Understanding your audience

The other day I wrote an article about Twitter. When I did this I chuckled because I knew what was going to happen:

1) Many of the active people in comments weren’t around so comments would be light.
2) From what I can tell most of the people that comment on my site don’t use Twitter.

Writing the article, I knew, would be an unpopular move (in terms of interaction) but I felt the need to express myself on the topic so I did it anyway. My core audience is the average, normal everyday non-geek person (mainstream-ish audience). Twitter has almost no appeal, Facebook is for friends only (people they know), they have no desire to try every new application that comes on the web. Matter of fact, their internet time is limited because they spend more time living their lives offline that interacting online. I’m lucky, I have the opportunity to find out things about my audience one on one.

Most people with sites aren’t that lucky. They are writing in the dark hoping to find people who connect with their content. That is where I think they fall into the pitfall of over-caring about traffic. People start blogs in hopes of someone reading them, they check their stats to see if anyone is reading, then get trapped in being focused on the stats.

And unfortunately begin to care very little about the readers themselves.

You see this all the time. “I’ll do what I want, how I want, when I want but oh yeah, let me check those stats!”. When I see this I wonder how they expect to get traffic without understanding their audience? But tell me this: if you go to a restaurant and they don’t have what you want, do you stay? If the dealership doesn’t have the car you want do you buy from them anyway? If the boy/girl you like doesn’t have the traits you’re interested in, do you make him/her your boy/girlfriend?

No.

Then why, while you’re doing what you want, when you want, how you want (with no knowledge about what YOUR readers want) should any reader stay on your site? What have you done for them lately?

And there you have, in a nutshell, why social sites are popular. Easy to gain followers with little to no effort.