Understanding Your Audience

Before creating a content strategy, it’s crucial to first understand who you’re writing for. Who do you want to engage with your content? You’ll have to understand what your audience is interested in, and what their needs and values are in order to create content they want to consume. It’s important not to make assumptions. Even if your brand has been well established for years, your audience may have changed over that time.

So what are the best ways to do this?

Look at competitors

Evaluating competitor brands can give you some great insights into how they go about reaching and engaging with their target audience (and whether or not their messaging is resonating). This is especially useful if you believe a competitor brand is targeting the same audience as your brand. Examine their brand tone of voice and messaging.

What subtleties lie in their language and phrasing? What about the imagery used? This evaluation need not be limited to just organic content – review their activity on social media and paid search too to get a more holistic feel for the brand positioning.

Create personas

Personas have been a staple of marketing plans for decades, and with good reason: they work. A persona is a representation of your target user, and offers a tangible ‘target audience’ to keep your brand messaging, tone and content creation consistent. Personas can help you better understand the way people search for, buy and use a product or service, which in turn gives you the ability to focus your energy on improving your offering to real-life customers.

The three key questions to answer are:

  • Who are they?
  • What is their main goal?
  • What is the main barrier to them achieving this goal?

One of the best ways to craft your personas is by using data from actual users through user interviews. If time and budgets don’t allow for this, you can also glean insight from analytics tools you may already be using, such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights. Where you see common themes or trends that overlap between users, these can fall into one persona.

You can easily find templates for creating personas online, such as this one from Hubspot. 

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Speak to your existing customers

Where possible, engage with your existing customers or clients to get their opinion on what types of content they find most interesting and engaging, and what your brand could do to better align with their interests. This could be anything from wanting more visually appealing content on the site, to difficulties with UX, or simply wanting more information about using your product. 

Try to find out what challenges your customers are facing, particularly in terms of where your product/service could reduce or solve these challenges. What do they find appealing, what excites them or worries them?

Naturally, the more customers you can speak to, the better, as this will help build a picture of real-life consumption of your content by the people who matter. 

You can either reach out to customers directly or create and send a free survey using a tool such as SurveyMonkey. Be mindful that response rates to online surveys can be very low, particularly when there’s no incentive to complete them. 

Review your engagement metrics

The aim here is to pay close attention to how many people are responding to your content, how they’re responding, and how often they’re responding.

For an overall view of engagement across your channels, you’ll want to take things such as likes and shares from social media, and comments, both from social media, and on-site if you’ve enabled that facility.

You can supplement these engagement metrics with data from Analytics. From an organic perspective, you’ll want to review metrics such as number of organic entrances, time on page and bounce rate. (We’ll go into more depth on content auditing in lesson 3).

Once you’ve collected your engagement metric data, you should start seeing which articles and topics are faring best and which content topics your audience values. Conversely, it may also highlight articles or topics with messaging that doesn’t appeal to your audience. Gauge these metrics over time to see if patterns emerge.

Now that you have a feel for the topics your audience is interested in (and potentially want to engage with), the next step is to consider how to reach them throughout their journey. To do this, we’ll first need to understand their search intent, and how this might affect the content that we create.

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