Understanding Your Target Audience for Content Marketing

Jessica Neale
Reading time: 6 minutes
30th November 2018

We’re all told to write for the user, but what does that mean in practice, and are we thinking about them enough throughout the content production process?

A target audience is kind of a big deal and will have a major influence on not just how to write the copy on the page, but all of these essential elements:

  • The overarching content strategy
  • Content theme/subject/angle
  • Type of content
  • Tone of voice
  • Distribution

As a very crude example, let’s say you’re distributing your content to Pinterest and Facebook users who you know enjoy short-form listicles and clever video content. You wouldn’t want to create a content strategy centred on lengthy ebooks and jargon-filled long-form articles, would you?

The lesson is, we should never judge a book by its cover. It’s almost impossible to tell from the images above alone what kind of content they may want to consume. Whilst we could take a guess that the majority may enjoy the odd cat meme, we need to delve a little further to find out what really interests our audience. That’s where research and insight come into play; and we’re not just talking about analytics data.

By crafting content to suit our target audience’s needs and motivations, we need to first ask some simple questions:

  • Who are they? (and not just their age and gender!)
  • What are their interests?
  • Where do they consume content?

Audience insight

Demographic data can be useful, but we need to explore further to find out how to best connect and answer those initial questions.

This level of audience research can provide some interesting and unexpected results too. It’s often easy to make an assumption about who your audience are based on past data or long-held brand perception. But audiences can change and develop. You may discover that the audience are a lot younger than had first been perceived, or that they interact more on one social channel over another. Regular analysis is crucial here.

Below we’ve explored some of the ways you could achieve this insight and answer those important questions.

Handy tools to find your audience

To tap into your audience, analytics data is a great starting point. You can discover information on demographics alongside segmentation of interests depending on your website and Google Analytics setup.

Understanding the popularity of past content, and where that traffic is coming from can also be a key indicator of how your audience like to consume content, and the content types they enjoy best across your website. Was it that thought leadership piece? Or was it the more informal blog that gained the most interaction, and from whom?

When it comes to understanding direct qualitative feedback from your audience, online survey tools such as Hotjar and Survey Monkey can provide some really insightful information. Set these up as pop-ups on your website, or send them out via email. As an example, you can gather real opinions on the type of content they want to see and the frequency of content they want to consume.

Here are some other ways to discover your audience:

  • Facebook groups with industry/community followers
  • In-person discussions with focus groups or community advocates to test opinions on upcoming content marketing directions or website content
  • Social analytics and insight tools such as Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Pulsar and Buzzsumo

Understand where, and what content your audience enjoy

If you are looking to use PR promotion to distribute your content and have found that your audience have certain interests in food, for example, the next step is understanding the type of publications your audience might consume on that topic. These can help form the basis of the media list for your campaign, while also helping shape the format of your content piece.

In this instance, you might be looking at gaining coverage in The Grocer. By doing a site search, finding the number of pages on that website, and then filtering by different content types such as “ video,” it’s possible to work out the percentage of content produced. If video content was the highest percentage, and you know your audience are hanging out and consuming content on these publications, it gives you an indication of the type of content that would best resonate with them, and enable you to be targeted with your outreach.

Tap into your in-house knowledge

Chat with your paid media teams – they have a wealth of audience data that can be really useful when planning content campaigns! Consider the two-fold benefit of collaboration here, too. Content teams could work on a campaign that drives relevant traffic, and the paid teams could then use this data for retargeting to drive direct sales.

Talk to your customer service teams and sales teams and gather feedback from them. Discover what questions the customers are asking, and the common problems they’re looking for a solution to.

Speak with your organic social team – what comments are users making? Under which content? Are there any patterns in interaction with particular content themes?

A practical example

You might not automatically put dog walking and bingo together, but that’s exactly what we did with one of our campaigns. Why? Because we understood the target audience, their interests and how we could produce content that would reach and resonate with that audience. Just because users play bingo doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you can or should be creating content about. As long as there is rationale, research and a connection back to the brand, you could craft a recipe for success.

To give some more context and a summary of the campaign – we looked at engaging 15 bloggers/influencers across the country to produce content for an asset focused on Britain’s Best Dog Walk featuring the 15 National Parks. We presented this in an interactive map with a chance for users to vote for their favourite parks while tapping into the bloggers’ followers, utilising PR strategies and crafting charity/celebrity hooks to gain coverage.

The result? National and local media coverage, 865,000 combined social reach, 119% incremental increase in content page visits, and a 64% visitor engagement rate.

Emotional triggers

Most importantly, we tapped into emotional triggers – dog lovers wanting to engage with the story. Who wouldn’t fall in love with this guy living his best life walking around the Lake District?
Emotional triggers are another important element to think about. Which emotion could you draw on within your campaign to motivate your audience? The science backs this up.

As stated in Forbes: “In a 2016 study, they found that when individuals have a positive emotional association with a specific brand, they are 8.4 times more likely to trust the company, 7.1 times more likely to purchase more and 6.6 times more likely to forgive a company’s mistake. Nielsen released a study in 2016 which revealed that ads with an above average emotional response from consumers caused a 23% increase in sales compared to average advertisements.”

Create personas

Once you have the insights described above, the next stage is to build out personas. These could be based on buyer behaviour, social listening, surveys or a combination of all research.

From this, we can create a hypothetical visualisation of the different types of audience you may have. This includes a name for that persona, their profession, age, family situation, interests, publications they read etc. – essentially, you’re creating a crib sheet that brings the audience to life. When writing, this allows the content creator to imagine as if they were directly speaking to that persona so they can craft the tone, theme and style of copy accordingly.

In summary

Ayima go through this audience research and development process with many of our clients with great success. Content strategies are and should be ever evolving. Always leave room to look back at your audience data to prepare new and creative ways to connect and keep them coming back and engaging with your brand.

Written By Jessica Neale
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