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When You Don’t Have “One Reader”: Writing for a Diverse Blog Audience

“Write for one reader” is advice we hear often in the blogosphere, and it can be a useful way to get a consistent voice going on your blog.

But the longer you blog, the more likely you’ll be to get to know your readers, and the more diverse their needs may seem. Or perhaps you’re blogging in a niche whose readers, while they’re united on some fronts, have deeply divided opinions on certain aspects of your topic.

Difference

Image courtesy stock.xchng user mzacha

This kind of diversity can be particularly common among readers of blogs in the religious, political, and “cause” niches—areas where people feel really strongly about the topic, and have a deep appreciation of what can be the many complex aspects of the topic.

That said, I’d guess that plenty of blogs would reach audience segments with differing—perhaps conflicting needs. Meeting the needs of those segments is a challenge that every blogger faces.

What if you don’t have “one reader” that you can keep in mind as you write? What if you have three, or four—or more?

Today, I’d like to talk about a strategy you can use to meet the varying needs of a diverse blog audience. It has three key steps:

  1. understand
  2. match
  3. meet.

1. Understand

The first step—and perhaps the most important—is to understand the different audience segments you’re writing for. Have a think about your readers, and note down the ways you think they vary.

For example, if you’re writing a travel blog, you might be juggling the needs of armchair travellers who want a vivid story and glowing shots from around the globe with those of pragmatic travellers who really need practical advice and inspiration to help them get out there and see the world.

You might have more segments than just two—that’s fine. Once you’ve worked out what basic factor differentiates them from other readers on your site, it’s time to delve a bit deeper. Look through your blog comments (or those on other blogs or forums in your niche) and try to track down some key facts about each segment:

  • Their attitudes: Consider their motivations or reasons for holding certain opinions.
  • Their media preferences: Your blog may in fact unite readers who might not otherwise come together online. But even if it doesn’t, different segments will likely use different media within (and beyond) your niche. It’s a good idea to make a little profile of their media usage habits, as far as you can work them out, as this can give you insights into other opinions, preferences, or expectations they may have.
  • Their post format preferences: There may be little difference between segments’ preferences for different formats, or there may be a lot. Do certain segments prefer list posts, or vlog posts, or opinion posts? Does your podcast subscription list equally represent your audience as a whole, or has it attracted more readers from a particular segment?

All you’re tying to do here is get a feel for what makes these different segments tick—what interests them, and why.

2. Match

Once you understand each segment a bit better, you can consider how your brand serves the needs of each one.

You might be able to see, for example, why different reader types respond in certain ways to particular topics you’ve covered on your blog, or why they react in certain ways to your interactions on social media. Ideally, you’ll be able to point to actual examples of posts on your blog that work—and don’t work—for each segment within your audience. I’ve visualised that matching of your brand, your blog topics, and your segment’s needs in the diagram below.

A diverse audience

Don’t just look at posts on your blog, though—it’s a good idea to also at the other media you know this segment’s readers use, and do the same there.

Hopefully, this exercise will help you come up with a list of topics and messages that your brand can use as a basis to form deep, lasting, loyal relationships with the readers in this particular segment within your niche.

3. Meet

The last step in this process is to make sure you meet each segments’ needs through your activity on and around your blog.

You created a list of topics above, you know what aspects of your brand resonate with each segment, and you also know how they like consuming your content. The trick now is to create a list of potential posts that look at the topics of interest through the lens of your brand.

Now you can drop those post ideas into your content schedule, so that you can make sure you’re meeting the needs of the important segments within your larger audience. If you want, you can probably come up with some more targeted, specific ways to address them through social media, through your current (or new, targeted) email sequences, and perhaps—for large segments—through your product strategy too.

This way, you can make sure you’re diligent about meeting the needs of each subsegment within a diverse blog audience, without undermining your blog’s brand or making any group you want to serve feel left out or forgotten about.

Celebrate diversity

I think that perhaps the best way you can go about addressing sub-segments of your readers very specifically is to get excited about the diversity your blog has attracted!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of blogging is how it opens up doors to connect with people we’d probably not have met otherwise. Those relationships can be so rich and rewarding—don’t miss the opportunity to connect with key segments in your broad audience.

Does your blog have a diverse audience, with a few—or more—different segments? Tell us about them, and how you’ve tackled them, in the comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Deni Saputra says:

    Thanks Daren!
    Realized that having more vary of blog audience is pleased, though isn’t easy t work with and keep it well.
    Thank you for pointed out such great advice!

