The imperative to “know your audience” is often cited as the first rule of content marketing, and with good reason. A sound understanding of your audience can inform every aspect of your content strategy, from development to distribution. But what does it really mean to “know your audience?” More importantly, what are specific ways to get to know your audience in order to maximize the results of your content marketing efforts?
The answers lie in asking these six familiar questions from the journalist’s toolbox.
Getting to know your audience requires asking the obvious: who are they? Identify target audiences by conducting basic types of market research including competitor analysis, focus groups, industry surveys and opinion polls. In addition, web and social media analytics can offer insight into who’s searching for your brand and visiting your company’s platforms. For organizations with smaller budgets, look to your major competitors; pinpoint the audiences they’re talking to and mine third-party analyst reports that provide valuable information on key industry stakeholders. Though on its face the question seems simple enough, being able to answer who your audience is will provide the foundation for everything that comes next.
Once you know who your audiences are, you’re ready to tackle “the what.” That is, what types of content do your target audiences regularly consume? What do they find valuable and informative? With an abundance of available content, the challenge lies in getting core audiences to not only click, but to also consume and share your content with their personal and professional networks. Knowing what your audiences find substantively and stylistically compelling is crucial to developing content that aligns with their values. Engaging with your audiences not simply as consumers, but as individuals can help establish trust, foster recognition and build brand loyalty.
Just as it’s important to know what types of content your target audiences consume, it’s also essential to know when they consume it. When are they most likely to be engaged? When are they most active on email or on social networks? Being able to determine the times in which your audiences are most likely to consume and share content can have a significant impact on the time of day and platform you choose to distribute content. It may also necessitate having to find ways to automate content delivery to ensure that it reaches your target audiences after regular business hours.
With the ongoing proliferation of media platforms, it’s easy to feel the need to be just about everywhere at all times. But maximizing content marketing efforts requires asking where your target audiences are most active. Where do your audiences access the majority of the content they consume? Concentrating on the channels where your audiences engage most often will allow you to optimize your resources and meet them exactly where they are.
The most successful brands don’t just have a product or service; they have a mission, specifically one that resonates with their core audiences. Rather than telling your audiences what they want or why they should want it, find out what motivates them. Find out why they engage with certain types of content more than others. Ask why particular messages resonate? Why do they make specific decisions or place their trust in certain places and not others? Asking why can help brands find out what motivates their audiences to produce content that really moves and inspires them.
Great content is certainly about knowing what your audiences want and where they like to get it. But great content is also about communication, and requires an understanding of how your audiences speak – their discourse, their language-games. At the outset of any content marketing campaign, get to know your audience by taking some time to read what they read and watch what they watch. Garner an understanding of key words, terms and references that resonate with your target audiences and put them to work in the content you develop.
To be sure, getting to know your audience can be challenging. But asking the right questions at the outset will build a solid foundation for a strong and effective content marketing strategy that produces long-term results.
For more content marketing tips, check out Affect’s recent whitepaper: How to Develop a Content Strategy to Drive Public Relations, Social Media and Marketing Results.