Understanding Your Audience Is Underrated

Something popular web publishers have latched onto – that differentiates from many (but not all) traditional reporters  – is the power of understanding your audience.

I’m not talking a shallow understanding of the genres your audience is interested in.  I’m talking about an innate understanding of the content archetypes readers react to, the motivations behind readers as individuals interacting with media, and the steps necessary to develop an interested, activated community.

No longer is this skill-set reserved for the editor.  The writer must now have complete comprehension in the motivating factors an audience has.  Content strategy can’t be reserved only for executives, if so, their publication will slowly lose out to competitors whose writer’s mindsets live at the intersection between strategist and creator.

You can be a great writer, yet if you don’t understand your audience you’ll never create content which sticks.  Content no longer happens in a vacuum as part of a process for eventual consumption.  The friction has all but been removed.  There are many with talent for writing, but few with a talent for writing and the vision for creating strategic content that will resonate with targets and allow them to stand out in a world of infinite choice.

Consider that we have data at our fingertips about:

  • Visitors to our content
  • Subscriber interaction
  • How users are sharing our content
  • What the current hot content archetypes are
  • What kind of writing style/tone users react to
  • What content is resonating in real-time
  • The influencers in any given niche
  • What activates users behind ideas
  • Search trends
  • Category specific news trends

And that’s just a high level.  What I’m getting at is you’ve got more than enough data to fully understand your audience in meaningful ways.  As a content producer (or even a social media power user) using this data can let you develop a seriously powerful and effective strategy to win the future.

Questions to ask when developing this type of strategy include:

What type of style will resonate with your audience?

Is your audience typically used to very conservative media brands?  Great – create something stylish and maybe even a bit extreme.  That’s how you permeate the niche, not by cultivating yet another conservative image.  Just because the audience data tells you they’re used to one thing doesn’t mean you should copy a strategy which already exists.

How can I approach my niche in a way that larger competitors will have no defense against taking attention from their audiences?

If everyone in the niche has allegiance to certain brands, styles or tastes and you can position yourself as the antithesis, you’ll siphon away audience members who secretly think your way.  It’s a misnomer that everyone follows the trendsetters.  Many do, but there are plenty who don’t and quietly resent them.  And on the web, even a few percentage points of users can be enough.  Attack the players in subtle ways and you’ll pull their dissenters.  The aggregate amount of attention available daily is finite, you have to take attention away from someone else, it is the web’s – and the world’s – scarce resource.

How can you frame content in a way it will resonate?

Are you framing content in an appropriate manner for your target audience?  All of your content should be framed in such a way to create a referential brand behind your ideas and help them permeate the niche.

Are you taking advantage of ideas your audience can’t resist?

Study the successful tactical items – such as content archetypes or promotion plays.  I’m not advocating the theft of ideas , rather, you can make the ones that work become your own to fit within your unique strategy.

How do you plan on reaching sneezers/connectors?

Without some careful thought to understanding your audience, you’ll never push through ideas that resonate enough, frequently enough, to reach the all important sneezers/connectors of the web.  Seth Godin argues as few as 10 people can make or break a new idea.  This sounds accurate if you have the right idea.

The point is this:  understanding your audience is underrated.  Once you do have audience comprehension, take the time to think about how you can use this knowledge to formulate a content strategy.  With every company (and every person) now a media company, this matters for everyone.