The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Online Audience

What kinds of people make up your audience? What do they want from you?

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There are three types of people who are going to stumble upon your writing.

  • Consumers
  • Contributors
  • Creators

These three types of people, eventually, will make up the entirety of your online audience. Yes – those people who like, reblog, sometimes comment, maybe even give feedback or add to a discussion related to the things you publish.

Are they difficult to understand? Well, sure. People are complex. As a person writing things on the internet, you want to know what they want, what they need; who they are, what they are looking for. It isn’t always easy to figure out all of these types of people, wanting all of these different things.

Unless you take some time to try and understand, in general, who these types of people are.

Every individual person is different, with different needs and desires and preferences. Unfortunately, as a writer spending a lot of time communicating with people from behind a screen, you cannot give every single one of them everything they hope to get. But you CAN cater to the general needs of those who will be there, reading your stuff, hoping for SOMETHING.

Here is your guide to understanding the types of people who make up your online audience, and how to give them all a taste of what they want, all at the same time.


Consumers

Who are they?

Consumers are the members of your audience who are probably some of your most loyal readers. Even though they might not always comment on your posts or let you know they’re with you, they’re with you through and through. Consumers, as their title implies, “consume” your work. They take pleasure in reading it and enjoy seeing new updates from you about your writing or otherwise.

What they need, and how to give it to them:

  • Consistent content – they need to know your stuff is going to be there for them to read on the days/times it’s always there!
  • Sharable content – stuff that is easy for them to share on social media (give them buttons!)
  • Gratitude – thank them every once in awhile! They love to know their presence, even if a little quieter than others, is still appreciated.

Contributors

Who are they?

Contributors are one tier above consumers. They spend the majority of their time reading other people’s work. The difference is, they are more willing to participate. They are more likely to leave comments on your blog posts or stories, giving feedback, asking questions or just taking a moment to tell you you’re doing a great job. They are also more likely to be content creators themselves, though they are a bit more passive about immediately clicking off of your site to go create something on their own. They are community-oriented as well, meaning they like it when you respond to their attempts at outreach.

What they need, and how to give it to them:

  • Calls to action – they need to be prompted to give their input/feedback
  • Community – make them feel like their voices matter just as much as yours does
  • Opportunities to participate – social media “campaigns,” giveaways, guest posts – they want to contribute to your cause in any way you let them.

Creators

Who are they?

Creators are your most “needy” followers – but it’s because they love and trust you! Creators come to you because you have something valuable to offer, but stick around because you help them turn around and create their own content as a result of following you. They have their own creative goals, which is why they need more support and attention than most. In a way, they are depending on you to be their guru as well as their support system. With you as a guide, they feel like they really can make their dreams come true.

What they need, and how to give it to them:

  • Actionable tips – “tell” them what to do, explain how to do it, and give the “why”
  • Encouragement – they need to go off and “do” something – sometimes they need a little extra push
  • Ongoing support – they need to know you’ll be there for them every step of the way.

Everyone consuming content on the internet is after something a little bit different. But that does not mean any group of people is less important than another. Together, these are the ingredients that make up your online audience. Your audience members return to you again and again because they appreciate what you have to say, even if they don’t always say so “out loud.”

Give them love, in any and all ways you can, and they will return that appreciation in time.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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