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How to Use Psychographics for Good

Data is inherently neutral. How you obtain data and what you do with it is what makes it good or evil.

That’s at the center of the recent firestorm with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm founded by Steve Bannon and Republican megadonor, Robert Mercer. On behalf of the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data to build psychographic models to understand voters’ values, interests, beliefs and motivations in order to sway them into Trump’s column by sowing division and spreading falsehoods. Facebook failed to notify users that their data had been harvested.

The importance of psychographics may be the one thing Cambridge Analytica and Spitfire can agree on.

When the data is collected ethically and you’re using it for good, analyzing psychographics is an incredibly valuable tool to help you communicate in a meaningful and effective way with your priority audiences. It’s not enough to understand demographics – age, race, gender, education or where someone lives. If you want to persuade someone to take action for good, messaging is much more effective when you know what motivates your target audience. This is what we call Mindful Messaging – the difference between knowing what people do and understanding why they do it.

If you wanted to analyze the psychographics of your audiences in a more responsible and well-intentioned way than Cambridge Analytica, how would you go about finding that information? Your options range from free to fantastically expensive.

Because a lot of our clients don’t have a huge research budget, free is usually the best place to start. It also helps you figure out what and how much information is out there. Take a look at census data or freely available reports, such as the 2017 Millennial Impact Report, which shows how millennials have increased their voice around issues that personally impact them; explore Pew Research Center studies; get in touch with companies that are willing to share their data, such as Zipcar, or others that have an affinity for your issue.

Free or low-cost data and analysis can come from places like Google consumer surveys, Experian or Nielsen Insights. You can use social media to monitor conversations that are happening around your issue. Many research firms will also compile a report of their research for a minimal fee.

Moving up the ladder of cost, online qualitative research platforms such as Digsite and itracks are typically less expensive than in-person focus groups. And these web-based platforms allow you to engage in the same types of deep conversations that will provide valuable insights into target audiences’ beliefs and motivations.

At the high end, qualitative and quantitative inquires with proprietary data sets will give you the most in-depth and comprehensive information. The fantastically-expensive option may, in fact, be a good deal and well worth the cost if it can inform an entire field and be used over a multi-year period.

Social scientists can also provide useful insights into the latest research on how and why people make decisions. Get in touch with your local university’s social psychology department. You will be amazed at how generous these professors are with their time and knowledge. We have several on speed dial.

As you can see, there are lots of options to unearth your target audience’s psychographics for good that won’t cause an international uproar. Learn more about how to craft messages that will inspire action at:

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at 14:14 pm and is filed under Frame, narrative and message development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.