Want to create content that your audience will love? You’re going to have to get to know them first. Here are 10 different ways to find out all you need to know about your target audience.
Have you ever taken part in a Secret Santa and pulled the name of someone you don’t know? Cue the dread of deciding what on earth you should get for ‘John’ – he’s that guy in IT, right?
It’s the same dilemma when you’re creating content. If you don’t know anything about the people you’re producing it for, how can you be confident that they’re going to like it? That’s why getting to know your audience is so important.
So, where do you start?
There are many, many ways that you can gain knowledge around your target audience, but I’ve pulled together this list that gives you a balance between quantitative and qualitative research. The type of research you do will depend on the level of loyalty and experience your audience has of your brand, so it also has options based on whether you’re researching prospective audiences or existing customers.
1. Facebook audience insights
Facebook audience insights provide a fascinating overview of both the demographics (gender, age, location etc) of your audience and what content is connecting with them.
There is valuable information in every tab, so tap into them all! You’ll gain insights on everything from which buttons are being clicked and when, to what type of reactions your posts are getting.
Equally important is knowing which posts aren’t hitting the mark for your audience. Take this even further by charting any ‘unfollows’ against the content that you put out that day. That will give you a deep understanding of what’s putting your audience off. All of these insights help to build a picture of what your audience wants from your content.
Don’t use Facebook? Most social media platforms – from LinkedIn to TikTok – provide some level of insight into your followers. And you can do your own research – get stuck into the trending hashtags and start following influencers in your sector!
2. Google Keyword Planner
Keywords provide a really clear indication of what your audience is searching for. You can use tools such as the Google Keyword Planner (or other keyword tools like ahrefs or Keywords everywhere) to understand what search phrases they are using. Are they searching for ‘charity events’ or ‘fundraising events’? ‘Hair dye’ or ‘hair chalks’…you get the picture.
This is incredibly useful for helping you to speak to your audience in a way that they relate to and to improve the targeting of your content.
3. Search bar
Another great place to find what people are searching for is in the search bar of search engines like Google, Ecosia or YouTube. As you start typing in a phrase these search bars autocomplete giving you a list of suggestions based on the most popular searches.
If you’re providing content directly to your audience through email marketing or in your social platforms, then this is a great way to ensure you’re supporting the most popular queries for your audiences.
A word of warning though: These searches are the most popular, which means they’re the hardest to rank for. If you’re looking for content that will break through in search engines, use these search techniques as a starting point then drill down to find related niches.
4. Website analytics tools
Whether your website has analytics built in, or you plugin analytics from another provider, the insights you can get around your website can be vast. Integrated analytics can be limited, but will, as a minimum, tell you about the most visited pages and where visitors came from. This can help to guide the subject matter of your content.
You’ll discover the most popular product and service pages, so you can start to build and optimise content journeys around those. Or maybe you discover visits are high to your About page? That might indicate your audience wants to know more about you before they commit to a purchase. Creating content that helps prospects get to know you and your business better can help to build confidence.
If you want to gain deeper insight into your audience’s interests, plugins like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics provide incredible detail on users and the journeys they take on your website, providing navigation maps and detailing core interests.
5. Use existing research
You don’t always have to conduct your own research. Once you understand the demographics of your audience, it’s worth investigating what research already exists that could provide you with more detail. The ONS, for example, can give you plenty of information based around demographics.
6. Regular polls
Tap into your existing audience by using your social media platforms to find out more about their interests, likes, dislikes and how they feel about the issues that matter to your business.
Polls are really good engagement tools, providing instant gratification for your followers (who get to share their opinion and see how it compares to others). You can shape them to cover the areas you’d most like to get feedback on.
7. Annual surveys
While polls shared on social media platforms can be run around once a month, it’s best to keep surveys less regular. Because surveys are way more in-depth you can get a lot more information, but users know they have to invest a lot of time to fill out the answers so are less willing.
Some top tips for increasing survey participation:
- Incentivise with a freebie or prize draw
- Share widely within your networks and tag those you know will be interested
- Ask your peers to share in their networks too
- Keep it simple – the shorter the duration the more likely it will be completed
- Make it clear how long it will take in advance
- Provide instant metrics so users can see how they compare to others.
8. Super user groups
If you have a particularly loyal audience segment, invite them into a Super User Group to provide regular feedback. Super users are handpick to be in the group. They are people you know are deeply into your product/experience/services and willing to give feedback to help you make them even better.
Once established you can run new products past the group, get them to test beta versions, ask for their opinions on contemporary issues… or anything!
Super User Groups are a two-way street: for your business, they provide a wealth of really deep research; and for the user, they’re elite (so they feel like a privilege) and can be rewarded with discounts or other incentives.
9. One-to-one interviews
One-to-one interviews are a classic research method providing qualitative responses. I like them because they can open up the conversation in unexpected directions.
Asking open questions enables your participant to provide full responses and expose problems or opportunities you didn’t expect. You’ll get plenty of inspiration for content that supports those topics.
10. User testing
User testing is the blanket term used for experimenting with products or services usually in the beta (prototype) phase, but also to help identify improvements in existing products. It can include observing users trying out your products, or more sophisticated techniques such as eye tracking.
It’s a good idea during user testing to ask the user to describe their emotions or experience as they do it in order to understand what the pain points are. When it comes to content, you can then create individual articles and/or films that address these directly.
Like any relationship, it takes time and effort to get to know your customers. But bit by bit, the more information you gather, the better you’ll be able to serve them with content.
Big Bee Content is a content agency for SMEs and not-for-profits. We provide digital content services that help our clients to communicate more effectively with their audience in order to make an impact. If you’d like some help with that, get in touch.
About the Author
Niki May Blane is founder of Big Bee Content – our ‘Queen Bee’.
She can most commonly be found buzzing around her computer, delivering virtual workshops, creating copious amounts of copy and drinking coffee to combat the ill effects of non-sleeping children.