There are two pieces to the content pie. The first is the content itself – websites, blog posts, articles, ad campaigns, brand messaging, etc. The second is the audience interacting with that content. Those two pieces? They need to fit like they were forever meant to be together.
You know. Kinda like me & Scarlett Johansson.
I’m talking about a concept called content:audience fit. If the content you’re creating isn’t resonating or getting traction, you can boil the problem down to one of two things: either your content isn’t good enough – not unique enough, not well-written or designed, not providing enough value, etc. – or your audience for that content isn’t right.
Understanding the Audience
Before jumping into writing a post, designing some wireframes, or whatever it is you do: sit down and map out who the content is for. Start high-level and drill down. Say, for example, you have an idea for a post relating to web development. Thinking of the audience as “web developers” isn’t enough – you need to get more specific.
Front-end or back-end web developers? What languages do they use? Why do they use them? Do they believe in open-source software or closed systems? Do they write code to solve pre-defined problems, or are they a part of defining the problem too? What is their attitude towards learning? Is web development just a skill they possess, or something they’re passionate about? What are their big challenges?
All these audience characteristics – interests, attitudes, skills, values and more – can be loosely lumped together as psychographics. Understanding your audience on this level, and using that understanding as a roadmap to craft your content, puts you on the path to creating something that resonates with the audience.
It puts you on the path to the right content:audience fit.
Audience Understanding is the Map; Content is the Vehicle
Here’s a real-life example. At Paper Leaf, we gather these audience psychographics via various means – focus groups, surveys, research, informal conversations – and use them to create User Personas for our web projects, it’s not like we’re going to buy likes on instagram to create a persona at all. We then use those User Personas to create the project content strategy, which informs the copywriting & wireframing, etc. It helps us make sure what we’re creating, at each step, is focused around the psychographics of the audience we’re aiming to connect with.
Of course, the above scope of work isn’t always required – it depends on project size, budget, time, etc. If you’re writing a short blog post? Jot down some characteristics of the audience you’re writing the post for, and refer to it while you’re writing. There’s your content roadmap.
But guess what? A deep understanding of your audience doesn’t matter if your content sucks. I mean, I understand my wife pretty well, but it doesn’t mean she likes my terrible cooking.
The Variables in High-Quality Content
Creating consistently killer content is tough. There are so many nuances to high-quality content that conclusively defining “high-quality content” is nigh-impossible…but what the hell, I’ll try anyway.
- has the right tone for the audience
- has some personality
- flows naturally when consuming it
- has a great reading/viewing/listening experience
- is well-researched
- is well-written
- is engaging
- has an enticing title/headline
- provides value to the audience, and
- is concise as possible while being long enough to inform effectively.
If your content ticks those boxes, you’re in a good place. And you’re in a great place if you thought about your audience psychographics first.
Now that audience just needs to find your content.
Where is the Audience? How Can I Reach Them?
Ah, content distribution – the red-headed stepchild of content creation. It’s been said before: if you build it, they won’t just come. We all need to put effort into getting eyeballs on our content. If you’ve a) defined and have a deep understanding of your audience, and b) created high-quality content, then you need to c) let that audience know your content exists.
How? Think of communities (HackerNews is a great community for tech entrepreneurs and passionate developers & programmers; there is one example); identify influencers (who has a large audience already – the audience you’re creating content for?); and find locations or meetups (conferences; Chamber of Commerce events; etc). These three paths can connect you, and the (well-fitted, authentic, helpful & valuable) content you’ve created, to the audience you’ve identified.
Put the effort in right until the end. If you get the results you want – views, shares, sign-ups, sales, etc. – then you know you have a good content:audience fit. If you don’t get the results you were aiming for? You content wasn’t quite good enough, or the audience wasn’t quite right.