The better we know our audience, the better we can serve our audience.
And the better we serve our audience, the more likely they are to recommend our work to others.
That’s why I set out to better understand my audience through a simple experiment with my For The Interested newsletter subscribers. It turned out great and is something you can easily do with your own audience.
Here’s what I did…
To get a clearer sense of who my audience is, what interests them, and what they value, I did a little snooping on their personal Facebook profiles.
I made a list of several of my most engaged fans — newsletter subscribers who regularly open and click links in my newsletter and who are active in our For The Interested Facebook group.
Then, I studied everything they had posted on their personal Facebook profiles during the last three months. As I scrolled through the posts, I noted what they shared, commented about, interacted with, and how they “spoke” in their posts.
Doing this taught me five valuable lessons about them as individuals and gave me a clearer understanding of my audience as a whole.
1. You learn who your audience is.
A person’s Facebook bio or their interactions with our posts gives us a limited sense of who they are. When we look at three months worth of posts, we get a much clearer picture.
We discover what they’re passionate about, interested in, their daily life and the characters in it.
I discovered details like where somebody writes (a coffee shop), where they go on vacation, what overheard conversations they find interesting enough to share, and other things that color in who this person actually is.
We also notice similarities and recurring themes that come up among the multiple people we study. These similarities may make us question previous assumptions we have about our audience.
For example, I noticed almost every fan I studied lived in a relatively small town and most were located in smaller states as well. Prior to doing this research I might have guessed my audience was mainly located in big cities.
Realizations like this can lead to other interesting thoughts. In my case, I’ve started to think about why my newsletter seems to appeal so much to people who are outside of huge metropolitan areas.
2. You learn how your audience communicates.
As I studied these Facebook posts I noted the words people used and the format of how they write their posts.
This is a copywriting trick I figured could tell me something about my audience and inform how I speak to them in my own social posts. Sprinkling in some of their words allows me to speak to them in their own language.
To give you a sense of what I looked for and found, here are a few of the notes I jotted down about various people’s profiles:
Includes at least one ALL CAPS word in just about every post. For example, “YAY!,” “AMAZING,” “OMG.”
Uses emojis often in posts.
Refers to her friends as “my girls” multiple times.
Uses words like “dorky,” “cute,” and “a hoot.”
Complains about customer service a lot.
Uses the phrase “The fam.”
Describes people she admires as “interesting and innovative.”
While these may seem like little things, taken as a whole they provide valuable clues that will improve my ability to communicate and connect with my audience moving forward.
3. You learn what your audience values.
In studying my audience’s Facebook pages I discovered almost universally they did things for the betterment of others and their community. They were generous, selfless, thoughtful people who are making a difference in the world.
I’m REALLY proud of that by the way.
(See what I did there with incorporating the ALL CAPS into my copy? Told you what I learned would influence how I communicated with my audience!)
The people I studied are all involved in some sort of local community organization (and post about their support of it), they donate blood, and each teaches something in some capacity.
Whether sharing their expertise in entrepreneurship, improv comedy, writing, or computer skills, these patterns of generosity were clear.
It tells me a lot about what they value and how I can create things likely to resonate with them.
4. You learn what your audience shares.
This is a big one from a marketing standpoint.
When we create something we pay attention to how much it gets shared (hint: I’ll be watching to see if you share this post or not!), but it may be even more valuable to study what else our audience shares.
I paid particular attention not only to the kinds of content my readers shared, but also from what sources they shared it.
In doing so, I discovered another series of patterns I hadn’t previously considered.
Just about everybody I studied shared multiple posts from their local newspaper — interesting, considering conventional wisdom is nobody reads the paper any more.
Turns out, my audience does.
They also all shared content from NPR — again, a valuable signal into who my audience is and what they pay attention to.
Another recurring source was HuffPo Good News and several other “positive” news sites.
This makes a lot of sense when coupled with my previous learnings about my audience’s dedication to their communities and also brings into focus the kind of information they seek and choose to spread with others.
5. You learn what your audience has in common.
While each of these learnings are valuable on an individual fan level, identifying things our audience has in common is the real key.
I noticed almost everybody I studied was talking about, sharing, and/or writing books. They were interested in learning, in talking about what they’ve learned, and often recommended books to others through their Facebook feeds.
My audience also apparently LOVES their pets. I know everybody on Facebook loves their pets, but I was struck by how often the people in my audience posted about their pets (usually dogs) and how involved in the animal/pet community and associated causes they were.
Finally, I discovered my audience was drawn to mindfulness and meditation in various forms. It was something most of them valued, was part of their daily routine, and an experience they shared and discussed with others.
No wonder my post about how to use your phone with intention was so popular.
Still not convinced this is worth doing?
In all, I spent a couple hours studying the Facebook profiles of my audience and the return on that investment has been huge.
I better understand who’s connecting with my work, why, what else may resonate with them, and how better to communicate with them.
That’s powerful stuff, it’s easy to decipher, and free to do.
I highly recommend you give it a shot with your audience and I bet you’ll be amazed at what you discover.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go snoop on my fans’ Facebook pages and see if they share this post.