(Originally posted in Social Media Today)

When it comes to signing on celebrity endorsements, most brands are looking for the hottest celebrity they can find. But landing a huge star is no guarantee of brand success — just look at Alec Baldwin and Wegmans Food Markets or Kim Kardashian and QuickTrim. These brands assumed that the star’s popularity would do the work. It didn’t, and the promotions failed.

Kim Kardashian and Quick Trim might not have been a match made in Marketing heaven.

Kim Kardashian and QuickTrim weren’t a match made in Marketing heaven.

The chemistry that makes a celebrity endorsement successful is much more than popularity and price; it’s about finding the right celebrity for your target audience and developing a relationship between the two.

Fortunately, there’s an effective market research tool you can use to identify your brand’s celebrity match for free: Twitter. Savvy brands will use this tool to find the best celebrity — not necessarily the most popular one — to win big with their target audience.

Using Twitter for Market Research

It’s easy to overlook Twitter as a market research tool because of its social nature, but with the right approach, the following qualities can make Twitter a powerful tool to inform your research:

1. Twitter has loads of easily accessible public data.

Because Twitter offers marketers so much public data, it’s easy to create a comprehensive view of a given user and his audience. Using this data, you can calculate the uniqueness or over-representation ratios between the celebrity influencer and your own brand’s followers to find the overlap.

For example, look at @FIFAWorldCup’s followers’ sports influencers and interests. Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal footballer, is the most popular star with a whopping 1.2 million followers. But Clint Dempsey, a U.S. footballer, has a higher ratio of follower crossover than Wilshire.

@FIFAWorldCup Segmentation with Popular and Unique Sports influencers.

Which athlete would offer the best value for an advertiser? If you’re Coca-Cola and you’re spending more than $100 million to sponsor the World Cup, you might choose both. But if your budget is slightly smaller, Clint Dempsey or even Alex Morgan could offer great value.

Remember, what you’re looking for is a higher density of your target persona within the celebrity’s existing followers, not just the celebrity with the highest stats.

2. Twitter speaks to a younger and more ethnically diverse demographic.

Your company’s target market research determines the right social media platform for your promotions. Right now, Twitter beats out Facebook’s share of the young, urban, and more ethnically diverse.

Use this to your advantage by utilizing Twitter for campaigns that target popular celebrities among these demographics, such as multi-screen Latina viewers who use Twitter as an accompaniment to TV.

3. Twitter makes it easy to identify the personality and authenticity of the influencer.

The character restrictions and in-the-moment nature of Twitter leads its users and media outlets to present a more genuine and unfiltered personality. Not only does this help you distinguish between the right celebrity and the wrong one, but this authentic, conversational tone also resonates with users across the globe. The more natural the conversation is to that celebrity’s audience, the more authentic the message received by your target market.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

It’s tempting to jump on the popularity train and secure the most expensive endorsement you can afford. But when it doesn’t work out, that approach may cost you more than just money. Aligning your brand with a celebrity who doesn’t resonate with your customers can permanently damage your brand. Here’s how to identify the celebrity who will win over your target market:

1. Extract a sample set of engaged users.

Identify a sample of 500-1,000 users who have engaged with your brand recently in the form of retweets, favorites, and replies. Since you’re only using people who’ve engaged with you, you know they’re real people — not bots — who are likely to engage if given the right kind of content.

2. Segment, then identify, your target personas.

Always segment your sample to build the most targeted persona possible. It’s easier to do when you first begin your research. Segmenting your audience will allow you to identify not just your most engaged personas, but also your under-engaged personas. Your under-engaged followers have an incredible capacity for growth, so don’t ignore them.

3. Mine your segments for common interests and celebrities.

Take each of your targeted personas and evaluate their common interests and celebrities using Twitter’s free API or a low-cost analytics application. Which names and brands pop up? Create a list of possible connections and overlapping interests.

4. Calculate two important numbers.

First, calculate the percentage of your target persona that follows each celebrity, and then calculate the percentage of Twitter users that follow each celebrity. We know that there are about 250 million active users on Twitter. Simply compare the ratios.

For example, Jack Wilshere has 1.2 million followers and is followed by .5 percent of all Twitter users (1.2 million divided by 240 million). Clint Dempsey, on the other hand, is only followed by .16 percent of all Twitter users. If you were looking to make a high engagement connection that zones in on FIFA’s target persona on limited funds, Dempsey would be the obvious choice.

Most brands overlook Twitter. But it provides detailed information in a natural environment that can help you identify and engage the right celebrity for your brand. The best celebrity spokesperson for your company is the one who has the most in common with your target market — not just the one who’s most popular around the world. Rather than jumping on the celebrity with the largest following, take to Twitter, and use its rich data to make an informed decision.

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