Figuring Out Who Your Audience Is
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In a recent group chat for Smutlancers community members (through Patreon — you do know about our Smutlancers Patreon, right?!?!), we got into a discussion about figuring out your audience. The idea being that once you know who consumes your content, you can create more content geared to them and keep them coming back.
I think there are two ways to look at this.
Content, Then Audience
This, I think, is the path most sex bloggers and those who create very personal content take. It’s less a path and more a happy accident. You write or record what feels right to you. You’re on a roll, pumping out blog posts or podcasts. Over time, you figure out that people found your site for a specific search term (Google Search Console is the place for this). Or you notice you’re being asked the same question over and over again. Or you have one type of content that gets the most views.
Either way, it becomes clear that you have an audience interested in THIS (whatever “this” might be for you). They bring views, share your content, and maybe even comment.
At this point, you get to decide: do you make more content like this because people seem to like it?
Before you give an enthusiastic YES, consider a few things:
- Is this a topic you care about or have experience with?
- Can this topic be monetized?
- Do you have more to say about the topic?
There’s no requirement that you follow a specific path. At the same time, it might be a smart way to grow your brand while you venture into new topics. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
The hard about about letting your audience dictate your content is that you may believe you’re not “allowed” to create other kinds of content. At least once a week I hear a sex blogger say they’re afraid to write a personal rant because it’s not sexy. Or the personal essayist worries no one will care about their fiction. Neither is true, and your loyal audience will likely embrace whatever you create.
If all you care about in the beginning is creating the content that matters to you, it makes sense to let an audience find you. But this is a very slow process. You need dozens of posts (at least) and reliable traffic before you can figure out who’s in your audience.
Audience, Then Content
This is a practice most commonly used by online brands and businesses. Before they publish a blog post, podcast episode, or video, they know who they want to reach. All their content focuses on their “target market.” In other words, the audience dictates the content.
A common way of doing this is to create a “marketing persona” — a fictional person with the qualities, traits, and characteristics of an ideal customer, client, or audience member. When you write a blog post or record a video, you create it with that specific persona in mind, as if you’re talking to a single person. This makes content more relatable to the person you most want to reach — at least in theory. Knowing the audience is no guarantee your content will get their attention. It has to be interesting, engaging, useful, entertaining, and cut through the noise of all the other content.
This persona can be as detailed as you’d like. It’s a bit like creating an imaginary friend:
- Education level
- Marital/partnered status
- Parental status
- Dog or cat person
- Goals in life
- Things they love (related to your topic)
- Things they hate (related to your topic)
- And any other details you can imagine.
Once you have a picture of this person in your mind, the content you create is meant to speak directly to them. You reference the things they love and hate, even their (potential) personal experiences based on their fictitious background. Many brands create multiple personas because they don’t have just one ideal type of person in their audience.
Of course, you don’t have to get that technical about it. You can think of someone you know (maybe a younger version of yourself) who could benefit from your content. Create (nearly) everything with that imagined person in your mind. Before I started this site, I knew two sex bloggers who wanted to be smutlancers (even though though the word didn’t exist yet). When I wrote blog posts or recorded podcast episodes in the early days (think 2017), I pretended I was talking to them.
What it all means
So how do you know who your audience is? It’s a chicken or egg kind of question, and it depends on your goals. Do you create content to express yourself? Let your audience show themselves. Are you creating a product or service to sell and content is part of that? Get very specific about who you want your audience to be — or who you think they might be.
Personally, I’ve done both and not in a linear way. My sex blog (KaylaLords.com) was only ever meant to be a way to express myself. Once I figured out I’m kinky, I had thoughts which resonated with people. Once I decided to become a sex writer, I had more thoughts. A few people connected there, too…or so it seems.
Although I tried to keep all the content under one roof (so to speak), I wanted an easier way to reach specific audiences — without getting entangled in my personal smut. And two informational sites were born: Loving BDSM and The Smutlancer. For Loving BDSM, the “target” audience I’m trying to reach are long-term, loving D/s couples – or people who want that kind of relationship (new or experienced). For The Smutlancer, anyone who creates content about sex and wants to make money, but primarily writers — although Molly and I have plans to branch out.
In every case, the content came first, then the audience, and then I focused on the audience to help me create my content. So far, so good, I think.