SparkToro: Helping marketers understand their audience in a new way
Read Time: 5 Minutes

SparkToro: Helping marketers understand their audience in a new way

07 May, 2020 Read Time: 5 Minutes
Published by
Brooke Savage
Content Executive
Inspire Inform Ignite

We tested SparkToro to see how the data from customers’ online profiles drive deeper audience marketing insights.

As digital marketers, we constantly want to understand the habits, needs, and goals of our partners’ customers. As part of Jellyfish’s best practice, we gather insights on different audiences from data, rather than make assumptions. However, finding good data quickly can be hard.

SparkToro aims to solve that. Rand Fishkin, co-founder and former 'Wizard of Moz', frames SparkToro as an audience intelligence tool that uses data from social accounts and web profiles and makes it accessible through a search. Unlike other tools, it crawls for words - direct text only, no sentiment analysis - to determine where an audience goes online, who they follow, and what words they use in the content they post or stated in their profile. It is a fast way to gather information without conducting a survey and it doesn’t collect personal identity information.

Where it helps marketers

SparkToro is designed for SEO, social media, content, and PR teams. However, at its core, it aims to understand the customer’s mindset, which is a priority for everyone in digital marketing.

Get inside your audience’s heads

To use SparkToro, the first and only step is: search. Its simplicity makes it easy for anyone to use.

The options for a search are simple. You can pair your keyword, such as ‘cars’, with one of the following options:

  • Frequently talk about
  • Words used in their profiles
  • What they follow on social media
  • What sites and hashtags they use frequently
SparkToro Search Options Screenshot

I searched ‘frequently talks about’ and ‘cars’ in the United States. If needed, you can filter the location by city, state, or country.

From there, I started digging. The data showed what popular podcasts and YouTube channels that this audience engages with. I particularly liked the Audience Insights tab, which highlights what words the ‘frequently talk about cars’ audience like to share or what they have identified in their profiles.

SparkToro Car Search Screenshot

For me, this search was too broad but was a good starting point to inspire new content ideas or help solidify an audience profile.

In another search, I combined ‘Words used in their profiles’ and ‘DevOps.’ With this query, I was able to dive deep into what DevOps are discussing online. As a marketer, I could use that knowledge to develop a campaign that would seamlessly join the conversation and connect with the audience directly.

However, one thing I found sticky about the tool is what happens when an audience is not vocal about their interests online. In my car example, I faced that issue. I was looking for a subset of car enthusiasts who wanted to learn more about how to fix cars, but they hadn’t yet converted to posting or following many in the field. SparkToro can point me in the direction of this information, however, I needed to be conscious that it pulls data from the loudest, most active users.

Competitor Analysis

SparkToro’s strength is analyzing a competitor’s audience. By identifying what language and hashtags a competitor’s followers use, I saw what their audience was responding to and liked. It was then possible to gather insights and apply it to new campaigns and copy.

You can do this by searching for competitors’ social accounts in the Profile Search tool.

SparkToro profile search screenshot

I used this insight to ensure the new content aligned with what the audience wanted to engage with. My goal wasn’t to replicate what the competitors were doing but to understand where my partner’s content can join in a meaningful way.

Building Relationships

Outside building a message, you can use SparkToro to connect with others.

With the Hidden Gem’s feature, you can identify smaller accounts that still capture your audience’s attention. I liked looking at this data because these accounts are having direct conversations with their community and your potential customers. This is a good place to gather new ideas and find thought leaders and influencers in the field.

It also can be used for networking. After searching in SparkToro, you can reach out and connect with others in the field. You can build relationships and reach customers through the following marketing tactics:

  • Co-marketing, affiliate relationships, influencer marketing
  • Guest contributions, posts, and podcast appearances
  • Building up a network and finding thought leaders in your field

Other Features

There are a few other smart features that SparkToro has:

  • Compare the audience: You can compare two audiences and understand where their interests overlap. This is helpful if the interested audiences intersect
  • Downloadable: Most of the data is available via an Excel file
  • Fake followers: You can determine what percentage of a following is real or fake with this fake follower audit
  • Trending: This highlights articles that are trending on Twitter from marketers

What I learned from using SparkToro

When I did my first searches, after regrettably wasting a few due to typing errors, I started exploring what data would be helpful to me. Initially, I was concerned that the breadth of the search would make it difficult to draw conclusions. But after I explored the tool to its fullest, I was pleasantly surprised!

I think that SEO, social, PR, and content teams will find SparkToro helpful as a part of their day-to-day work, but I think this is great for basic research of a brand that could very easily translate to other aspects of marketing, including paid search, display, and UX. Our goal as marketers, no matter the discipline, is to understand and cater to the audience’s perspective.

Overall, making data searchable is SparkToro’s greatest strength. Not only is it fun to get lost in as you explore, but it’s an even better place to get new ideas sparked by data. Driven by audience insights, SparkToro is a user-friendly tool that can help marketers make strategic decisions that reach their most valuable customers.

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