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What content will work for your audience?

This article explores the importance of understanding your audience in order to be able to create effective and relevant content.

As you’ve learned so far, intention and tone of voice have a huge impact on your message, and different formats will shape the content you might create or choose.

Montage of people using mobile devices.

However, understanding your potential audience will also help you to make smart choices about content, making it more effective in conveying your intended messages.

It’s easy to publish online nowadays, but the sheer volume of content can pose challenges for content creators. It’s harder to make sure your content is being seen by the right people at the right time, and that it appeals to them in the right way.

Before you create, commission or select any content, ask yourself:

Who is your intended audience?

You might be trying to target people in a particular geographical area, or those undertaking a particular life stage or activity, such as becoming a parent or buying a house, or people at a specific point in their career.

Your content might need to be seen by people who share a common interest, ownership or pastime. It might also be aimed at people in a particular situation. For example, bored on a commute, deciding what to have for dinner, or even researching a new mattress purchase.

Having a clear idea in your head about who you are talking to will help you to get the tone right, as well as which platforms you could use to publish.

What do you already know about them? Where do they spend time online?

Part of understanding who they are is understanding what else they do online, and where. If you’re going to be creating content for a particular audience regularly, it’s sensible to do some research about their online habits and hangouts. This can help you further focus your messaging activity and ensure it’s as effective as it can be. It will also mean you won’t waste time creating content for platforms which aren’t relevant for your particular audience.

What are they interested in? What do they want? What are their expectations?

Audiences are more than just recipients of content. For content to be effective, what you want to say needs to overlap somehow with what the audience is interested in.

How do you find this out? Research, observation or even asking them. Following your audience in social channels can be a great way to understand their interests and the topics that they seek out. In the workplace, you might come across ‘personas’: fictional characters based on research that represent different user types of a particular brand, product or service. Personas can be helpful in communicating and planning within a business, but it’s also helpful to meet, follow and talk to your audience as real people when you can.

Once you’ve got a clear picture of your audience, you can think more carefully about the content formats and platforms that might resonate with them most effectively. Understanding who your audience is and what’s driving them will also give greater insight into their language and needs, which means you’ll be able to use the language that they use or expect, and meet their needs and expectations before they turn into frustrations.

Also bear in mind that audiences aren’t static. They don’t have a single goal or interest, and they grow over time. Understanding your potential or target audience is a never-ending process: you’ll have to keep asking those questions and checking your assumptions based on prior research to make sure you still understand their needs and expectations.

Reflect and discuss

Think about a business or organisation you’re familiar with. Do you know who their audience is? Where do you think they currently spend time online? Describe the context you’re thinking about, and share your reflections and ideas with other learners in the Comments section.
© University of Leeds
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How to Create Great Online Content

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