I started a parenting website nine years ago for new fathers, so I decided to aim my content at dads. Because why wouldn’t I? The website had “dad” in the URL, I was a dad, and my writing was advice for new dads by a new dad. In my mind, nothing could be simpler.
But after a few months of following every piece of advice from social media and content “gurus,” I was perplexed because my meager audience stopped growing entirely. Despite writing SEO-rich content specifically for new dads and fathers of all stripes and actively promoting it, I wasn’t moving the needle at all and the size of my audience plateaued.
I shook my neophyte blogger fist at the heavens and shouted “WHY?!?!” and thought about throwing in the towel. But first, I asked a fellow dad blogger who was also in public relations if he had any thoughts. Know what his first question was?
I rolled my eyes and told him I knew my audience cold – fathers. He smiled and asked me if I had Google Analytics on my website. I didn’t. So he added the code on my site and told me to contact him in a month and we’d review the data. Well, a month later I found out something fairly crucial:
My audience was not dads. It was moms. By more than a 2-to-1 margin.
I created an audience persona that looked totally different from the one I had initially assumed. Instead of young fathers, I was reaching mostly moms between the ages of 25-40. When I put together an informal online focus group of some of my readers, I found they came to my site because dad bloggers were few and far between, their own husbands don’t really open up to them, and they wanted to “go behind enemy lines” so to speak, to get an idea of what their husbands might be thinking.
That completely changed the way I created content.
Instead of writing specifically to dads, I tailored articles more toward moms and included a dad perspective. Knowing who my audience was allowed me to speak directly to them and give them more of what they were looking for. Soon my audience was growing rapidly and my social platforms began to bulk up as well. All because I took the time to figure out who my audience was and what they wanted to hear. So simple and foundational, yet a mistake made by many.
I carry that lesson learned into my role here, helping clients identify who they want to reach, what actions they want them to take, and developing the best content to achieve those goals. It means effectively narrowing an audience to reach actual decision-makers at various levels, knowing how they prefer to consume media, and what messages resonate and why.
Even if you think you have your audience targeting down pat, it’s always worth taking a second look. You can build a beautiful campaign with succinct and stylish messaging that sings on multiple platforms and mediums, but if you’re aiming it all the wrong people then none of that will matter.
Rule #1: know your audience.