Using social listening to identify and understand niche audiences
by Infegy Research Team on October 4, 2023
Business leaders, marketers and brand managers have long understood the importance of providing custom messaging to address the needs of target audiences and serve as an advocate for customers. However, sometimes social listening insights identify a niche segment within the larger target market that requires a different approach. Understanding the needs and interests of these niche client segments is the key to successfully engaging with these audiences.
Here, we examine one such niche group and how social listening can help address this audience’s particular needs.
In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s consider the importance of properly identifying and targeting niche market segments by looking at Lumanity and its work with metastatic breast cancer patients.
Lumanity is a healthcare communications company that specializes in patient advocacy and engagement. The Lumanity team was supporting a healthcare client that wanted to better understand its target patient community. By leveraging the power of social listening, Lumanity was able to provide powerful insights into the breast cancer community as a whole. More importantly, the team identified a niche market that had distinct needs and interests.
Using social listening to understand breast cancer conversations and audience demographics
To understand Lumanity’s approach, let’s start by examining the overall breast cancer audience.
Figure 1: Breast cancer post volume (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
As you can see in Figure 1, the breast cancer post universe is huge! Over the last five years alone, there have been more than 30 million breast cancer-related posts. These posts tend to spike each year around October as the conversation regarding Breast Cancer Awareness Month picks up.
Figure 2: Breast Cancer Channel Universe Distribution (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
Figure 2 shows how breast cancer-related posts are distributed across various social media channels. Instagram has risen in being a common way people discuss breast cancer topics. Also, you can see a spike in Instagram post volume in October each year, just like the overall conversation.
Figure 3: Breast Cancer Emotions Documents Distribution (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
An emotional analysis of posts (Figure 3) shows strong sentiment related to Love, Joy and Trust. This likely reflects the support this audience offers one another during this time.
Figure 4: Breast Cancer Gender Distribution (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
Next, let’s examine demographic characteristics of this audience (Figure 4). As we may have expected, post volume is overwhelmingly driven by women (66%) because women are more likely to develop breast cancer than men. Figure 4 also shows that the distribution of posts across genders remains consistent over time.
Figure 5: Breast Cancer Age Distribution (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
Age distribution of those discussing breast cancer is also consistent with disease demographics. Women’s risk of breast cancer typically increases around age 40, which is when doctors recommend women receive their first mammogram. Age 40 is also when we see the highest post volume related to breast cancer.
Using social listening to isolate a key patient segment within the larger breast cancer category
Let’s revisit our client, Lumanity. Social listening data provided by Infegy Atlas helped Lumanity’s team identify an important niche segment within the larger breast cancer conversation – metastatic breast cancer patients.
Metastatic breast cancer, also referred to as stage IV breast cancer, occurs when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Because there is no cure, patients must manage the cancer throughout their lifetimes.
Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer have advanced and are helping to extend survival, but much research is still needed. In the United States, approximately 6% of women have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed; however, 20% to 30% of women diagnosed with early stage cancer later develop metastatic breast cancer.
Figure 6: Telescoping Narratives (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
Using the narratives filter in Infegy Atlas, we can hone in on the conversation surrounding metastatic breast cancer as a subcategory of overall breast cancer conversations (Figure 6). As you can see, a relatively small audience is discussing metastatic breast cancer, compared to total breast cancer posts. Yet, given the survival rates of those with metastatic breast cancer, we know this is an important audience that requires specialized support.
Figure 7: Comparing metastatic versus regular breast cancer conversation post volume (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
Figure 7 illustrates that the metastatic breast cancer post volume comprises only 2.33% of the overall breast cancer conversation.
The next question we need to ask is, “How does the metastatic breast cancer conversation differ from the overall breast cancer conversation?”
Figure 8: Comparing metastatic versus general breast cancer gender demographics (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
To answer that question, let’s start by examining the difference in demographics between those discussing metastatic breast cancer versus overall breast cancer. Figure 8 shows us that more females and fewer males are discussing metastatic breast cancer.
Figure 9: Comparing metastatic versus general breast cancer age demographics (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
An age analysis illustrates that metastatic breast cancer post volume exceeds general breast cancer post volume among the 35-44 and 55-64 age groups.
Now that we have an idea about demographics, let’s take a look at how the conversation about metastatic breast cancer differs from the general breast cancer conversation.
Figure 10: Comparing metastatic versus general breast cancer source bios (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
A bio comparison of metastatic versus general breast cancer posts illustrates that the metastatic conversation is much more academic and research focused. Metastatic-related bios are more likely to reference interests such as “oncology,” “research,” “clinical,” “university,” etc.
Figure 11: Comparing metastatic versus general breast cancer interests (September 2018 through September 2023); Infegy Atlas data.
Further evidence of the metastatic group’s interest in academics and research is reflected in Figure 11. Notice how the metastatic group is more likely than the general breast cancer group to discuss biotech, biological sciences, pharmaceutical drugs, genetics and pharmaceutical drugs.
This may be unsurprising, given that this is a group of patients who are living with and trying to manage a lifelong, incurable disease. Yet, it's an important insight that can help guide conversations with this key patient group.
Practical applications of niche audience insights
By activating the power of social listening with Infegy Atlas, the Lumanity team was able to better understand the interests and needs of a key target audience. Using Infegy Atlas’ Narratives function, the team quickly identified contexts and connections between conversation clusters related to metastatic breast cancer.
Specifically, the team identified conversation clusters around unmet physical, emotional and psychosocial needs within this niche group. Lumanity was able to use this information to better support and communicate with metastatic breast cancer patients and provide value beyond traditional therapeutic developments.
Lumanity’s experience with metastatic breast cancer patients is a great example of how social media intelligence can lead to better support and communication for a niche segment. While metastatic patients shared many similarities with the general breast cancer population, Infegy Atlas helped Lumanity identify important differences in this key patient group that required a unique approach.
To learn more about how Infegy Atlas can help you identify and support key niche audiences, request a custom demo.