Want To Be Heard? Find Your Target Audience Online
A few months ago, I took a college philosophy class. The point of the class was to question the existence of everything you ever thought was real, and to think way too hard about the answers to life’s most basic questions.
(OK, maybe that wasn’t really the point, but it sure seemed like it to me.)
Among many questions, my professor asked us the age-old riddle, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
As I found out, there are several ways to answer this question.
To a neurologist, the tree does not make a sound, because “sound” is the action of vibrations on an eardrum—no ears, no sound. To a physicist, the tree does make a sound, because sound waves propagate whether they are perceived or not. To a philosopher, the answer is yes or no, because it is up for debate whether the unperceived sound can be said to “exist.” (Leave it to philosophers to make things difficult.)
Anyway, as I thought about this, I started wondering… How would a marketer answer this question? I think we would say yes—the tree does make a sound, but if no one is around to hear it, nobody really cares. And this is exactly why you need to find your target audience online.
Let me explain.
If you’re putting out content on the web, but aren’t speaking directly to your specific buyers in a way they want to be communicated with, you are essentially not communicating at all. Like that lonely tree falling in the forest, you’re making noise, but no one is around to hear or care about what you have to say.
So instead of trying to appeal to everyone (which just isn’t possible), focus your content to appeal to a targeted audience. This will not only attract more people to your site, but the right people to your site—the ones who could actually benefit from your product or service enough to want to listen to what you have to say.
So how do you find your target audience online? That’s a good question. But before we answer that, you first need to ask yourself something else: Who are they?
First, Define Your Target Audience
To define your target audience, think about the specific qualities of the people buying from you and create buyer personas (which you might remember us mentioning here). Age, gender, occupation, industry, geographic location, marital status—they’re all important factors that make up a persona.
Once you have two or three different personas in mind, think about life from their perspective. What is a typical day like for them? What questions are they asking? What challenges do they face that your services could help with? Companies like to fixate on the cool features of their products so much that they forget to consider how the customer will find them helpful. (Customers are thinking about themselves—not how cool your features are.) By creating personas and making a list of the questions they’re asking, you’ll be able understand what motivates them and gear your content toward what they want to hear.
Then, Find Your Target Audience Online
Now that you know who your buyers are on a more personal level, it’ll be much easier to find them. What networks do they use? Where do they go to find information? Figure out what groups they’re a part of to see what kind of questions they’re asking. There are a few ways to do this.
- Promote on social media. Figure out what social platforms your target audience is on and create your own profile on those sites. If you’re a B2B company, sites like LinkedIn and Quora are a great place to start. If you’re a B2C company, try Facebook (but read this first) or Instagram.
- Check out your competitors. Who are they networking with? Chances are you’ll want to be networking with the same people. Where are they interacting with potential customers? Check out their profiles to see how they market themselves and if they use any industry-specific terms you could be using as well.
- Use keywords. What is your target audience typing into Google’s search bar? Start with a brainstormed list of all the phrases and questions you can think of. Then, make a separate list of all your competitors’ websites. Punch both of those lists into Google’s Keyword Planner and you’ll find keyword phrases and topics to write about that are exactly what your buyers are looking for. (Find out more about how we do this in 8 Of The Best Keyword Research Tools For The DIY SEOer.)
Finally, Communicate With Your Target Audience
Now that you’ve found your target audience online, it’s time to start communicating with them. Use that list of customer questions or challenges from your buyer personas and create content that helps answer those specific questions or address their areas of concern. Make sure to add in the keywords they will be searching for so your content appears in their results. Also, be careful not to self-promote in an obvious way with your content. You want to show your customers that you understand and empathize with their challenges first and foremost, then show them you have a way to help.
Instead of wondering if anyone out there is listening (like the philosophical falling tree), make sure people are actually around to hear you. By defining your target audience online, finding out where they are on the web, and telling them what they want to hear, the right customers will be all ears.