“Who are you talking to?” I ask a student who just analyzed how becoming a father has changed the way he is pursuing his college education.
He repeats the last line. “Being a father allows you a greater awareness of time and how to manage it.”
“Not me,” I say. “I’m not a father, nor do I have children.”
And even though I know he won’t have an answer, I ask again. “Who are you talking to?”
And the issue of audience is further complicated in the digital age. Not only are we unsure of who we are talking to, we are also unsure of how to talk to them. Where are they? How do I even know if they are listening? We can approach this exploration from two angles:
Angle 1: You Have Content, But No Audience
You have something brilliant, marvelous, and stupendous! A video, an image, a piece of writing—who would you like to share it with? Even in the digital age, if your audience is like you, then your job is simple.
Where do you go?
Where do you go?
* other blogs? (Then volunteer to do guest posts)
* chats/forums/boards? (Get engaged. Share your ideas, update your signature line, and direct traffic back to your content)
* social networking? (Try to make the conversation a little less one-sided)
In my case, readers are not the same as writers. And each book blog also has its own particular flavor most of the time. You won’t find the urban fantasy lovers (okay, maybe some) on the bodice-bursting Harlequin sites. Readers also have sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing, and different chats/forums than their writing counterparts.
You have know who they are and what they like before you can get them to talk. Unlike in a bar, where a potential employer, client, or lover will force a smile and keep downing drinks while you talk incessantly about yourself, a digital audience will simply get up and leave. Or worse, you won’t even know they left! No learning experience available!
So figure out where people are going for their digital content, and be sure to show up there yourself with good content.
Angle 2: You Have an Audience, But No Content
People are listening. One way or another, you’ve generated traffic through your blog, through your Pinterest boards or Facebook page—or perhaps you’re numbers are not as high as you like. Or it is hit or miss in your content. Take my blog for example.
I had people coming and going—cold, digital bodies in the room, so to speak—but I didn’t know what they wanted, what they liked. Sometimes they would slip in and out quietly and that isn’t enough for me. I want to engage them. So, taking my own advice, I started to think about how to accommodate my audience better.
After all, if they found what they were looking for, they might stick around.
In days past, research into your audience’s demographics and preferences would’ve involved a great deal of time—months, mostly likely—in the bottom of a creepy library basement where one is certain a ghost or at least an ancient graduate student resides amongst the dusty stacks. But now, in the digital age, all your resources are at your fingertips.
All I needed to do was scan my Twitter follower list, my Google+ circles, my Facebook fans—and learn a little more about the people I was connected to.
Turns out a great many of my people are writers like myself, in various stages of their career. So I wrote the “How I Got My Agent” five-part series and I did so because I know that a great many writers are also looking for agents. I combined the ideas of “what I have” and “what they need”. I had intimate knowledge of the agent process. I had a sample letter that got me my agent that they could see. I had resources! And they had a need.
This is how I reached out and made the connection. Instead of simply talking into the air, mostly for my own benefit, I reached out and tried to engage my audience and help my audience. Connection, the quintessence of communication.
And that is what you must do. Give your readers what they need—
—in the format that they need.
So you’ve found your audience and know what they need. Let’s move into the superficial and discuss packaging. New ways to deliver digital content are sprouting up every day, but let’s peek at just a few:
Instagram: Photographers and visual artists will benefit most from this platform, but anyone
who believes “a picture says a 1000 words” should consider it.
Pinterest: 70% of pinners use the site to inspire themselves on what to buy. If you have
content for sale, consider breaking out on this platform.
Amazon: We can talk about eBooks and self-publishing all day. Let’s just mention that a
great many are making their digital content available for little to no cost
through Amazon. Why not you?
TwitBook+: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are all good tools for sharing smaller bits of
content or for driving traffic back to a “home base” (i.e. blog). I think most people
supplement social media with other forms of content delivery, but I also know
those who operate solely on one platform. Again, where is your audience? You
want to be wherever they are.
Before deciding if any (or all) are right for you, also think about devices. How will your people be viewing this content: smartphone? Laptop? iPad? eReader?
While this may seem like a silly question, it is definitely relevant. Social media or image-based content like Instagram do great on smartphones, but your eBook will suffer formatting issues. So think about this as your tailor your content. Always be sure to adjust the formatting accordingly.
Regardless of how you go about acquiring your audience and getting the content from your mind, to their devices ---just remember it is all about connection. Think of all the ways others have reached out to you through their digital content. And ask yourself how you can do the same.