluation of content. Or whether participation is sporadic, permanent, or institutional.
  • Information base: corporate priorities, resources and culture.
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision: We receive support and thus opportunities that lie beyond the company’s resources. Through participation, we are also giving control out of our hands.
  • Effects of the decision: Relevant to success. We define possible success.
Competitive position Participation

Participation is a success factor in social media and thus inevitably a competitive position. Whoever succeeds in inspiring users better and more comprehensively / extensively for their audience in such a way that they commit to it, has an extremely strong competitive position – especially with audiences. Because audiences, due to their characteristics but also due to their design, don’t exactly encourage participation or put it on very narrow legs.

Participation does not necessarily require the engagement of large user groups for a clear competitive advantage. More important is the benefit that participation brings to the users as a whole.

Platforms / Social Media Channels

The platforms for our Audience /Audiences are our own or external social media channels.

  • That’s what we have to decide: we decide on which platform(s) to build our audience.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision: Platforms define performance potentials. In this way, we also define possible successes via the platform decision. If the possibilities of the audience in a platform are limited, this has an impact on the possible success of the company.
  • Information base: requirements of our audience for platforms.
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision: maximum success of the Audience including competitive advantages over competitors with less powerful Audiences. Failure or significantly reduced success if there are errors in the design and implementation of the Audience. Growing dependence on external companies.
  • Effects of the decision: relevant to success. The decision defines the possibilities of the audience and thus also the possible business success.
Competitive positions from platforms

Platforms can offer competitive advantages due to their performance, so they are suitable for building a strong competitive position. This can be the case via a functional or ergonomic performance, or via other features and performances of a platform. If we build up competitive positions via platforms, we should be sure that these competitive positions cannot be taken over or copied at short notice.

Decisions Corporate resources for the Audience
  • That’s what we have to decide: Building competitive media structures (competence, resources, budgets, media platforms) may require resources that do not necessarily correspond to what the company has invested in communications and media performance to date. The extent to which the company can and wants to maintain its position in a competitive media environment over the long term is a fundamental decision that is easily underestimated. Whether the company relies entirely on its own resources or also uses social media resources is a second decision that should not be forgotten in this context.
  • Significance and criteria of the decision: we create a fixed cost block in the company, which will have rather growing tendencies and we decide if we use resources from social media for our social media usage. This decision has an economic impact at the cost level and a market impact at the market level.
  • Information base: effort of comparable competitors – both performance competitors and attention competitors. Development of costs in social media for the distribution of content (paid posts).
  • Opportunities and risks of the decision: With the decision for an Audience, we enter a media competition that is unfamiliar to many companies. Being able to survive this competition in the long term also requires the permanent and presumably growing use of corporate resources. A short-term perspective is out of place here. If company resources are not permanently secured, the decision for the audience or resources should be thought through again. It is easy to underestimate the qualitative demand on company resources for the deployment of an Audience. This quickly has unpleasant consequences for the success of the Audience. If the company succeeds in asserting itself with its audience in the media and if this competitive position is consistently protected and used, a sustainable competitive advantage is created. In order for the company to benefit adequately from this competitive advantage, the focus on the company’s benefit and ensuring the attractiveness of the audience must be seen as equally important.
  • Effects of the decision: Relevant to success. If resources are only ever secured in the short term, the long-term success and benefit of the audience is questionable.

The issue of corporate resources is an easily overlooked risk for SMBs with thin social media staffs. The loss of one or two employees can temporarily or permanently erase competitive advantages and destroy years of investment.

Strategically relevant elements of implementation

Strategically relevant elements are components of the implementation – in this case, the audience – that have a direct impact on the overall success of the social media strategy.

In other words, we are talking about components of the implementation that lead to complete failure or significantly lower audience impact and jeopardize the success of the social media strategy.

Range building

Building the reach of an audience has a significant impact on the success of the audience. Once, because the reach of the audience also defines the scope of the impact of that audience. On the other hand, because the user structure is also designed in the audience structure. If we do not take sufficient care to ensure that user interests and topics are largely compatible when building the user structure, the audience will hardly be able to fulfill the expectations placed in it, as the user structure will then not be sustainable.

User Interests – User Profiling

Knowing user interests is a prerequisite for providing content that is relevant to those users. So far, user profiling has been a rather underutilized tool for Audiences, not least because external social media platforms do not offer any options for it. Without knowing user interests, we don’t really know how far our user base can contribute to our audience’s goals.

Connection to corporate processes

Depending on the company’s goals, it makes sense to link the Audience to company processes. If users have easy access to additional content such as product application, performance description or instructions for use, this is not only additionally useful for the users and promotes the audience. The company benefits from better customer information, but can also build or strengthen customer relationships, for example, by making customer service representatives, customer support staff and other contacts easily accessible.

Audience management

Audiences require their own management, which differs from community management in several ways. Accordingly, we make sure that the person responsible for the audience has the expertise for this usage format in order to ensure not only relevant and useful content, but also the development of the user base, the activation of users and the securing of the company’s benefit.

Experience in content development and implementation is certainly necessary, but not sufficient for the complete management of an audience. Managing resources such as ensuring support for business objectives, for example, are tasks that go beyond pure content-oriented management.

Integrating the audience into the company, representing the audience internally, and also securing the audience against misappropriation and repurposing are other exciting tasks that must be accomplished in order for an audience to provide long-term value to the company. Appropriate experience is also required for this.

Exercise own company

Define the following components of a possible Audience for your company. If multiple audiences are possible for your company, select one of them.

Describe the most important topics that should be covered by this audience.
Describe the business benefits that can be achieved with this audience for the components of the business model and in competition.
Describe the UserBenefit that should result from this Audience.
Describe the competitive quality of the UserBenefit compared to competitive offerings in these subject areas.
Describe the functions that must / should be included in the Audience and justify their necessity.