If you don’t know who is reading your blog, do you even know what to write?

One of the top comments we hear from CoSchedule users regarding their blogging and content marketing is that they struggle with finding ideas. There are many ways to come up with ideas–headlines, writing exercises– but strangely, knowing who your audience is will help, too.

When you know who you are writing for, you will know what to say. Think of your most recent real-life conversation that you had. You knew the person you were talking to, so conversation flowed. In the same way, when you understand who you are writing for, the ideas will flow.

Find Your Intended Audience

That means that the starting point is to find out who your intended audience is.

Find Out Who Others Write For

I have a friend who is a published author, and she once told me that a great way to find a publisher is to find the kinds of books that are most similar to yours, and write down who published them. Would that work for blogs, but in reverse? Could you find successful blogs that write about the same topics that you are writing on, and piggyback on their audience?

  • Find their Google+ page or profile, see who they have in their circles or have circled them, and add those fans to your circles. Do the same for Twitter, or any other social media network.
  • Not only take part in their blog comments, but take part on the blogs of the other commenters. Read what they write, and get to know them through their blog or the comments they leave. Get to know them better.
  • Latch onto Twitter lists or hashtag events that are relevant to your blog, and participate.

Why would you “stalk” someone else’s blog audience like that?

Because that blog has content that is attracting these readers. They will likely be interested in your blog as well. It is a good place to start. In other words, why reinvent the wheel?

Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said. –Dale CarnegieClick To Tweet

Writing For That Intended Audience

Now that you’ve started to collect a few readers that you believe will fit in your audience, you can turn your attention to how you will write for your intended audience.

Think Of A Specific Person

Every post I write for my personal blog has a specific person in mind. Friend, family member, reader who has commented recently –whoever it is, I think of them as I’m writing. It changes my tone, making it either formal, informal, humorous, detailed, summarizing, and so forth.

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When I know who I’m writing for, I know how to write. Without that in mind, blog posts wander about or the tone becomes a bit removed and clinical. If you’re not writing for one person, you’re writing for every person, and that leads to broad, bland writing.

This idea of writing for a specific person might be where user or buyer persona techniques would come in handy. If you did not have a specific “real life” person in mind, you could think about the made-up persona you’ve identified and write for it specifically. You can create a basic audience member persona with the following questions:

  1. What is their name? Make one up if necessary. You are trying to create a viable audience persona.
  2. What do they do? This includes how they make a living, if they are retired, if they work at home, etc. It may not be the thing they are most interested in, but it’s the thing that defines them to some degree and where they make their livelihood. In other words, it’s a big deal to them.
  3. Where do they live? Geography has an impact on worldview, culture, and social responses. Writing for an audience in America is different than writing for one in Germany. Pop cultural references, for example, won’t be the same.
  4. What are they most interested in? This isn’t always the same answer as question 2. It might be hobbies, or the things they wish they did every day but don’t just yet.
  5. What problems do they need help solving? You must know what your audience needs and wants. If you can tap into this answer, you’ll find your biggest success. Your reader wants you to fix something for them, and they’ll do anything if you can.
  6. How much time do they have during the day to read? This seems minor, and in light of the long-form content study, perhaps contradictory, but not every reader has a lot of time to read. Know if your audience does or doesn’t, if you have readers or skimmers on your hands.
  7. What do they believe in? Beliefs are core, and they can make your reader a die-hard fan, or incredibly upset if you negatively confront those beliefs. Both good and negative passionate reactions to confrontations of belief are powerful. It’s a matter of what you want to have happen.
  8. What level are they at? In other words, consider how new they are to the topic you write about. Maybe they are newbies, or maybe they are advanced.

Make at least three audience personas. Your audience may be relatively similar, but there are still differences that can affect how you might approach a post. Each persona should help you tackle each blog post with a new voice.

intended audience

Write to specific people in your audience, and not the whole world. It helps you focus your writing and create a better post.

I prefer to write with real people I know in mind. Personas give me a general sense, but a specific, real person colors my writing and makes it more personal. I can hear their laugh in my head as I write a funny line, or know that they’ve just raised their eyebrows and are preparing to fire off a contradictory comment. That, however, is a personal preference.

Don’t Run From Second Person

Now that you have user personas, you can write with them in mind. But how do you make it more personal?

When you have a specific person in mind, you tend to write in second person and use “you.” While this is frowned on in formal papers, using “you” helps keep your writing from being stilted and makes it seem as if you’re talking directly to the reader.

There was a time when we wrote avoid using “you” on our blogs, but the result was content that seemed removed from the audience. We were talking to everyone, instead of to the reader. Our current blogging “rules” call for using “you.”

Acknowledge Your Intended Audience

Should you indicate who your intended audience is in the blog post?

For a controversial blog post, or a very niche post with great detail and a specific, narrow audience, yes. That doesn’t mean starting out your blog post with blunt force trauma like this:

“This blog post is for people who like cats and also drive Hummers.”

But you could consider in your opening sentences something like this:

“For the cat connoisseur, driving a Hummer enhances the freedom of the open road.”

Why bother? And wouldn’t that run the risk of  keeping some people who might not like cats and Hummers from reading the post?

You bother because you respect people’s time, and that readers who don’t like cats and Hummers aren’t part of your intended audience in the first place. People approach the gate, they read the sign, and they head down the correct chute as either a reader or “this isn’t for me.”

intended audience

It’s OK to give your audience a hint that you’re talking to them.

Why bother considering an audience?

The more specific your choice and understanding of an audience is, the easier it will be for you to make decisions while you write. You’ll know how much detail is needed, what kinds of questions you have to answer in your writing, and the tone that will sound best to their ear.

What methods do you use to write for your specific audience?