There’s no shortage of content out there, but who is it all for? Not everybody is going to be interested in every single bit of content, that’s why it is important to know your target audience. Creating customized content helps your audience relate to your content and feel connected to your work.
Let’s take a look at the importance of knowing who you are writing for.
What Is a Target Audience?
When we talk about a target audience, what we’re really looking at is demographics, so what does that mean? In essence, demographics are the characteristics of your expected audience. These characteristics are things that you can observe and measure, meaning they are tangible traits like an audience member's age, socio-economic status, nationality, or sex or gender identity. Demographics don’t include abstract traits that are subjective, they are characteristics that can be clearly identified. For example, your target audience is not going to be people who seem smart as that is unspecific, but your target audience could be people with a high level of education as this could be measured by the level of education they have obtained. These traits are important to keep in mind when you consider content marketing.
As for the audience part of the target audience, it’s not just anybody who may stumble upon your work, these are the people you expect to actually enjoy your content. We have all spent an evening flicking through the TV channels or browsing a streaming site (a perfectly legitimate streaming site of course!) to see if there’s anything good to watch. But just because you happen to be watching TV when a certain movie is on, does not mean you are the person the movie was made for. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything we see in the media is aimed at us, but that is far from the truth. In a world where there is an abundance of media, there is truly something for everyone, but that doesn’t mean everything is for everyone! So, remember when thinking about your target audience it’s not a case of wondering who is going to be aware of your content, but rather it’s a case of finding the people who actually want to enjoy your content.
Basically, if you had a fan club for your content, your target audience would be the members!
Why Do You Need to Know Who You’re Writing For?
Whether it’s readers, customers, or fans, knowing your target audience is really important. In order to write customized content, you need to know who you are customizing the content for. If you are selling a product, you need to know who you are selling to, the same goes for writing a book or a blog post, you need to know who you are writing for.
Think about the way we speak to different people in our lives. If you’re talking to your best friend, you will speak in a different way than if you are talking to a stranger. If you are comfortable around the person you are interacting with, your body language will be different than if you’re around people who make you feel unsafe. In-person communication differs based on who we are communicating with.
Our writing should do the same. It’s important that we customize our content depending on the intended audience so that the reader will be receptive to what we are saying. In order to do that, we need to know who the reader is. You’ve heard the expression: The customer is always right. Well, if that’s the case we need to know what the customer wants. Once you have figured out what the reader wants to read, we can start to gear our work to suit their needs and build a connection with them.
Finding Your Flock
So, we know what a target audience is and why we need one. But how do you actually find who is and who is not a part of your target audience? The answer to that question depends highly on the nature of the content.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to finding your target market. Maybe your book or blog post is very general and the scope of those you are targeting is very broad, or maybe you are writing something very niche with a very specific audience in mind. If you’re writing a cookbook, then you are writing for a much wider audience than if you were writing a young adult fantasy novel.
Here are some things to consider when trying to identify your target audience.
Do the Research
One way of finding out who your audience is is to do some market research. This could be very formal like a survey or focus group, or it could be secondhand research you do yourself by looking up statistics and data online. When looking for your target audience you want to ask some questions about the people who usually engage with the type of content you create:
- How old are they?
- What is their sex/sexuality/gender identity?
- What is their ethnicity or nationality?
- What do they spend their money on?
- What do they do for fun?
- What other content have they enjoyed?
Those prompts will help you create a picture of who you are writing for. If you already have created plenty of content, you could simply observe what you can about those who interact with your work. By doing this you know who actually enjoys reading your stuff!
Most of the time when you sit down to watch a movie you can probably figure out what is going to happen before getting too deep into the story. If it’s a romcom, then you won’t be too surprised when the two main characters end up together. If you’re watching an action movie, the good guys are probably going to come out on top.
We all have a set of expectations going in. This doesn’t mean your story has to be a beat-for-beat copy of every other story, but there are common tropes that often accompany different genres. If we’re reading a fantasy book, we expect some kind of mythical beast or magical entity! These tropes are not legal requirements, but they create an element of familiarity.
An individual has likely bought your book or clicked on your blog post because something has interested them, and they want to engage further. In terms of non-fiction, they could think that your content is helpful, important, informative, or entertaining. In terms of fiction, they probably already enjoy the genre that your book fits into.
By no means should you feel as though you have to completely go with what your audience expects, but it is important to know what your audience may be thinking about before reading. Think about how you engage in media. If you turn on what looks to be a nonsense goofball comedy, then you are hardly looking to be scared, whereas if you are reading a horror book, you will be hoping for a fright!
Speaking of how you engage in media, it’s important to look inward. In a way, you are a member of your target audience! You have probably read or watched a whole bunch of things that are part of the genre you are writing. This is your book, and your opinion is valid. So ask yourself:
- What have I enjoyed previously?
- Why did I enjoy that particular content?
- What do I not enjoy when reading?
Step into the audience members’ shoes and you will soon be able to write for them.
While your target audience will make up the bulk of those who read your content, it’s really just a guideline. You may have written something aimed at an old audience, but that doesn’t mean a young person won’t enjoy it. While it’s important to craft content toward who you expect to read it, make sure you don’t alienate part of your audience!
Now Create Customized Content
Now that you know who is reading your work, you can begin to shape it so that it suits your audience. Creating custom engaging content will help you become a success amongst your readers.
It can be tricky to figure out how exactly to customize your content to your audience's needs, particularly when you are just starting out, but here are some things you should keep in mind.
No, you’re not just going to copy what everybody else does, it’s not that easy! Besides, stealing others' work is a great way to get in trouble and make yourself very unpopular in your community, so don’t do that!
But one thing you can do is look at what has worked for other content creators, especially those who are working in a similar medium as you. Reading other works helps you improve your own work.
If you are starting up a blog that focuses on a particular topic, have a look around at blogs that already exist in that area. By doing this you can get inspired for how to go about your new venture. Even better if you can actually talk to other content creators. Looking at other people’s work will help you figure out what works, and what doesn’t work, and maybe you can even come up with brand-new ideas!
Some content creators will have more experience than others, and they may have a good understanding of what works in their field. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice.
This point may seem like it contradicts the last point, but they actually go hand in hand. While your work will have similarities to other work, you need your own unique style too. You want to let your audience know they are not just reading any blog; they are reading your blog.
Finding your voice as a content creator takes time and practice, but producing personalized content becomes easier once you have been creating content for a while. Content creation is an artform and you are the artist, the audience wants to engage with your work so give them an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
Personalization can involve branding like your logo, slogan, and imagery, and it can also be the style and tone in which you write. What you are saying may be similar to what others have said, but the way you say it can be unique to you.
The Importance of Content Marketing
You could have the best content in the world but if you don’t market it right nobody will find it. Customizing your content goes hand in hand with marketing it, you want people to see that the content you are making is a good fit for them.
Work on your social media presence and the style of your host site. Just like you do with your content, you should customize the message you send when promoting your work.
Creating customized content is the way to really get your target audience hooked. It’s worth putting the effort in to get to know your target audience so you’ll have a good understanding of who is engaging with your content. Now that you can mold your work to suit your audience your content will be a hit with the reader.