“It took me a long time to find my audience … but I always knew they were out there,” comedian Leanne Morgan told NPR in an interview.
This quote made me stop and think. I’d never really considered the audience problem from the perspective of a comedian. Comedians are often described as “polarizing” but maybe it’s only a question of who is listening. Whether or not a thing is funny is very subjective, and it changes over time, from culture to culture, and depends on the demographics of the audience.
A 14-year-old girl and a 57 year-old man are likely to have very different perceptions of what is funny, even if they are from the same country, state, and city and share the same culture and ethnicity. Two 38-year-old women from different countries with otherwise similar characteristics may not find the same jokes laugh-worthy.
Leanne Morgan was performing in stand-up venues, which attract a particular audience, and which, apparently, wasn’t the audience she needed. In the same interview she says, “I think a lot of comedians that are cool and edgy and all of that, just forget about my demographic.” Morgan could have tried to be “cool and edgy and all of that” because that’s what popular wisdom says comedians are. But she might not have found her audience, or success.
Finding your audience as a business is just as complicated and confusing as it is for comedians. Too often, companies want to do what their competitors are doing, and try to be cool and edgy and all of that when it would be far more useful to be authentic and find the right audience.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accepted an assignment to write a blog post or white paper and when I ask who it’s intended for, the CEO says something like “anyone who might be our customer.” Even more frequently, the “intended audience” is two entirely separate sets of people—both payers and beneficiaries, for example.
A cornerstone of a strong content strategy is a clear understanding of your audience. You have to know who your content is talking to before you can efficiently create it or effectively distribute it. A good writer asks the right questions and can usually figure out who the audience is, which affects the tone and style of the piece, but they shouldn’t have to.
Audience analysis includes understanding your audience and dividing it into appropriate categories, then creating content that speaks to each segment’s specific needs and making sure you put that content where they can find it. Even once all that is done properly, the job of audience analysis isn’t done because people change.
Just like what you find funny changes with time, audience needs change, too. What you found hilarious as a single college student with no money in the bank is probably nostalgia when you’re nearing middle age, married, a parent, worried about your savings. Similarly, members of your audience will move from one segment to another, resolve some pain points, and develop new ones.
Would you like to learn more about audience analysis and segmentation? I offer consultation packages, and have lots of ideas for learning more about who your audience is and what they want from your content. Let’s solve some problems together!