Read the first post in the series: Be the audience.

Engagement, Part 2

Content development for your audienceSometimes we think of our audience in the abstract. Readers. Followers. Subscribers. Customers. These categories are helpful for organizing, but not so much for creating content that's truly relevant. Getting the audience engaged -- and keeping them that way -- requires a deeper look into who's consuming your content, what they care about and what they need to know.

Narrow your audience

Start by identifying your "consumers" down to the smallest workable group. “Anyone with a pulse” isn’t going to cut it. “Busy dads looking for a fun weekend activity with the kids” or "tenants who want to report repairs online" are better. Maybe you can even narrow it down a person you know who seems like the ideal audience. I rely on that one a lot.

Now that you know who they are, determine what they care about, what they need to know:

An example

Several years ago, I was asked to write a faith-based dating advice column for Match.com. Great opportunity, but not exactly my sweet spot. Before I started developing any content, I learned all I could about the audience. I reviewed comments and questions they’d submitted to get a feel for their issues and concerns. I talked to some folks who ran singles ministries. This research helped me understand who would be reading my column and what they cared about.

The result: The audience was “people working hard to align faith and romance who didn’t feel they could share their concerns with friends and family, and maybe not clergy, either.”

Figuring this out helped me determine the trajectory for my content, but it also gave me a lot of insight into the voice I needed to use to reach the reader.

The result: “A compassionate and non-judgmental person helping them think through their situations without pressuring them to arrive at a particular conclusion”.

Investing time into getting to know the audience helped me see that I couldn’t give the usual “do it my way” advice delivered in a sassy tone. The issues were too important to be addressed in a flippant way. And the "just do this" was what many of them were getting from their faith communities already. So the opportunity was giving folks advice on how to advise themselves.

How'd it work? I ended up penning the column for three years, and it remains in heavy rotation on affiliate channels. That's why I think this approach is the key to audience engagement.

Now it's your turn. When you have to write something today, spend a little time thinking about who's going to consume that content. Jot a few notes and then try to write with them in mind. The result will be content that's more relevant and more likely to resonate. And isn't that the point?

Next, we'll take a closer, more operational look at how to assess your audience's questions and concerns for maximum content engagement.

***

Michelle Rodano (@GravityChelle) tweeted about this post:

Fantastic piece. Adding to my syllabus today! RT @margot_lester: knowing more about your audience .... bit.ly/H9CXWt