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Engaging your audience

Social media experts share their tips for identifying and reaching specific audiences, including using research and trialling different approaches.
Lisa Salem: When I’m starting to think about an audience, I try as much as possible to get under their skin. So I ask myself questions. What are they seeing? What are they hearing? What are they thinking? What are their problems? What other communities do they belong to? What’s the layout of their day? And what mood are they in at different parts of the day? And the more you can get under their skin, the more you’re able to create content that bridges what you’re trying to do and what is valuable to them. And then once I’ve done that, I research things like hashtags they might use and other websites or communities they might be a part of.
And I just look at what content is successful and try and deconstruct why that’s working, and think about whether I want to recreate some of those methods.
Gemma Webb: I teach preschool. I’m not going to be engaging the pre-schoolers because they won’t be on social media. So it’s then looking at who is responsible for the pre-schoolers. Say, it’s nurseries, it’s parents, grandparents, anyone who might be bringing that child along to one of my classes and really engaging them. Research-wise it’s been, through my own experiences as a parent, I go on Facebook, on two different Facebook mum groups and things, asking what clubs and activities are on in my area. So I tend to use those same platforms to advertise my own work.
Danielle Haynes: The first thing I do when identifying my audience is research. I want to find out their habits, what they’re likely to be doing at particular times of day. And I want to know about that online footprint. What websites do they usually visit? What news articles are they reading? By looking at this sort of information, I can mimic the content that they’re already viewing and make mine similar to something that they’d like already.
So we decide what audience we’re going to target by looking at our overall strategy and what our overall objectives are going to be. At FutureLearn, we’ve actually created archetypes which separates our audience into their demographics, which is their age, where they live, and what their job might be, and their topics and courses that they’re probably going to be interested in as well. So when we’re looking at what audience we’re going to target, if there’s a particular course or topic that I’m talking about, I’ll know the demographics that I’m targeting, and can tailor my content towards those particular demographics.
Lisa: Broadcast content where you’re just shouting at people to say what you want to say is going to have about the same effect as it would do if you stood at a cocktail party and did the same thing. When you’re on social media, you’re dealing with people who have very short attention spans and a lot else that they could be looking at. So you have to think about what value you’re offering in exchange for their time, and how you’re going to engage them so that they want to do the things that you want them to do. It’s more of a seduction than anything else.
Gemma: My particular post that’s been quite successful at the moment is I’ve been doing a month trial of information about who I am as a person. So I’ve been trying to introduce myself. And that’s been getting quite a lot of engagement about who I am and my family background, and what I’ve used to do, and what I do to prepare my classes. And that’s actually been getting quite a lot of engagement, compared to many of my other posts, actually.
So that’s one of my top tips: be who you are, show who you are.
Lisa: So audience engagement obviously, that can mean the likes, comments, and shares that a post gets. But it also talks about the conversations that happened underneath the post. And it’s really important to consider that you engage in those conversations and try and keep them going after you’ve posted content. Not only does that spawn a much stronger community and a much stronger relationship between you and your users, which means they’re more likely to look out for your content next time, but it also often informs things like the Facebook algorithm that your content is interesting and people want to see it. And so they’ll send that content out to more people. And your post will get more reach.
Gemma: So I’ve added myself to certain mum groups within my local area so that I can post into those particular groups, get some more engagement on my pages as well. And it’s more likely to be shared and noticed by making posts funny for the parents, making little things about have you ever had this issue with your toddler, like when they’ve been having a tantrum in a supermarket. And making it quite relatable, and they can laugh at that.
Lisa: So my top tips for engaging your audience are, firstly, really get to know them. Get under their skin. Figure out what words they use, what communities they’re a part of, what makes them emotional, and what their values are. Secondly, speak to one… or imagine you’re speaking to one person. So once you understand what that audience segment is as a, group think of it as an individual with quirks and everything else. That you can be really authentic when you’re creating your content for them and personal. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, always think about what value you’re giving.
80% of the time, you want to be giving away everything you can, that you can give away for free, that’s going to be significant and meaningful to people. Because that’s what’s going to keep them coming back and make you trusted and make them refer you to their friends. So that when you do have something to push, they want to be a part of it. And that’s how you achieve your goals.

Having well-prepared content is great, but how do you make sure it’s relevant and compelling for your intended audience within your social media campaign?

Social media experts Lisa Salem and Danielle Haynes share their tips for identifying and reaching specific audiences, including using research and trialling different approaches.

We also meet Gemma Webb, who’s recently started a business running after school classes for preschoolers. We find out how she is finding and engaging her target audience on social media.

Have your say:

How might you identify and engage an audience?
Share your thoughts with other learners in the Comments section. Take time to read and respond to other learners. You might find something to inspire you or be inspired yourself by someone else’s ideas.
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