Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?
Alice Wilkinson, Digital and Content
The Importance of Knowing Your Audience
The Importance of Knowing Your Audience
Writing content, whether you’re writing a blog, an article or a tweet, immediately puts you in conversation with an audience. So, you need to know who is reading your content so you can speak to them appropriately. It is essential that you adjust your language so that it is appealing to and respectful of the reader.
We do this every day in conversation: at the office, we ping people about touching base before close of play; but outside of the office, we send emails about meeting up for coffee.
Office jargon is a prime example of how we adjust our language to fit our audience. The words often don’t mean anything different but people are used to being spoken to in office jargon when they’re at work.
Knowing how to approach and engage your audience and ultimately get them to act - be that to buy a product or retweet a tweet – involves more than language. The identity, preferences and needs of the audience must be considered at every stage, from subject matter selection to SEO.
Researching your audience
Your first task is to research your audience.This means reading what they read: newspapers, news supplements, blogs, forums, magazines, etc. It is important to assess not only how your audience is used to being spoken to but also how they speak to one another. Note the jargon they use and their cultural reference points.
Cultural reference points are essential: anchoring your content to something that is familiar immediately forces your audience to engage with the subject matter.
Those reference points will change depending on the audience: for pension experts it may be auto-enrolment; for technology connoisseurs it may be Oculus Rift. It is important to keep abreast of this research since jargon, buzzwords and cultural references change all the time.
Using humour can be tricky. Humour can make your content memorable but it can be divisive: not everyone finds the same things funny and may even find your hilarious joke offensive.
With humour you risk alienating some of your carefully researched audience. Consider what the common denominator would be to try and keep everyone included in the joke, as far as is possible.
Earning your audience’s trust
Thorough audience research will enable you to find a consistent brand voice that is appealing to your audience. It doesn’t matter if the brand you’re building is a company or a person. Either way it is important to create a brand persona that always uses the same language and tone.
If the brand as a person, consider what that person would say, how they would say it and what would their interests would be. These considerations will help to create a brand persona that would be friends with your audience.
The McDonalds “Trusted Friend” is an example of a highly effective and consistent brand persona – one so successful that we, the consumers, are forever tolerant of the more dubious McDonalds truths.
Similarly, audience identification and research comes into play when using testimonials. Testimonials are an excellent means of piquing the interest of your audience and getting them to act. But testimonials must come from people that your audience trusts and associates with your product, service or brand.
For exampl, a testimonial from Delia Smith for your New Oven: excellent. A testimonial from Russel Brand for your New Oven, or any product: useless and potentially damaging.
Delia is known as a cooking expert and is therefore associated with ovens, so she can be trusted. Russel Brand is not associated with cooking or ovens and is known for being not an expert on anything, so he can’t be trusted. Consequently, his testimonial could even be damaging for the reputation of a brand.
Keywords and SEO
Using keywords is an excellent way of getting your content found by search engines. Knowing your audience will allow you to asses what keywords they would use in a search term, which you can then include in your heading and subheadings.
Use varied keywords in the body of your content as well but be careful not to use them too often or in ways that will stand out too much. Don’t allow the keywords to take over your content and stop it from being readable and useful.
Rather than relying on SEO or keywords, consider what information your audience needs and gear your content towards fulfilling those needs. This approach is more likely to get your content ranked on Google than overuse of keywords.
Identifying your audience and speaking to them appropriately will help to ensure that your content is noticed, read and most importantly, shared.