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The Difficulty in Building Cross-Platform Target Audiences

Posted on September 07, 2020

A cross-platform advertising strategy on social media is needed for businesses to reach as many relevant potential customers as possible. Running ads on different platforms also helps with combating social ad fatigue, which causes your ad campaigns to become increasingly ineffective over time. In this article, we’ll take a look at four of the most popular social networks for advertising (Facebook/Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter) and how they compare to each other.

How do you begin to start creating audiences for different social networks? Using interest-based audiences will allow you to target potential new customers for your business, so let’s start there. Each platform has a search function where you can either enter in keywords to find specific interest topics or browse through their entire list in case you don’t know what to look for. This is what the list looks like for the above mentioned social networks:

Cross-platform Audience Targeting

You can quickly tell that each platform has their own set of interest topics, so it’s not quite as easy as just ‘copying-and-pasting’ from one to another. These interests are also organized in multiple-layers, such that there’s always top level interest topics, which then drills down deeper to more narrow interest topics.

We’ve found that this structure usually goes 3-levels deep

Therefore, to create audiences across platforms, you’ll need to know how each interest topic maps across to the social networks you want to use.

This is a hard feat in itself because of the way each platform structures this data, as even though each social network has multiple levels, they are not evenly distributed. Here’s an overview of the total number of topics in each level:

Audience interests across social platforms

Just by looking at the above chart, you can tell that Facebook has been in the social advertising game the longest since their structure makes the most sense, as they’ve had about 10 years to revise and improve. Conversely, you can tell that TikTok is still feeling its way around this industry as their interest structure still lacks depth.

Download our FREE Definitive Guide to see the full list of TikTok interests to use as a reference when you’re building audiences on that platform.

To prove how difficult it is to match up interests across different platforms, let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’re trying to target people who like drinking beer, here is what you would input in each social network (and where you would find it in their interest list):

  • Facebook/Instagram: Beer (Food and drink → Alcoholic beverages → Beer)
  • Twitter: Beer (Food and drink → Beer)
  • Snapchat: Beer Drinkers (Lifestyles → Social Drinkers → Beer Drinkers)
  • TikTok: Beverage (Food & Beverage → Beverage)

You can see that the interest topics aren’t consistent as you can only specifically target people who like drinking beer in 3 out of the 4 social networks. This percentage becomes even lower for other interests such as targeting people who like eating Chinese cuisine, as both Snapchat and TikTok don’t even have that interest topic at all!

Therefore, the trick is to understand how each interest topic maps out across the platforms you want to run campaigns on

Fortunately, at TopicDNA, we understood very early on that all of the social networks’ interests had to be unified into one list. So what we’ve done was map all of the other social network’s interest topics onto our own. This comes in handy when you want to target audiences across platforms, as we can build audiences for those specific social networks at the touch of a button.

Currently, we can automatically create Facebook/Instagram and Twitter audiences, but we’ll have Snapchat and TikTok capability very soon, with even more integrations to come. We’re also in the process of building new tools that can help you translate (and recommend) topics from across various social platforms.

In the meantime, we’ll be releasing reference guides to the full list of interest topics on these social networks, starting with TikTok, to help you build the best audience possible for your social campaigns.


Andrew Ko

Written by Andrew Ko. Follow me on Twitter.


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