It has occurred to me, and I'm sure to you, that our audiences are evolving. They aren't glued to their TVs to get the latest sports information, they don't pick up the newspaper at day's end for the "late edition" recap of what's gone on, and generally they don't sit in one place waiting for our life changing message.
The other very clear thing to me now more than ever is that "they" aren't who we think they are. We've been mired in this mirage that our audiences are numbers, part of an absurd demographic profile, that don't exist anymore, and I'd contend never have.
Technology and its various advancements have indeed created a scenario of a more democratic voice and indeed greater access through our tools to the community's heartbeat.
That is to say our ever evolving digital audiences don't need us as much as we think they do, and it's time to change how we think about them, how we talk with them, and indeed what we talk to them about.
1. Digital audiences require a better message
Gone are the days where you could rest on your laurels and pump ad dollars to garner someone's attention. Our audiences see the barrage of messages, the sales pitches, the new and improved products and I suspect have exhaustion just thinking about it all.
So how do we connect with these people? How do we ensure our message will resonate? How do we, to borrow an over-used phrased, "cut through the clutter"?
I'd contend that we need to create messages for our audiences based on how they speak. We need to create a need, or as my friend Jay Baer would say, a "youtility" for our product or service. We must convey that utility in a natural, colloquial tone so that it resonates with them.
You want your product to solve a problem they have, not because you've created it in their heads, but indeed because they actually have one. That message better resonate. It better connect as much with their head from an intellectual or cognitive standpoint as much as it does with their heart.
Emotion and writing with emotional language is, I believe, the greatest asset you can lend your message. That's how you'll connect, that's how your message will spread virally. This is not science, this is not new, this is how marketers have forever gotten their job done.
2. Digital audiences read differently
Mobility isn't just about what kind of device they carry or read your content from.
It's also very much about the fact that our audiences are generally more active. They commute, they telecommute, they are on the go. They need to find time to read your content and it needs structure for the devices they read it on.
We spend a whole bunch of time worrying about responsive design for our websites, but do we take the time to care about the responsiveness of our content?
Are our paragraphs too dense? Does one's ramble (probably like this one) take up a whole screen. If so, they aren't reading it. They aren't connecting. They have moved on to some other bite sized immaterial message and have shed yours.
I know you haven't considered that. I know that breaking up paragraphs for your audience breaks an archaic paragraph structure. That's too bad. It's time for a new one. Adapt, or repel your audience. I should mention too that this notion of "responsive content" is not limited to the mobile or tablet experience.
If you consider the lives of your audience they are bouncing around from website to website. You'll likely attract, connect and keep them, if you provide content that they find visually appealing, not simply because there are pretty pictures, but also because the text is easily read and understood.
3. Digital audiences are not "A12+"
I jest, sort of, because I have significant experience dealing with the all too familiar "understanding" of audiences. I don't mean to trivialize what is I'm sure a very accurate science, but that science, is dead.
It died because our 7 year olds have the same access to content (where appropriate) that adults do. They can also access that content the same way an 80 year-old does because our technology has become the great equalizer.
Personal computers certainly had their place in the evolution, but tablets, mobile phones, and dare I say the "Steve Jobsification" of our lives has made remarkable strides in usability and functionality.
There is, I believe a whitewashing of demographics, because our technology and indeed our audiences have dictated that it was time. So now what? Well, I'd suggest that you need to consider writing for who your audience is from a knowledge and sophistication perspective, instead of a demographic one.
There are very astute 17 year olds who are figuring out how to trade on the stock market as well (if not better) than 65 year olds have been doing it all their life.
If you create content that is appropriate for both of them, aren't you in fact creating better content for everyone involved? That has everything to do with an appreciation for your audience that goes well beyond numbers and demographics.
4. Digital audiences are everywhere
Mobility is certainly one of the factors when thinking about your audiences, but they aren't only mobile from a device standpoint. They bounce around from platform to platform, creating and being part of communities wherever they go. You need to join the conversation wherever they are with your message.
I'd caution against creating the conversation, because that lacks authenticity, but you if you are genuine and join the conversation, the rewards will be bountiful.
No matter what platforms you choose to connect with your audience on, nothing beats a permanent residence or home for your product, service or message. I'm a big fan of blogs, hubs and tools that connect all of the activity you are doing while spreading your message and building your community.
5. Digital audiences evolve
Your audience changes. Now more than ever. It's incredibly important that you consistently audit your audience and your understanding of who they are and how they connect with your content.
That could be everything from the kinds of content that they read to the platforms they read it on to even when they read your content.
You must adjust to that changing landscape to take advantage of the community you've built over time and hope to grow. A regular audit of the kind of content you are creating, who your audience is, and where they connect with you is increasingly important.
Metrics and data science can help enhance that experience. Always try to learn more and don't be afraid to try new things that may indeed enhance that connection with your audience.
The goal of this article wasn't to present a daunting vision of how well you understand your audience.
The intent is to shed some light on the very real world we live in when it comes to all things content, and hopefully help you figure out how you can connect with your audience in a more significant way.
Ultimately the decisions are yours, but please believe there is an overwhelming need to understand your audience before you begin to create content or even market to them. There are so many great tools to help you do just that and your audience will reward you if you consider them, time and time again.