Knowing your audience

Social media, hey. Who isn’t using it these days? The majority of people have had some form of social media account, in one form or another, and most museums have one too. Some museums have more than one, in fact, seeing as there’s so many platforms to choose from. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Snapchat, YikYak, the list goes on. There’s one theme that can run through all of these platforms, though – that theme being how to make the most of your content. This is a really wide discussion, so for the sake of this blog post I’m going to narrow it down to one specific concept.

If you want to make the most of your online content, you have to know your audience. From where they are, to whom they are, to why they want to be there – all of this information is paramount to the efficiency of your online content. Knowing this information will ensure that your content is targeted, that it’s relevant for your audience and that it will be valuable for them. But, most importantly, knowing your audience will make sure that you’re making the most of what you have.

But how can you know your audience, particularly when they reside in a virtual space? It’s not easy, but there are a few simple ways to do it.

Google Analytics

Firstly, you’ve got your general analytics on your website. Some Content Management Systems (CMS) will have their own in-built analytics, most of which are quite basic. But there’s always Google Analytics, which will give you a more in-depth breakdown of your audience. Google Analytics can tell you the average age of your audience, their location, what times they usually visit, what content they’re most interested in and which pages they spend the most amount of time on – it can even tell you what device they use to access your website, which is actually really useful information.

There’s a lot of information available through Google Analytics, and you could easily spend a few days trawling through it all, and looking at every aspect of your audience’s behaviour on your website. There are some key things to consider, though. For instance, where is your audience based? If a lot of your content is advertising talks, exhibitions, lectures, and other general events, it’s good to know where the majority of your audience are.

If most of the people looking at that content are based in or near your local area – great. But if the majority are based further away, or even internationally, what use would that content be to them? So let’s say that only 20% of your online audience are based in your local area – which is probably quite a high number. That means that 80% of your audience will have to make a considerable journey to attend your event. A large number of that 80% could well be based abroad, in which case they’ll never attend. I’m not suggesting that you stop advertising your events, because there’s no one able to attend. What you should do instead is to think of how you can make that content more rewarding for those who are outside of your area. Share interesting stories or images along with events listings, for instance – preferably ones that are directly related to the theme or content. That way, the people who are too far to attend will at least get a little something from the event. Take it a step further and write a short blog about the event, or summarise a talk – or even video it and post it online! Try to make the most of your content, and give your audience as much as you’re able.

Something else to consider is the device that the majority of people are using to view your website. In general, over 50% of an audience will be viewing a website on a tablet or mobile device. Very few people will use a desktop PC to look at websites, at home, and the majority will probably be using either a tablet, or their phone. Consider that for a second. The likelihood is that almost, or over, half of your audience look at your website on a tablet or mobile device. Is your website compatible with those devices? Or does it look messy, feel cumbersome and generally outdated? Maybe it’s time to invest in a decent update, to make your site mobile accessible (unless it already is, in which case – go you!).

Social Media analytics

Some social media platforms now have their own analytics built into them. For instance, Facebook has Insights and Twitter has Analytics. These are incredibly useful tools for a number of reasons. But one of the most important reasons is that it allows you to get a profile of your audience. Basically, through these tools you can understand what content your audience likes, and what content they don’t really respond to.

If you want to build an audience, and increase the engagement of your current audience, using the inbuilt analytics of some of these social media platforms is a good way to go about it. One really simple task to do is to search for your most popular posts, and work out what makes them so popular. Take the top 10, for example, and look for themes and correlations. How long is the post? Did you use images? If so, which images did you use? What was the message? Was there a call to action? Did you build a conversation around a topic? These questions, and many more, will help you to build an idea of what sort of content your audience likes, and why they like it. Then, to take the analysis further, look at your least popular posts and try to find some correlations. Think about what these posts are lacking when you compare them to the popular ones; think about the time of day that they were posted, the tone of the content, even the day of the week can have an impact. All of this is valuable information; information that you can use to make the content you’re posting, the best that it can be.

For the sake of not rambling on, I’ll leave it there. Though I can’t speak more highly of utilising analytics to your benefit, and to the benefit of your audience. If you’ve got any questions about analytics, let me know in the comments below!

For the sake of not rambling on, I’ll leave it there. Though I can’t speak more highly of utilising analytics to your benefit, and to the benefit of your audience. If you’ve got any questions about analytics, let me know in the comments below!

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