Many of us think that we know who we are writing to, but do we really? The problem with identifying and understanding our blog audience is that we resort to dated techniques that don't help us understand who they really are. Sure, our audience might be made up of 25-35 year old females, but who is that, anyway? What keeps them up at night? What makes them happy? How can we, as bloggers, motive them to read and share what we have to say?
What Really MattersFor starters, you need to understand what matters to them. I have been an advocate for completing basic audience profiles. The goal of these profiles is to get a sense of how your audience thinks, rather than just who your audience is. In these profiles, you will identify a few key things:
- What is their name?
- What do they do?
- What keeps them up at night? (i.e. What are they worried about?)
- What motivates them to read your stuff?
- What do they need most from you? How can you help them?
When Profiles Aren't EnoughRecently, during a weekly consulting session, I was reviewing this concept with clients. We were at the point in the course where we were discussing the audience profiles that they had completed as part of their homework. It was during this time that one of the attendees interrupted the course to announce her creative approach. It was a great moment. She quickly confessed that she didn't know how her audience would answer the questions. So, what did she do? She called them and asked!
The big takeaway is that you can't simply rely on your best guess as a blogger to define your audience. Even if you are taking a more human approach, your guess will always be a guess. The beauty of working as a blogger during the social media revolution is that you have direct access to your audience. What would happen if you went a step further? What could you learn about your audience if you started turning some of your digital connections into real-life relationships. Here are 5 creative ways that will help you do just that.
Method #1 - Call ThemWhat would happen if you asked your blog readers for a their phone numbers? It's likely that many wouldn't want to give you that information, but some might. What would happen if you took a few moments out of your day to call them, and learn about who they are? This is a simple technique that almost no one uses. Just think of the edge that you could develop if you took the time to talk with your readers. Write a few prepared questions, but allow the conversation to meander. Talk about what they want to talk about.
Method #2 - Take Them Out to CoffeeJust like the attendee in the workshop, sometimes the best way to learn is to sit down and talk. You probably have at least a few blog readers that are close enough to call, or if not, get in touch with one of them the next time you travel. The purpose of this meeting isn't to grill them with hard questions. Keep it casual and just talk. You want to get to know them. Be genuine, and you might be surprised with what you learn about them, and why the read your blog.
Method #3 - Schedule A MeetupMeetups can be great way to get to know several readers all at once, and it doesn't have to be complicated. Pick a date, time, and location and invite your readers out for a drink or a cup of coffee. Again, the purpose here is to simply get to know them more, and create meaningful connections. Don't be discouraged if the gathering is smaller. In some ways, smaller is better, making it easy to connect with each person individually. Plus, your readers can connect with the other readers and that's how community is formed.
Method #4 - Ask Them To Email YouAt minimum, you should begin to develop direct email-based communication with your audience. This could be as simple as asking your audience to send you an email, or making it easy for them to do so. It might even be part of a blog contest or promotion The important step here is to keep the conversation going. Don't let it die after one email. Reply back, ask more questions, and invest some time in them. Help them wherever you can.
Method #5 - Host A Google+ HangoutGoogle+ hangouts are a great way to bring people together, and more than likely you have several readers who already participate on this social network. Give you audience a reason to participate. Perhaps an incentive, like free advice on a topic, or helpful content, will increase attendance. Either way, keep it helpful and personal. Leave plenty of time for them to talk so that you can gather the feedback that you need.
Go Beyond The GreetingWith the advent of social media and the age of blogging, the voice that your audience requires has changed. The plastic marketing message that was so prevelent during the advertising age is no longer effective. It doesn't resonate with the people that you are trying to communicate with. You need to do something different, something more human, which is why you need to understand more about your audience than just their age.
Some of these methods may stretch your comfort zone, but they are how you'll get to know your audience. The best bloggers are great because they understand their audience better than anyone else. The more you know about who you are writing to, the better you can grow traffic and increase your influence.