Helmed by Rand Fishkin (of Moz and Whiteboard Friday fame), and Casey Henry (also formerly of Moz, as well as Wistia and Hubspot), SparkToro aims to make high quality market research and audience intelligence available to everyone, not just those with big budgets.
It’s no small ambition, then, but how does the software stack up? We sat down with it for a couple of days and put down our thoughts together for you below.
Note - Rand and Casey very kindly gave us free access to the SparkToro platform for a few days, but what follows is our honest opinion. No money changed hands and there was no obligation for us to write anything.
Audience research is really, really important.
We all agree that when it comes to content marketing, the more you know about your target audience, the better, right? You can create content that’s more relevant, engaging and valuable to your audience if you know what and who they engage with.
Well, SparkToro claims to help marketers identify the people, the websites, the YouTube channels and the podcasts that are influencing your target audience. So you know where better to spend your efforts and your marketing moolah when it comes to outreach, advertising and more.
How does it work?
SparkToro takes the social accounts, websites, phrases and hashtags that you search for on the website, that are relevant to your target audience, and spits out an index of really useful, insightful information about that audience.
All of the information you gather can be exported and saved elsewhere, so you can access it at any time, and you can save specific results to lists directly on SparkToro too. This way you don’t have to keep performing the same searches over and over again.
What did we do with it?
To make everything a little clearer, it might be useful to show you one example of what we did with SparkToro, and why.
A bit of context first, though.
Converge is a content marketing platform for B2B businesses - we help our members generate passive, consistent traffic to their articles and websites, increase online visibility, and build brand authority.
And, while our members share content with our platform from a wide range of industries, the content Converge shares is nearly always to do with content marketing. Our ideal members are also content marketers, so any time we can be speaking with content marketers, about content marketing, we consider that a win.
For this example, we chose the ‘Frequently talks about’ option from the ‘My Audience’ drop down menu. The other options, as you can see above, are: ‘Uses these word(s) in their profile’, ‘Follows the social account’, ‘Frequently visits the website’ and ‘Frequently uses the hashtag’.
The keyphrase we picked was - no surprises here - ‘content marketing’.
After we typed it in and hit ‘Search’, this is what SparkToro showed us.
As you can see, we were shown the aggregated results of 70,666 sources who frequently talk about content marketing. We were told which websites these sources frequently visit, the social accounts they follow, and the YouTube channels and podcasts they subscribe to.
It also showed us more insights such as the words and phrases our target audience tend to use in their social profiles and bios, as well as words they use in their shares and content.
The frequently used hashtags was a great insight, as was the ‘Country Geographic Distribution’, to let us know what else we can be tagging our social content and promotions with, and which countries to target, to reach our target audience.
And all this information was shared really, really fast.
Why is that important?
When it comes to creating content, we want to make sure that the content we’re creating will resonate with our target audience, and provide them with genuine value. By understanding which websites and media channels they frequent, we can get a better idea of the sort of content they’re after.
It also provides us with a list of media channels to speak to about content collaborations, paid advertising or sponsorship opportunities. If we know that our target audience is engaging with these channels often, we know that getting visibility on them is a priority.
We also don’t want to spend hours and hours finding all this information out manually, so having the tool do all the legwork for us, without any bias issues to worry about, is great.
What’s our opinion?
It’s safe to say that we liked the tool. It saved us a lot of time and showed us some information we weren’t aware of. It pointed us towards the social profiles, websites, YouTube channels and podcasts we should be engaging with or marketing with. As well as some additional hashtags we could be adding to our social content.
Now we’ve got a very clear idea of what our target audience is looking for, we can create and promote content that they’ll find valuable and, hopefully, engage with.
It gets a thumbs up from us.
Will you find this product useful?
In our opinion, and it is just that - an opinion, we think if you say yes to any one of the questions below, you should find some value in this product. If you say yes to two or more, you’ll definitely find value in it.
- Do you need to search for social media influencers, podcasts, or YouTube channels relating to your industry or niche for outreach and marketing/advertising purposes?
- Do you want to know where and with whom your audience spend their time away from your website to better understand them and the content they’re looking for?
- Do you want to better understand your client’s or competitor’s audiences and have the information shown to you in an easily digestible way?
- Do you want to save a tonne of time when it comes to pulling together all of the above? Seriously. We mean hours of legwork.
Let’s talk about the price.
But what does all of this cost? As we all know, the actual price of anything is rarely the issue, it’s the value you get, or lack of value, from the thing you’re purchasing that makes something a good deal or expensive.
Note - We can only talk about cost from our point of view, as a small content marketing company. So while we will jump into each of the costs, bear in mind where we're coming from when it comes to our opinion.
First of all, there is a freemium version of SparkToro, so any business can give this tool a try, but it is understandably restrictive. To get the most value from SparkToro, you’ll have to pay. Below are the most up-to-date options.
The option most applicable to us is the 'Starter' option. And the absolute lowest we can expect to pay for that option over 12 months is $450, (if billed yearly) or $50 per month if we go for that option.
Paying monthly costs more over 12 months, obviously, but gives you greater flexibility with payments. Especially if you don’t think you’d need access to SparkToro for the full year.
We spend a lot of time creating content, so having a better understanding of the sort of content our audience wants and expects, as well as knowing which websites, podcasts and YouTube channels we should look to guest post, appear on or advertise with, is hugely beneficial.
You can spend a lot of time and money creating and promoting the wrong content, likely a lot more than $50 per month.
But would we need access 12 months at a time? Probably not. Instead, we’d likely turn the tap on and off for this type of tool. Paying for it for one or two months at a time when planning our content, outreach and advertising strategies, and then dipping back into it when needed throughout the year as well.
In our opinion, paying for the year up front would be best for agencies and small businesses that deal with social media, content and advertising for multiple clients. If we offered a service like that, this tool would be an absolute no brainer for the full year.
We hope you’ve found this look into SparkToro useful. If you’ve got any questions about the tool that you’d like us to answer, please stick them in the comments below and we’ll get back to you.
If you’d like to check out the SparkToro tool for yourself, just click below to visit their site and give it a try.