(Article updated July 26, 2020 – Original article appeared August 25, 2016)
Marketing isn’t magic. It’s both an art and a science. The key to developing successful content that really engages your target audience is to truly understand what they’re seeking. Creating content that’s informed by your audience takes away the guesswork and helps you connect much more effectively.
Understanding your target audience should be at the top of your list anyway, so take what you learn and use it to inform the content you produce. Try these tactics to gain insight into the type of content your target audience really wants to see.
Surveys and Focus Groups
You’ve got a lot of questions. Ask them. Two of the best ways to find out what your target audience wants to see are surveys and focus groups. Surveys are certainly the simpler of the two. Use a program like Survey Monkey or Qualtrics, whatever suits your needs, and develop a series of questions. Take some time to sit down and really consider what you want to know to be sure you’re asking the right questions.
Focus groups can be a bit more difficult but they can also be infinitely rewarding. Assigning an impartial moderator is best. This helps you avoid self-serving bias as far as the direction in which the discussion is led. Bring together between 6 to 10 individuals in your target market, randomly selected, and dig into what motivates them, how they want to interact with your organization and more.
Data and Analytics
In addition to what you’ll learn by asking your audience what they want, you can learn a lot by analyzing their actions. Unless you’re starting from scratch, you’ve already got a ton content on various channels that’s had its moment in the sun. Using tools like Moz, Google Analytics or Site Improve (among others), you can dig deep and find out how different pieces of content performed.
Are there certain pieces of content that performed significantly better than others? Did you produce a video series, for example, that garnered several thousands views on YouTube? Maybe one of your blog posts took off and was shared a ton of times on social media. Look at stats for all your content and take note of which types, formats, styles, etc. performed better. Uncover successes and do your best to duplicate them.
Don’t stop at your own content. Look at your competition as well. While differentiation is important for positioning your organization for success, you and your competition do have at least one thing in common. Your target audience is similar, if not the same. Take advantage of this knowledge by reviewing your competitors’ content and seeing what’s working for them.
Did they produce a particular infographic that garnered some serious recognition? Have they had tons of success promoting their content on a specific social media channel? Takes notes on what’s working for your competition as far as engaging their target audience and use that knowledge to inform the content you create.
To really go all in and truly let your audience inform your content, try letting your customers, followers and fans create content for you. By opening up the opportunity for your audience to create content that promotes your brand, you are truly embracing the concept of informing your content with what your audience really wants to see.
User-generated content can come in many forms. Here are a few that you can try:
– Contests – Let your audience create content around a particular promotion, with the ultimate payoff being the selection of the best user-generated content being selected and promoted by your brand. Or even offer a giveaway for the best submissions.
– Guest posts / testimonials – Ask your audience to create content about their experience with your brand. They get to see their content promoted on your site, and you get a free promo from one of the most powerful mediums around – word of mouth.
– Social media takeovers – Let a lucky follower (or multiple lucky followers) run your Instagram or other social media account for a day. Make sure you fully vet the chosen person, and give them clear guidance as to the type of content you’d like them to post, then set them free for the day!
These are just a few ways you can let your audience actually create content for your brand. By letting them do so, you can then analyze the content they create to get an idea of what they really want to see.
I’ve mentioned social media a number of times already, so it’s appropriate that I wrap up this piece with one final mention. Social media is a great place to collect valuable insight into the types of content your target audience wants to see.
Look at what your followers and others in your demographic are sharing and engaging. The types of content they’re engaging with the most acts as a window into their preferences. This info can be extremely useful in informing the content you create.
No matter how talented you are or how much marketing experience you bring, you’d be a fool not to use such valuable information that’s so readily available to you. Improve your marketing significantly by allowing your audience to inform the content you produce and eliminate the guessing games.
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