Who Is Your Audience And Are Audiences Different?

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.

12 thoughts on “Who Is Your Audience And Are Audiences Different?

  1. And sometimes it’s the other way around, you follow a professional in FriendFeed or Twitter to hear about technical stuff and they just talk about personal stuff.

    Writing post with different points of view about the same topic can appeal to both the technical people and the ones that are following “you”. In my opinion writing for a narrow niche works well for a book, but a blog audience is always broader.


  2. Natalia

    The idea of writing a particular post with different points of view can be very helpful, especially when you are dealing with a specific problem. That can be a very valuable technique when writing.

    I agree with your point about books as well, mainly because they have a different purpose or intent. They are meant to educate on a small or narrow topic. Blogs are much more free form than that.


  3. There’s always the possibility of segregating your content by having multiple blogs, each with different topics. A reader could subscribe to individual blogs if they wish or they could go to FriendFeed for the entire content stream.


  4. Mark

    Segregating your content is a good idea, but only if it is really completely unrelated. For example, if I wanted to start talking about sports but not statistics, then it would probably be a good idea to start a new blog. However, if the sports posts were about analyzing sports statistics I would probably keep it here. Sometimes it is easy to draw that line, other times it isn’t.

    On FriendFeed, that problem does not exist because it is an aggregator, and the audience is definitely more diverse.


  5. I’ve gone back and forth on the “one blog vs. several blogs” argument, and currently have separate blogs that sometimes overlap (my music and Inland Empire blogs have plenty of business stories). However, my FriendFeed user page presents content from all of the blogs. Should someone be interested in just one of my blogs, they could skip my FriendFeed page and look at one of my dedicated FriendFeed groups (and soon, Facebook fan pages) that are devoted to just one of the topics.

    Regarding reaching everyone with every post, I agree that this should not be done. In fact, there are times that I write posts for my own personal satisfaction, and not necessarily the satisfaction of my audience. Whether this is a good thing or not is for others to judge.


  6. John

    Your usage of FriendFeed also seems to be outside of the norm. I have seen the specific groups that you created, which could be a good compromise solution to the problem.

    Also, you should always write for some level of personal satisfaction. Contrary to popular belief, blogging for an extended period of time is far from easy. If there is no personal satisfaction in that time, you would easily get tired of it.


  7. I am probably outside your user group. Something on Twitter alerted me to your blog. My interest is only social marketing. In the end I will read just your social marketing posts in an attempt to become SLIGHTLY more technical.
    I am thankful for your efforts.


  8. Bill

    I am always fascinated by how people find blogs and other Twitter users. As you said, social marketing is not really the topic on the blog, though I do hit related topics at times.

    In any case, I hope you enjoy what you read!


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