My background is in technical communication (aka technical writing). I wrote many online help documentation systems, tutorials, websites, and all kinds of other materials. A basic tenet of techcomm is that you define your audience. You cannot write before knowing this vital information. For instance, general users of an application aren’t likely interested in technical terms and details. When writing for developers, the opposite is true. This requirement to define your audience definitely applies to online materials. Is your audience professionals, business owners, the general public? It’s important to determine this. With that in mind, I’m going to share information about developing personas.
Technical communicators that focus on usability use personas regularly. Personas define different audience types. Here are some items that I think are helpful to include for all aspects of online work, including websites and all social media. The list includes examples. You can determine what characteristics to include for your own personas.
- Device usage: mobile and tablet vs. desktop
- Preferred social media platform
- Educational background
- Family: parent or not
- Life stage: young parents vs. empty nesters
- Marital status
- Local vs. online
- Business owner vs. customer
- Marital status
This information from usability.gov provides a nice overview and sample personas:
I’ve prepared websites for small businesses (this site). I’ve also served as publisher on several websites devoted to a health topic. The audience for these two topics are very different. This site has a more narrow audience and different information needs. The latter sites had a general audience of varied backgrounds: basically anyone. Not only did the audiences differ, but so did the devices used to access each site. It’s very important to know all this information.
Where to Find Audience Information
Check your stats everywhere. They’ll tell you who is accessing your content. This can help with creating your personas. Here are just a couple of examples of where to find stats regarding your audience. Just check the stats provided by the applications you’re using. Keep in mind that information might differ somewhat from one social media platform to another. It depends on the preference of the user. It’s one more reason to really look at your stats and to set up personas.
Update July 20, 2020: Twitter previously included Audience information in its Analytics, but that was removed as of January 30, 2020.
1. Open your Google Analytics view for the website property.
2. Left navigation bar > Audience
3. Select a topic you’d like to review.
Have fun! There are stats galore in Google Analytics. More discussion about that is beyond the scope of this post. However, take time and wander through your stats. Change the dates as well, and set a comparison to see how things are changing. You’re not able to see an individual’s information. However, you can review high-level information such as stats for mobile vs. desktop access, geographic location.
1. Go to your business page.
2. Upper right hamburger menu > Insights > Audience
You need to have at least 100 followers to have statistics available to review.
1. Go to your business page.
2. Left navigation bar > Insights > People
Review the information provided. Currently, there are several options: Your Followers and People Reached. (Facebook often changes the UI design and features, so the labels and location may change at any time.)
This option provides opportunities to customize your analytics. You could set up different lists or segments for different audiences. You can review open rates to find out what content is of most interest to your subscribers. The time of day and day of the week with the highest open rate tells you when your audience prefers to review your emails. There’s quite a bit you can use to help define your audience’s preferences.
For additional information, see the Survey Your Audience tip post.
How to Use Demographic Information
Once you have this information about your audience, you can use it to plan content. Ensure that you’re providing the information best suited for your current or intended audience. Make adjustments if needed. You can also use this data to identify the audience to target in Facebook and other ads. Do you want to focus on who’s coming to your site now, or do you want to expand the audience somehow?
Check your stats. Create personas and define your audience. Go from there! Have fun!
For your reference, here’s a link to the TOC for the #2moroDocsTips series. I’d be glad to assist you with determining your audience. Contact me!