Getting to Know Your Audience

Last Updated by Taylor Shore on

Your station’s latest digital effort fizzled, and you don’t know why – it even included cute cats!

And your streaming numbers for your longest-lasting program are looking sad these days and you’re not sure what to blame that on – the marketing team’s campaigns are always solid.

One potential culprit? A lack of understanding of your station’s audiences (both current and potential). If you don’t know what topics your intended audience enjoys, what types of content they are likely to consume, and what platforms they are frequenting, you could be putting in effort that’s all but wasted.

The conversations about audience can be endless: What information is important to know about them? Where do you get that information? What do you do with that information when you get it? Which audiences do you even care about?

Most of these questions are best answered within your station and can be accomplished by having a close look at your station- and project-level goals. What we can look at today is taking a crack at the daunting task of finding the audience data you seek when time and money are both limited. Here’s a few ideas on how to get started:

  • Consider What You Already Know: You likely know more about your current audiences than you realize. If you have a need – at the station or project level – to get to know an audience better, mine the data that’s already there. Someone at your station (maybe you) is likely already gathering data from your social media accounts, website, and more. Others are probably gathering data on your members, looking at your Nielsen books, and keeping tabs on your event attendees. Gather it together to see what story it tells.
  • Dismiss Your Assumptions: Audiences’ likes and habits change regularly. If you find yourself – or someone at your station – making broad statements about your audiences’ habits, stop and consider whether you’re basing that on up-to-date information (and ideally, local information). Not only are older audiences migrating toward more digital platforms, but it’s entirely possible that your market’s audiences are ahead of the curve on some – or all – platforms.
  • Gather the Information Alongside Other Efforts: You already have captive audiences – on your website, your social media channels, at your in-person events, and more. Include a quick audience survey in your upcoming email, ask your event attendees to fill out a single-question card, test out polls on social media. You don’t have to conduct a series of focus groups to elicit information from your current audience.
  • Use Digital Data at Your Fingertips: There’s a long list of freely available research you can use to get to know your audiences. Check out what Facebook’s Audience Insights says about people in your market. Sign up for eMarketer (free for PBS stations to use!) and dive into the data they offer about media consumption habits.
  • Make Use of Data From Other Local Organizations: Reach out to organizations in your market who serve the audiences you seek. Has your state’s AARP released any relevant data about your older audiences? Have any digital or marketing agencies in your area done any research on local social media habits?

A large budget and dedicated personnel would help stations make audience-based, informed decisions when planning a new series, deciding which digital platforms to focus on, and more, but that’s rarely the reality for most of us.

Has your station discovered free resources to better understand your audiences? I’d love to hear from others on what you use and offer more details into what Iowa Public Television is doing for anyone wanting to extend the conversation.

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