Who are you talking to?

Have you ever walked past someone on a city sidewalk who was shouting randomly at passersby? What did you notice? I’m guessing that no matter how interesting they may be, you didn’t pay attention to their words. Why? Because normal, reliable people don’t shout at everyone and sundry. If you write a blog without considering who your audience is, you might as well exchange your suits for sandwich boards, because that’s about how seriously you can expect your customers to take you.

Why write for an audience?

robots1. So people are inclined to listen.

See above. Unless you’re making good money by persuading people you’re Elijah come again, railing unfettered at the world isn’t going to persuade people that you’re a reliable expert.

2. Get a better return on your investment.

Knowing your audience is the first step to writing less content and upping your ROI. Think about it this way: if you’re fishing for trout and you don’t know what trout eat, you’re going to waste half of your day throwing back sunfish and bass because your choice of lures is hit or miss. If you write random blog posts that aren’t well targeted, you’ll spend a lot of resources attracting readers who aren’t going to buy your product or sign your petition or spread the word about your business.

3. Improve your SEO.

Go to a search engine and type in “homelessness.” When I wrote this, I got 16,100,000 results. Now search “Donating to charities that help prevent homelessness in children in Portland, Maine.” 537,000. It’s still a large number, but exponentially smaller. If you know who your audience is, you can write more specifically to what they want and need, which means that when people are looking for the specific information you’re offering, they’ll be more likely to find your site from among the many, many websites on the internet.

How do you write for an audience?

1. Figure out who your ideal audience is.

Your ideal audience is the people who are most likely to buy what you’re selling. If you work with a company that has a marketing or PR team, use their research. They know who you want to talk to. If you’re running a small business, talk to us about setting up tracking software and survey options for your website to help get a sense of who your most engaged and loyal customers are. Knowing who already wants to read your blog will help you decide what kind of relationship you should have with them.

2. Define the relationship you want to have with your audience.

How do you want your clients to relate to you? Do you want to be their cheering squad? Their confidante? Their how-to guru? Their stand-up comic? Their personal assistant? A part of the family? Their friend? Choose a relationship you want to have with your ideal audience and use that to influence your tone. Most of us have a wide range of relationships that we participate in successfully on a daily basis, and that skill is the same one you need to write for a specific audience once you’ve decided what that relationship needs to be.

3. Choose topics wisely and define them narrowly.

If you’re selling artisan pastries, you obviously don’t want to write a post favoring a diet that bans dieters from ever eating pastry again. If such a diet has been having an impact on the way people approach your product, however, you very well might want to write an article pointing to research debunking the debilitating diet plan and offer a positive alternative that does allow people to eat moderate amounts of pastry as part of a broader eating plan. The best way to find out what your audience is interested in is to read what they’re reading. Surveys and social media are a great way to uncover that information.

4. Keep a consistent tone.

Tone goes back to the nature of the relationship. If you’re cultivating a friend-type relationship with your customers and, out of the blue, you rail at them with the lordly tones of a master smith teaching a particularly slow apprentice, it’s going to isolate your readers. That isn’t to say you need to feel like you’re stuck in a miserable marriage in pre-Henry VIII England if your first choice of tone doesn’t resonate. Just try not to be the Casanova of blog relationships.