  2. J. Delancy says:

    Great post! My blog deals with issues concerning midlife men but I’ve noticed comments from males in their twenties who are looking for some guidance. I’ve often wondered if I should niche down but if I’m reading this post correctly, I don’t need to. Instead, I can try to become more inclusive of my regular readers no matter their age.

  3. Frank Daley says:

    Darren, thanks for this. I have a variation on a theme re the Question.
    I think more people than I struggle with this problem.

    My blog, The Daley Post (TDP), will be the communication arm of three self-development niche linked sites. The Biz is Self-Knowledge College (SKC), and there’ll be a special site for “at-risk” college students called Dropout to Dean’s List.

    The client base will comprise “People who have a serious problem in life but they don’t know what it is exactly and they don’t know how to solve it.” That’s a huge niche, granted, but it can be broken down and marketed to more precisely (eg, the student site).

    The main subject is Self-Knowledge. A lack of SK presents in a multitude of ways from problems with time management, procrastination, goal setting, career choice, college program choice, and mate selection to indicate a few. I’m trying to deal with writing on related tropics in one large niche.
    My main thesis is that if you don’t know yourself three bad things will happen to you in life: You won’t be with the right person, you won’t be in the right line of work and therefore you won’t be happy.
    But you have to lead clients to that understanding because Self-Knowledge seems too abstract or complicated for most people. That’s OK, that’s reality.

    I WILL be able to stay on (mostly) student success related subjects (study skills, program choice, etc), on the student site although time management, procrastination, mate choice, etc are human problems and theretofore apply to students as well.

    However, when writing for the main SK and the blog I foresee problems in writing about a wide variety of related subjects (any one of which might pique the interest of a reader with that particular problem) …
    …and trying NOT to write about all of them because, once they’ve been introduced, THEN I’d have to create small products for them all simultaneously. (To get them in to the site where I can try to convince them they actually need a bigger, better product!)

    And I don’t want to try to cheat and suggest I can solve a complex problem with a small product just to make a sale. I CAN help with presenting problems to a degree with lower priced products but I can’t help eradicate them. I can INTRODUCE it, show how and why it can’t be “solved” unless and until one knows oneself better. When you do know yourself, you can make choices that best suit your skills, abilities, talents and aptitudes.

    But those questions can’t be answered fast in inexpensive products or in a day!
    Of course, concentrating on a few topics at first is sensible but that means restricting writing on possible topics that would grab a person immediately concerned with, say, productivity, who doesn’t immediately see the connection with that and a topic I happen to be writing on.
    I’m trying to determine how to write about enough subjects that different people will be able to see as a serious problem for themselves and lead them a deeper understanding that solving THAT problem is really not possible without addressing the larger problem of a lack of self-knowledge because all this stuff is interrelated!

    Gasp! Sorry!

    But the problems are real ad they are connected!
    Thank you for considering this!
    Frank

  4. Though these rules do not only imply to bloggers but these rules also being implied to companies, who are crossing their set paradigm, allowing themselves to venture into the new tides. but the real problem with crossing set and successful paradigm which is of course designed by you that you need some people to get along with you i.e. only big players can do it who have mastered their niche area. but if you start covering every topic from day one, you may not able to rise from the status of mediocre who do everything. But on other hand, having mastery of certain niche make you, a person who can turn anything in gold.
    So in my view point go for niche, build some reputation and expand with all guns blazing. :)

    • Hey, this is a good point. It’s more difficult to start a blog trying to reach every reader. I think starting with a narrow topic, building that audience, and then expanding as you attract more readers, is a good growth strategy.

  5. Richard Ng says:

    Hi Darren,

    My blog is on Social Media niche but knowing Social Media is a huge topic, I tend to write post with set of audience (e.g. newbies, intermediate users or general publi) in mind. Also, I am starting to introduce some off topic post (i.e. those not directly related to Social Media) so as to spice up the content.

    What do you think about this approach?

    Cheers!

    • Jeremy Scottsdale says:

      I have done this, it helps even if its off topic to tie it back to your main target topic. If you talk about travel, mention ways you can use travel photos on social media. Hope that helps.

  6. Kenny Fabre says:

    Darren

    when you dont have one reader, I dont think its a good idea to start writing for random audience. A blogger must be consistent and persistent with their writing eventually they will get the right readers if they keeep writing and marketing

    • Hi, Kenny. I think you’re right that beginning bloggers should focus narrowly. But if you look at mega blogs like the Huffington Post, it’s feasible to offer something for everyone. The key is that you have to have enough readers to warrant the diversity of content because the more readers you have, the more diversity you’re likely to have.

