Stop shouting into the void: the basics of building an audience

AUDIENCE-BUILDING-#1It’s one of the hottest topics in content marketing. A quick Google search throws up thousands of results professing to help you do it, but why is building an audience so important?

It’s certainly a question that is raised often by our clients, most of them concerned that there’s no point in creating great, valuable content if there’s nobody there to read it. It’s a valid point, so that’s why, throughout March, we’ll be examining a few of the main topics related to this mysterious, but extremely important, part of content marketing.

This week we take an introductory spin through some key concepts you need to get your head round, before you begin to build your audience.

Why build an audience?

Publishing content online can sometimes seem like a futile and unrewarding practice – like shouting into a vast chasm where your words get lost almost instantaneously. This feeling is compounded by the sheer amount of (usually low quality) content being put out by competitors. What stops this feeling? Having an engaged audience that reads and responds to your words, that’s what.

Instead of shouting into the void, brands and organisations that have a well-defined audience can reap the rewards of increased engagement, develop customers into brand advocates, and, once established, input from your audience can also help steer or contribute to your content creation.

Audiences vs pageviews

Driving traffic to your content is often the aim when you’re building an audience, but pageviews and audiences aren’t necessarily the same thing. Old SEO tricks like link exchanges, content seeding, distribution platforms, and paid search can all help increase readership of your content, but they don’t guarantee that the right kinds of people will come across it. And it certainly doesn’t guarantee they’ll come back.

When we talk about ‘audience’, we mean a group of returning readers (or viewers) that enjoy and engage with what your brand is producing. They aren’t quite brand ambassadors just yet, but keep putting out the kind of content they crave and soon enough they will be.

Who is your audience, and what do they want?

Audience head

Sketching out audience personas is a great way of keeping focused, and ensuring you create content that actually hits the target. Try to picture your reader and give them a personality. What kind of content do they like? Where do they read it? Do they own more than one device? Are they getting similar info from another source? The more detail you go into the better, and the easier you will find it to create content for them.

It’s very rare that a brand or organisation will have a single audience persona. This could be because they have a broad range of products, or are active in several territories around the world – this means there are likely to be multiple personas you need to profile, and possibly some you wish to prioritise.

When we work on content ideas for our clients the first thing we do is make sure it hits ‘the sweet spot’, the magic space where brand aims and audience interest overlap. Personas are a great way to get to grips with this second part. Hopefully you know your brand aims already!

For more on personas, content consumption habits and the sweet spot check out this handy guide we created.

Measurement and assessment

It’s easy to overlook benchmarks in the rush to sketch out personas and brainstorm content ideas (or ‘the fun part’, as we like to call it) – but these measures are essential if you want to know if your efforts to grow your following have been successful. Without targets and a good understanding of where you’re starting from you could be six months down the line and still feel like you’re yelling into that Grand Canyon of multi-channel noise!

We won’t post the exact figures (that’d be telling!) but we will say that in the past eight months our average monthly blog traffic has increased by more than 300%, with subscriber numbers showing a similar growth. These are great statistics and reflect a lot of time and effort put in by the team, but we wouldn’t have them if we hadn’t set up some key measures and targets at the beginning.

Building basics: three things to remember

1. Pageviews do not an audience make: it’s all about quality, engaged, returning readers, not just driving up those WordPress or Tumblr stats!

2. Take things persona-lly: personas are a key part of your audience-building efforts, if you don’t know who you’re writing for and what they want to read, how will you recruit them to your following?

3. Made to measure: you’ll only see how well your audience is growing if you set out what your targets are (and have a good ideas where you’re starting from).

Keep watching the blog for more on building an audience, in the meantime check out some of our other great content:
More from Tom Owen
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Author: Tom Owen

A strategic storyteller and compelling content creator, awash with acuity and adept at alliteration. I work for Speak Media.

2 thoughts

  1. Now is the time to start surrounding yourself with others who will (or might) be interested in what you have to say. Audience-building now Is just as important as book proposal writing, creating your speaker reel, or even polishing your shoes, your suit, or your presentation.

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