How to Do Audience Segmentation
Why Segment an Audience?
Who Should Conduct an Audience Segmentation?
When Should an Audience Segmentation Take Place?
Estimated Time Needed
- Define the audience segments for a particular health issue.
- Select an appropriate audience segment for the intervention.
Step 1: Review Audience Information
- How each audience is affected by the problem
- Size (number of people in the audience)
- Knowledge and behaviors
- Other information as appropriate.
Step 2: Decide Whether to Segment
- The audience cannot be reached effectively with the same messages, interventions and channels. The audience (i.e. sexually active youth) may require different messages, interventions, or channels if:
- Certain segments are more heavily impacted by the problem (e.g. orphan girls are more likely to contract HIV)
- Certain segments have significantly different worldviews, needs or concerns (e.g. sexually active, urban boys view sex as a power symbol while sexually active young girls view sex as a means to receiving gifts)
- Certain segments are more difficult to reach (e.g. homeless sexually active youth do not have access to TV and need to be reached through community workers)
- The program has a budget that allows for multiple approaches. Segmentation requires extra effort and resources (e.g. time to properly segment audiences, funds and staff time to design separate messages and materials, funds to use additional channels). If the budget does not allow for multiple approaches, identify the most important audience segment to reach and focus on that segment.
Step 3: Determine Segmentation Criteria
If it makes sense to segment, then the team needs to decide what criteria to use to segment the audience(s). First, look at the primary audience(s) and identify traits that make a subgroup significantly different from other audience members. A significant difference is one that requires a different messages or approach. These differences are typically based on socio-demographic, geographic, behavioral or psychographic differences among members of the primary audience.
Step 4: Segment Audiences
Step 5: Decide which Segments to Target
- Impact: Look at the size of the segment and ask whether behavior change in this segment will have a significant impact on the problem. For example, will focusing on women with no children significantly increase contraceptive use and decrease maternal mortality? Are there enough women without children to make a difference?
- Accessibility: Determine whether the program team is able to reach the particular segment with the resources available. For example, does the program team have connections with the rural audience? Can it work with rural leaders to ensure its message is delivered?
- Program priorities: Programs often need to show impact early and quickly. In such cases, it may be necessary to choose audience segments whose behavior will be relatively easy to change. For example, the team may need to focus first on those who are already thinking about making a change (in the Preparation stage of behavior change) and then focus on harder-to-reach segments—requiring more time and effort—later in the program.
Using the suggestions above, finalize which segments the program will target. The number of segments will be based largely on the resources available and program goals.
Step 6: Assess the Proposed Segments
Adapted from Criteria for Market Segmentation
Tips & Recommendations
- Ensure the program has resources to address multiple segments before engaging in the process of segmentation.
- Look for ways to leverage funds with other programs so that additional segments can be reached with tailored messages and interventions.
- Ensure that the segments chosen are different enough to warrant different messages and interventions.
Resources and References
- Market Segmentation Study Guide
- O’Sullivan, G.A., Yonkler, J.A., Morgan, W., and Merritt, A.P. A Field Guide to Designing a Health Communication Strategy, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs, March 2003.
- MailChimp. Audience Segmentation. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
Banner Photo: © 2014 Basil Safi, Courtesy of Photoshare
SBC How-to Guides are short guides that provide step-by-step instructions on how to perform core social and behavior change tasks. From formative research through monitoring and evaluation, these guides cover each step of the SBC process, offer useful hints, and include important resources and references.