Imagine if someone asked you to write a tutorial on how to multiply. Well, it’s fairly simple – but only if you know who you’re talking to. Are you writing for mathematicians, or preschoolers? It makes a huge difference. Not only in the way you explain yourself, but in the language you use to convey your point. Your first question should always be – who am I writing for?
Blogging is the same. You can’t hope to write an effective post without knowing exactly who you’re writing for. Novices will say that they are writing for everyone – because they don’t want to narrow their audience. But the truth is that you have to write for a certain, very specific kind of person. You need to establish a target audience. The more specific you get, the more success you will find. Think of it this way – if you were to write for everyone, and everyone was 100 people, then you might actually connect with 5 or 6. If you were to write for a specific audience, say women, and there were 50 women in that group, you’re much more likely to reach 10+ of them. You’ve already filtered out the people who might not relate to your topic (men), and that gives you a higher chance of connecting to people. Though looking at a pool of 100 people seems better than looking at 50, you’re more likely to connect if you get specific and know exactly who you’re talking to.
So, let’s get specific. I think the best way to go about defining your audience is to think of her (or him) as a person, one person. Her name can be Audience (or whatever you want to call her) and she is your ideal client or reader. Think about her as an individual. She embodies your brand and what kind of person you want to reach with your words and your products/services. When you know who your Audience is, you can speak directly to her. You can think about her in every word and thought you write down. You will be able to think about what she wants and what she needs, and cater to everything that she is asking for. Here are all the things you need to decide upon when defining your Audience.
**Disclaimer: the one thing people fear most about defining an Audience is that they feel they are shutting out a portion of the population. Remember, the entire population can still access your site, and many of them may still interact with it, but by defining your audience you are simply calling out to a certain portion of them.
Is Audience a he, a she, or both? Once you choose a gender you can research different elements of your blog/site to suit Audience. You can target your design towards her, speak in a way that she will be able to relate to, and use language that will make her trust you. If Audience is genderless that’s fine, but you need to know it. You might have a naturally feminine voice or a masculine design tendency. If your Audience is genderless, be aware of that and make decisions accordingly.
How old is Audience? You can give her an exact age, but your ideal audience will be a range. Is Audience going to college? Is she graduated and trying to build her ideal career? Does she already have children and is balancing her career and her family? Is she a grandmother? It’s not as much about age but about what stage of life Audience is in.
Location is vital for a number of reasons. Without even knowing it, you are probably automatically writing for the area you live in. If you’re writing a community blog or an events page, this might make sense, but if you are writing a blog that is not specific on location, then you need to remember that. Don’t use language that people in different countries won’t understand. Don’t reference times of day without a timezone. Don’t mention laws or regulations without mentioning that they are for your region only. Ideally you want Audience to be a world traveller, and you want your blog to make sense to her wherever she is.
What language does Audience speak? For the most part you’d like to think that Audience knows every language in the world. With modern translation technologies, websites in every language are automatically translated into people’s languages from all over the world, so it’s not something you have to worry about. However, if you offer printables and things like that that can’t be automatically translated, you might have to think about offering them in multiple languages if the need arises.
You definitely don’t want to discriminate, but having an idea of Audience’s typical income will help you better relate to her. It will also give you a better idea of what stage of her life she is in. What is she willing to spend money on and invest in? What is she hesitant spending on? You need to know Audience’s income, especially if your blog is monetized and you are trying to sell products or services. Knowing what Audience is willing to spend money on will help you target your products to her.
Hobbies and Interests
What does Audience like to do with her spare time? If you’re writing a blog in a specific niche, Audience probably loves that niche. Whether it’s cooking or design, Audience should love doing and reading what you’re writing about. You should also step a little bit outside your niche and think about related hobbies or interests that Audience might also have. You can use these to tie into your niche and build a stronger relationship with her. This is where you connect with her on a deeper level, you share common interests and you can talk about them as friends would.
Education and Skills
Is Audience an expert in her field or is she a novice trying to learn something new? You need to know this to determine what kind of language you are going to use, and what kind of depth you will go into when trying to teach her something. Remember, you have to add value to your reader’s life, so if she can’t understand what you’re saying or trying to tell her, there is going to be a problem. You definitely don’t want to be condescending and talk to Audience like she’s stupid, but you also don’t want what you’re saying to go over her head.
Habits and Hangouts
Think about a typical day in Audience’s life. Does she get up and read blogs in the morning? If so, that’s when you should get her attention. Is she more of a night owl? If so, post at night to capture her downtime. Think about where Audience goes to hangout, what other blogs does she read, what social networks does she frequent? Where can you stand out and make her click through to read your content? Does she read on her computer or her smart phone? Does she read on the spot or save interesting posts for later? Does she click on a specific area of your blog page more often than others? You need to know everything you can about her daily life, and use that information to find the perfect area to jump in.
While the characteristics of your Audience are something you can decide upon yourself and aim for, you can also extract this information from the audience you already have. Most of the information I’ve listed above is available in Google Analytics. You can find everything from Audience’s location, to where she found your site, to how long she read for. Though you can aim for a certain kind of audience, the best thing you can do is look at your existing audience, and then tailor your content for them. I’d advise to take a look at your audience at least once a month. See how your audience changes and evolves over time, and see what elements are staying the same. As your audience grows, it will diversify, but you will also be able to pick out the specific elements and make them a permanent part of your Audience.
Once you’ve got an established audience, it’s also a great idea to just go ahead and ASK them about themselves. There are certain things you can’t find out about Audience from Google Analytics, so you can ask them for this information. Conduct an audience survey to find out deeper information about their preferences and habits. What kind of content on your site do they love? What do they want to see more of, and what do they not love as much? Are your prices too high, too low, or just right? These are questions that you can directly ask your audience, and most of them will be happy to answer them for you. If your blog or website has become a permanent part of their routine (that’s what you’re hoping for) they’ll want to help you improve it.