Audience development is the process of defining, attracting, engaging, growing, and sustaining a loyal audience of readers, viewers, influencers, or customers. There’s increasing competition for consumer attention due to a plethora of content being produced and published. Paired with growing content consumption and distribution channels like the internet (e.g. search engines, social channels, and email lists) brands have a unique opportunity to increase their reach and develop large audiences at a fraction of what it used to cost.

With the rise of content marketing, brands from Hubspot to Zappos are publishing content for potential customers to enjoy. Advertising budgets have started prioritizing the creation and distribution of consumable content, while traditional promotions and commercials have taken a back seat.

This paradigm shift toward content marketing and online distribution has made audience development a competitive necessity. The key objective is to keep audience members around for multiple interactions over the long term, not for one-off interactions tied to individual campaigns.

Key Definitions:

Demographics

Demographics is information about a specific group of people within a population. If you sell winter-weather apparel for men, your regional demographics will come into play. But including only men in your potential audience would be a mistake. If your content resonates with women as well as men, your female audience members can also drive sales and help you reach your target customers. Demographics are especially important if you intend to promote your content using paid channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, AdWords, LinkedIn, or any social network. Concentrate on the fundamental demographic factors. JumpCrew’s typical top five spells the word AGILE: Age, Gender, Income, Location, and Education level. Some secondary characteristics (usually less relevant on content distribution platforms) include occupation, ethnicity, religion, and marital status.

Psychographics

Psychographics are data points that relate to people’s interests, attitudes, aspirations, affinities, and other psychological attributes. Understanding psychographics enables you to go beyond just showcasing your products, you’re able to create content that’s personally relevant to the consumer. Using measures such as Dstillery (featured in the Tools section) you can find data on what the people in your target demographic like, do, and think about daily.

Three important psychographics questions to consider:

•What are my potential audience members interested in?
•What are their hobbies and favorite activities?
•Which patterns exist in their opinions and beliefs on particular topics?

Together with demographic data, psychographics enables you to build a robust picture of all the people in your target audience.

Why Audience Development Matters

In the past, audience-building mattered mostly to publishers, TV networks, and media companies. Now that every company is essentially a self-publisher, a loyal audience member is equally as valuable to a brand as a loyal customer. This is because engaged audience members are usually also customers and they are likely to share your content and product with others. Every brand wants the same things a modern publisher wants: a dependable, quantifiable audience who reads the brand’s blog posts, opens its newsletters, engages with its social media content, and shares branded content with other people. When the loyal audience become super fans and start word-of-mouth marketing, that’s the cherry on top of your content marketing efforts. Audience development is the only way to get there.

What’s Involved

Effective audience development involves using data and analytics to identify customers, potential customers and influencers. The only way to define your target audience is to use tools like Google Analytics, Dstillery.com, SparkToro.com, LeadFeader.com and others to get a sense of the following about your website visitors:

• Who is coming to your website and converting into a customers

• What content those who converted checked out

• What keywords they used to find your content, product or service

• What companies your website visitors work for

• What their demographics, location, psychographics are

• Where they came from and go once they visit your website

• What devices they spend time on

• Which media are appropriate (i.e., text, picture, podcast, or video)

• Which platforms would my target buyer use to discover my content (i.e., Google search, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook)

Using these tools together will give you the data you need to define your target audience. As well as distinguish between the buyer personas (a.k.a potential customers vs. your influencer personas). Once you have collected enough data using these tools you will be able to use that data to create lookalike audiences on social platforms like Facebook or using programmatic media to reach others like them.

The next step is identifying content that’s appropriate for a particular buyer persona, along with the most fitting distribution channels or platforms.
By tailoring content and distribution to the relevant buyer personas, brands can develop and expand their target audience. This will help you get the right message to potential customers and increase brand awareness with the influencers who can help recommend your products to others.

Audience Development Is About Trust

Brands have always been able to earn buyers’ trust during direct commercial interactions. A great product paired with great customer service goes a long way toward cementing trust.

Delivering consistent value and positive experiences through published content is a new way for brands to build trust not only with current customers but with the whole of their target audience. Transparency equals trust for followers.
Developing an audience is a huge opportunity—the brands that don’t take it will lag behind the competitors that do.