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How to Create Sustainable Content: Part 2

Target audience
It’s all about them

Despite the importance of your expertise and objectives, your content is not just about you. It’s about connecting to the people who are important to you. The better you know them, the more likely you are to succeed.

From conducting formal research to reading others’ content to chatting online or talking at networking events, there are countless ways to get to know your target audience better. The key is to be able to put yourself in their shoes, to understand their motivations and frustrations and the kind of language they use.  

Then think about why they would want to read your content. Jakob Nielsen of, identified the main reasons people read email newsletters, which can be applied to other online communication. He found that people read to:

  • stay up-to-date in their field
  • acquire a competitive edge
  • become more productive
  • save money, or
  • learn more about personal interests.

Make sure you’re giving them what they want.

You also have to tailor your writing to the way people skim rather than read online. Your content has to be concise and to the point. It should feature bullets, lists, subheads and design elements that help people quickly find what they want.

You also need to think about how different kinds of people best absorb information.  Some people want the big picture, how everything relates. Visual people like charts, photos and well-defined sections. Skeptics demand detail and backup. Many others respond to personal stories and emotions.

So think about the kind of people you want to attract. Write for them. Or try an approach that is balanced to fit your audience mix.

If you’re writing for a highly specialized audience, say other software developers, you should write in their terms and jargon. If you are trying to establish your credibility with C suite executives, throw in some trendy business words.

Big caution sign here:  in most cases, it’s safer to write in plain language that everyone will understand. Few readers, especially those scanning online, will trudge through difficult phrasing or muddy terminology.  Big words frustrate much more than they impress.

Big content can frustrate too. In Part 3, I'll talk about how planning many shorter pieces of content can make it much easier to keep the words flowing.

Photo credit: Clamouring the see the N97 – Barcelona by eyeSPIVE