      • Kenny Fabre says:

        Sarah

        yes but remember the huffington post is a multi million dollar empire, they dont need to work their behind off, like a new blogger just starting out. The huffington post has money to pay for advertising and get tons of readers in seconds.

        But in the other hand what you are saying applies for bloggers who wants to run or have a random topic blog

        • Christy says:

          I agree with both you on different levels.

          From my own experience, the posts in which I direct my conversational tone to a specific individual (say in my mind I am writing to a respected friendly business acquaintance) then I generally come across more relaxed, laid back and even clever. When I am speaking too broadly, I consider too much the wide scope of a large audience, and I tend to get nervous and even a bit of stage fright, which tends to dull my tone and make me…well…boring.

          So to counter that, I write posts that can be inclusive of everyone while not excluding anyone, but speaking directly to someone. If that makes sense.

    • I do agree Kenny, at first if you talk about “everything” is grabs the attn of no one.

      • Kenny Fabre says:

        Jeremy yep its really best to know why you are blogging ad who you are blogging for, who needs your information, who wants your information TARGETED is key

  7. I think writing with the mindset of feeding diverse audience should be encourage on all blogs. Even with the close niche blogs, it would shock you to know that, no single reader is only interested in a single topic…

    The problem is to be able to feed in diversity without losing the focus and initial theme upon which you started your blog.

    I think every blog should once a while throw in unrelated topics to give the readers a chance to express their opinion on such things or form opinions…

    It is like you jumping on the train, you never know the conversation you will get in with the person sitting next to you…

    Opened mindedness is great and to be able to develop this, you must be opened to diverse things and topics…

    I am sure if problogger had a weekly topic or world politics, it will do extremely world and would not affect those who come here for other things…You will be amazed to see how many of such people may even have strong political opinions…And also it will bring in new readers.

    As I mentioned above, the real problem in celebrating diversity is not losing focus…

  8. I have read, but they did not leave their comments for this article, although the end of the article I seek from them to improve the article.

  9. The diversifying approach makes sense Darren.

    You might have a target reader in mind but your audience varies, no matter how much you target.

    Intelligent approach all around. Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

  10. glory smith says:

    my blog don’t have much readers. i try to focus in my topic. i try to consistant and write as as i can. maybe my marketing is not good. thanks for the tips.

  11. I would like to reiterate on diversity. It is one of the best points here Darren and this makes sure it covers a larger audience and gives to everyone what they really want.

  12. Reed Nixon says:

    Nice blog post Darren, I love the way you summarize all that info to just three points which are precise and straight to the point. I mean understand, match and meet! This will sure meet the needs of your one or more person audience!

  13. Shelby Roth says:

    These are such encouraging rules Darren! I’m glad that you made such a great effort effort of helping me a lot. Your summary sounds pure, informative and insightful to me. Thanks a lot for sharing such an inspiring contents. Look forward to hear from you again, hope you post so soon!

  14. Sameer says:

    I currently blog on various categories and it really gets difficult to understand needs of different people. I always make sure to diversify my approach to reach large number of people. Being a blogger, my aim is to meet target audience so that they get what they want.

  15. Great advice, Darren..

    Love the comment around celebrating diversity… this is what it’s all about! Being able to connect with a wide-range of diverse individuals, all coming together for a common need.

    Brendan

  16. Tim Jones says:

    Understand, Match & Meet, 3 great tips! Thanks so much. I’m still kind of new to blogging, and I really lover writing. This information is going to help me tremendously. Thanks!

    Tim

  17. Christy says:

    Darren,

    I found this to be very insightful and I appreciated some of the new insights into how to frame my posts, or rather, how/who I address them to.

    Thinking of talking to one person is a novel idea, and though I’ve leaned more toward “an intimate group of individuals” I’d like to give this a try. I think it could be very helpful.

  18. New to blogging and waiting on the first comment, not sure who my readers are, but this should be useful

  19. Most great ideas are learned in 3 core parts. Understand, match, meet is a great simple way to build upon…nice work.

  20. Hmm, I actually think that writing with a highly targeted audience in mind not only gives better results, but I find that I write better posts too, knowing who it is I want to read them. Whether the readers I attract are the audience I have in mind is a different story though, so the idea of a diverse audience could be good to keep in mind.