To make an effective message, you need to know your audience — that’s the golden rule of communication, and it’s more important now than ever.
Why? For starters, the average audience has shrunk considerably. Mass media isn’t exactly massive anymore. Advertising platforms provide various ways to focus in on specific, small groups of people. Just as importantly, audiences can easily turn off into a million different directions. Your message is only effective if your listener is deeply, personally and immediately invested in the story you tell.
The traditional way to define an audience was to cast a broad net, identifying market segments according to demographics. For instance, “We want to speak to decision makers in the manufacturing industry,” a marketer may say. Or, “We’re really reaching out to rural women aged 18-25.” That’s not a very personal way to appeal to your readers, and it’s bound to fall flat in a content marketing context.
Tailor the message on a personal level.
Remember that great outreach is an act of storytelling. As author John Steinbeck wrote, “Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader.”
Obviously, you can’t write individual blogs for every reader, nor can you create individual videos for every Facebook user in a $20,000 campaign (unless your graphic design team is massive and very, very accommodating). However, you can tailor your message to individuals by understanding the types of content that would appeal to them.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re planning a content marketing strategy:
Create content that provides value to existing and potential customers.
Start by imagining a single member of your audience — your audience of one — and ask yourself: What industry information is she missing? What can I provide that she will find value in? What will she be likely to read, share and follow back to the source?
Analyzing online behavior can help accomplish this. Facebook, for example, offers great targeting insights according to individual interests. Say you’re promoting tickets to a benefit concert that supports endangered wolves. You can target individuals who have “liked” a nearby wolf sanctuary or attended a similar event in the past. You can customize your audience according to interests in nature, wildlife or perhaps those who are members of a specific club. In order to garner their attention, perhaps you publish a brief, feel-good story of a person whose actions helped save wolf cubs that were otherwise in danger, and then mention to readers that, by the way, there’s a benefit show where you can become part of this cause — reserve your tickets now.
Once you identify your reader’s questions, answer them directly with engaging content that furthers your overall brand narrative. Yes, this does take some research as well as creativity. If you’re getting lots of the same or similar questions, producing a short video or designing an infographic might be in order to help better educate your audience. Questions from constituents, customers, donors and advocates alike can really help you shape your approach and further help you to produce engaging content that aligns with your mission.
Target your audience on social.
Use social media’s audience targeting features to the limit. Say you’re using Facebook Ads to boost views of an important town hall meeting. You can target people who live in the area, but you could also create an audience of people in that area who have visited your site, demonstrating an interest in the issue. Ramp up impressions by building lookalike audiences that behave similarly to your site’s visitors on social media — and write copy that speaks to them directly.
Leverage your analytics.
Today’s outreach platforms track everything, and that data is key to influencing your reader. Use analytics to follow up on messages and convert casual followers into key allies, leads or customers. We often study male versus female audiences, various age groups, specific geographies, time of day and days of the week our audiences or potential audiences are most active online. These types of data points really help us (the teller) tailor our messaging (the tale) in a way that’s sure to receive traction.
Effectively producing and disseminating excellent content on a routine basis can prove to be a valuable asset. The approach may require practice, and expert knowledge can certainly be leveraged. You understand your message, and by offering value, targeting your listeners and leveraging data, you can bring it to your audience — one reader at a time.