Ever since FriendFeed added their subscriber counts to FeedBurner (with my complaints), I have been wondering how we should really deal with the different audiences that consume the content that we create. As I sat down to write some thoughts, Chris Brogan posted a similar idea. Thankfully, he took his post in a different direction, but there are some interesting points:

If you’re building your site for the web savvy, that’s quite a different crowd than the “my kids just got me onto Facebook” set. How do you accommodate both? It’s probably not just as simple as putting a phone number on every web page, but that wouldn’t hurt. But then, is it about your website at all?

The idea is that there are a lot of people who read blogs, some of which you never intended to reach. In my case, I figured that I would reach developers mostly, and some of those tech people interested in social media. However, because I write about “conversations” and “audiences” at times, I have had discussions with educators, librarians and journalists. These are people I never intended to target, but I have purely by accident.

When dealing with the FeedBurner changes, Jorge Escobar felt that an audience is an audience:

if you and your blog are one (which is my personal case) and my blog headlines are being seen along with other headlines (which is what happens in any RSS reader as well as in FriendFeed) there is a valid point that people are subscribing to my content and could be counted as part of my audience.

Granted, I am taking this quote completely out of its original context, but the meaning is that people subscribed to Jorge on FriendFeed are looking at all of his content, including his blog. However, the people on FriendFeed have subscribed to you, the person, because they found you interesting.

So, how do we distinguish between those people that subscribe directly to your post and those that “passively” subscribe through something like FriendFeed? Should we write content, be it on the blog or a simple comment on FriendFeed and Twitter, that caters to all of the people that may read it? Or do we write content specific to the audience that may be reading?

For example, this blog is technical so most topics stay fairly technical (except things like today). On FriendFeed, things are still somewhat technical, but there is much more “conversational” topics as well like a virtual watercooler. On Twitter, I stay somewhat technical with a few other bits of commentary, but mostly in the social media topic. So, where do we draw the line? How do we deal with each audience differently? Should we deal with each audience differently?

I know this is some significant rambling on a Monday morning, but with the proliferation of social services, there is a definite distinction between these potential audiences. The question ends up being, do we care what knowledge the reader has? Using Chris Brogan’s example, someone who just got onto Facebook probably will not read this blog directly, and probably shouldn’t. However, they may enjoy reading some of the content I aggregate using FriendFeed. This is more due to the nature of the way that FriendFeed works as well.

Audiences tend to grow organically as well. People that have found my content on FriendFeed may have found it completely indirectly. As an example, Louis Gray subscribed to me ages ago. Robert Scoble could have found me through Louis recommendation, and Alex Scoble found me because of his brother Robert. Alex is very active on FriendFeed with tons of people who are not really technical, so there is a completely different group of people that are now exposed to content they likely would not have seen before.

Due to this ever-changing group of people, it reinforces our need to be “natural”. Do we try to force our content to fit all of the potential readers? Absolutely not. If I tried to reach all of the people that have subscribed in some way, the content here would become very generic. I would need to find the commonality between all of these groups of people. If you tried to find some topic that all of these people were interested in, you would probably fail. That is, you would fail until you realized that the commonality is you and your content. If these people have subscribed to your content, they know that some days you will write something they are not interested in.

So, are audiences different? Absolutely. Do we need to talk to each audience differently? Overall, we probably are, just due to the variety of content that we produce. Should we try to reach everyone with every post? Absolutely not, because we would be diluting the value of what we post. In any case, the need to keep the content “natural” must be remembered or we could lose our audience.

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