The Who is Only a Small Part. What Really Matters

A blackboard with lines and text showing the flow of content strategy.

Metrics and measurables are always important – especially in the world of business communication. But in hunting high and low for that magic bullet, we tend to overlook the one defining message that resonates with all demographics, regardless of age, sex, or income.

And that's, "What's in it for me?"

First, let's look at the demographics. At the end of 2012, the Pew Research Centre surveyed just over 1,800 Internet users (English and Spanish) to determine their social media habits. The results are outlined here, but chances are you don't even need to click on them to have a solid understanding of what they are.

After all, it's just common sense. Lots of people use social media and young people use it more than older. In fact, when you check out Docstoc's infographic on this survey, the only thing that may amaze you is the similarity of the data.

Sure, there's some statistical significance to the fact that 71 per cent of women use social media as opposed to 62 per cent of men, but the rest is pretty straight forward and intuitive. There's virtually no difference within the education level of social media users, and income is a non-factor. What this infographic tells you is that those between the ages of 18-29, making less than $30,000 in an urban environment are the biggest users of social media.

If that shocks you, you may be amazed that pre-teen girls make up the largest chunk of the current boy band demographic (as a side note, former pre-teen girls who are now moms tend to make up the largest part of the 'reuniting former boy band' demographic).

While it's important for every business to have an understanding of their target demographic, the fact is that you likely have a pretty solid knowledge of who they are. And if you want to appeal to a demographic that's underrepresented within your customer base, you likely know who they are too.

So what's most important to you may not be the Who, but rather the What. And that's where the content magic happens.

In business, the initial thought is often to appeal to a specific demographic. We want to see ourselves reflected in the navigation of a site or in a block of content. But that can mean that content gets very repetitive. It may work for a clothing store where there's a very clear delineation between men, women, boys, and girls. But for most businesses – especially those that focus on a B2B service, the lines of demarcation aren't so clear.

And the things that cross those lines most often are the messages.

In business, we create, produce, and market products and/or services that solve problems or meet needs. Those needs or challenges are often shared by a variety of people, crossing a number of demographics. Successfully creating content that can resonate across a broader spectrum of customers requires focusing on answering those key questions.

And the one I focus on the most is: what's in it for me?

In most cases, young or old, male or female, corporate or personal, a message crafted with the intent of answering that question will be embraced by multiple audiences.

After all, what we're really looking for is not to see ourselves reflected in a navigation bar. Instead, we want to see a solution to a problem or an opportunity to have a need filled.

Who we are doesn't really matter. What we want does.

Questions Answered

Should I target my content?

How important is a target audience?

How do I find the right message for my target audience?

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