Partnerships are arguably the most effective way to achieve massive growth, but far too often the work of identifying, analyzing, and leveraging the best partners is insufficient.
In reality, it’s the audience of each partner that holds the value.
What if we expanded our idea of a partnership from agreements with detailed contracts to ANY entity with whom you intentionally share your brand’s audience?
If Apple, sharing their captive audience of 1.5 billion iPhone users with Google by allowing them to be the default search engine in Safari, is on one end of the spectrum, then consider the audience being shared with your brand during an ad campaign on Facebook on the other end of the spectrum.
Consider your campaign on Instagram where an audience of 100,000 people following a specific influencer in your vertical is shared with your brand, or a search campaigns on Google, where an audience of 75,000 people search every month using a specific keyword is shared with your brand.
Consider the New York Times where an audience of 25,000 people reading a certain columnist in the opinion section is shared with your brand, or your co-marketing partner, where an audience of 30,000 just downloaded an ebook that speaks to the exact problem solved by your product.
The Audience Sharing Lens on Marketing
Dissecting what the audiences have in common with your brand, how those similarities are accentuated in messaging and creative, and how that audience data is mined to discover new similar audiences is essential to maximizing the transfer of trust and value that takes place between your brand and whatever growth channel you’re focused on.
Meta popularized an aspect of this concept at scale with their launch of Lookalike Audiences in Q1 of 2013 (as referenced in Facebook’s earnings report), and every major ad platform has since followed suit. They now even have a feature called “shared audiences” that “Allows other people access to the audiences you’ve created for your ads”:
Now that brands have fully bought into the concept of owning their audience, through the rise of content marketing, it’s time for marketers to think more like the major platforms think about their audiences. The launch of Shopify Audiences for Plus customers who opt-in to their shared audience network is a great example of the direction the industry is headed.
While Shopify is unique is their scale of e-commerce shops, they are far from the only platform or alliance of brands or publishers who can collaborate to optimize engagement and monetization of their shared audiences.
Much like SEO, SMO, and CRO before it, I believe this lens of audience sharing warrants its own marketing category definition that will give rise to experts in audience sharing. Clearly AI is already a major player in this space, but this umbrella term will lead to more individuals learning how to wield the power of AI to drive growth with audience sharing. I look forward to the critique and contribution to this V1 definition of Shared Audience Optimization.
Shared Audience Optimization (SAO): The marketing practice of partnering with platforms, brands, publishers or individuals by understanding what each party’s audience has in common and how these similarities can be leveraged to maximize growth and return on investment.
At Shared Audiences we operate all our digital marketing services through this lens of shared audience optimization (SAO). We believe leveraging any growth channel requires the sharing of a pre-existing audience. Taking this approach to paid social, organic social, search engine marketing, display and video advertising, SEO, conversion rate optimization (CRO), content marketing, email marketing, and analytics, requires a laser focus on our clients’ target audience, and a laser focus on what audiences are being shared with our clients. We discover the necessary audiences on the right channels that can be shared with our clients and how any existing shared audiences need to be optimized to drive growth and a better return on investment.
If any of this sounds interesting, we’d love to chat. Book a call with one of our growth strategists today.
Will started Shared Audiences after spending over 18 years leading growth marketing, content, SEO and SEM at large and small tech companies and agencies. Previously he was Global Head of Content Marketing at Outbrain, Head of Search Marketing at Ogilvy, and SEO specialist for brands like 3M and Siemens. Will co-founded the VC-backed edtech company Bakpax (acquired by Teachers Pay Teachers), and led marketing at Knewton (acquired by Wiley). He lives in Weston, CT, with his wife and two girls.