How to create better content for your target audience

People are looking at content nonstop. Every day. Around the clock. It can affect how they feel about your brand and the brand experience.  A great content experience can connect our brands and the target audience, but it requires that our marketing strategy keeps the person we are trying to reach in mind.

Let’s look at how we might accomplish that.

"There are so many different ways of consuming content. That's a huge mountain to tackle to determine what people want to consume."

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Reaching your target audiences

Reaching your target audience isn’t just about the quality or creativity of content. The channels matter as well. For example, the BET entertainment network is on various channels where customers may want to consume its content. That includes traditional cable TV, digital streaming channels, and social media, said Bianca Pryor, vice president of insights at BET, where she leads content optimization and tests content.

“And then, we want to know who these people are that are watching us?” Bianca said.

“This must be such an interesting time to work in this vertical,” said Voxpopme’s Chief Revenue Officer Jenn Vogel on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show”.

“It’s so different than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” Jenn said “I’m thinking about how I was consuming content as a child and the difference to my kid. He’s like, ‘Can we watch this show now for seven hours?’ Yes, we can. There are so many different ways of consuming content. That’s a huge mountain to tackle to determine what people want to consume.”

Bianca said there truly is a “keep-feeding-the-beast” mentality now. “We have to continuously share insights so they can create sharper content,” she said.

  • Consumers want more and more relevant content.
  • Internal teams need to create and optimize it.
  • Insights professionals and decision-makers need to get insights on an ongoing basis.

Content optimization through consumer understanding

Media networks aren’t the only ones creating content for target audiences. Many brands now run and test advertising campaigns continuously, run content programs, and look for emerging ways to connect with consumers.

Content expert Ashley Cummings said on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” that creating valuable content goes back to understanding the audience, the market, and the company’s differentiators.

“Every time I work on a project, I start with a content brief, and one of my first questions is ‘tell me about your audience,'” she said. “I want to know who they are, what their expertise is, and once I know that information it tells me how I should craft the piece.”

Some more successful companies have this flushed out, but not always. Especially emerging companies may not have gotten to this critical step yet.

“Maybe that’s why they are so successful,” said Jenn. “Because they are talking to and know their customers.”

Niche down and get into who your audience is. Nailing that first will inform the rest of your marketing decisions.

Start talking and listening to consumers

Determine who you are trying to reach, and then find a way to talk with them. That could even be done through asynchronous communications, which, when done right, can save time. It might also mean a quick phone call with an ideal customer.

“Pop on with people who show loyalty and just ask, ‘hey, what kind of content are you consuming? What are we doing right? What’s interesting to you?'” Ashley said.  “Just gathering that qualitative data straight from your customers. That’s the way to go.”

Ashley said to consider setting up an online community – like on social media or through Voxpopme partner FuelCycle.

Read next: Who are the customer influencers that matter to your brand?

Ashley said that no matter how teams talk to consumers, ensure it’s ongoing. Consumer trends and behaviors change, and keeping the conversation going is one way to stay ahead of trends.

Why do some teams struggle to talk to their target audience?

Sometimes it might just not bubble up in a long list of their current priorities. We have to create this content, distribute that content, and there’s never enough time in the day. It certainly is a game of aligning priorities of tasks with strategies that can help us reach our goals.

“There’s so much pressure to move quickly,” said Jenn. “Get it out there! When are we launching? I think everyone is under a lot of pressure. We don’t have time to talk to the audience. We need to get that out there, but to whom? I don’t know. The time pressure is huge.”

Ashley said that a barrier might also be that people don’t have the expertise on how to even get started.

“They might not know how to start, what’s involved in the process,” Ashley said. “It also does require some resources so some people might not have the resources and they might not know how to scale.”

The setup of a content optimization team

The setup of content teams can vary widely. Some companies – large and small – like to hire freelancers for content production and optimization. While others do most everything in-house. No matter the setup, some  basic high-level tasks need to be covered on each team, including:

  • Audience research
  • Editorial planning – including SEO, public relations, and social media
  • Content creation
  • Distribution
  • Analysis

Read next: Our checklist from experts: Building a team the right way

That information can then be easily used as part of a content brief for new projects, which helps teams stay on track.

Within the insights group at BET there are three teams, Bianca explained.

  • Content optimization and marketing strategy
  • Ad sales research and sales
  • Data strategy

“And we all work together for the greater good,” Bianca said, adding this setup is pretty standard in TV.

The content team helps internal stakeholders — scripted and unscripted shows, digital and social impact, for example. During the last year of COVID-19, Bianca’s team did a lot of research for the social impact team.

"If you are going to create content and make content that hits your audience, you really need to know whom you are talking to."

Cross-team collaboration

When working with other teams, it’s essential to understand the different roles. Who is doing what, and what are their responsibilities in a specific project?

Read next: Do this to be innovative in business

“When we work with other teams, it’s primarily because we value their expertise,” Bianca said. “We want them to come in as a consultant. And we love that. It just makes the engagement for that project so much better.”

Sometimes we get help or offer help in doing some of the tasks, Bianca said.

Read next: Our checklist from experts: Building a team the right way

How to determine the best approach for content optimization tests

“I think it fundamentally goes back to what is the business objective and then makes sure you design the research to get to that answer,” Bianca said. “What are we trying to learn? Are we trying to move the needle on tune-in? Are we trying to move the needle on our total addressable audience?”

The insights team can then be used to inform a marketing brief or even an entire initiative for the company.

It’s also important to consider the proper methodology for a particular project.

  • Sometimes, quantitative is best.
  • Other times, qualitative is better,
  • In other cases, a mixed approach will get you the best insights

It’s also important to remember the budget available for a project and find the best possible solutions that work within that budget.

“There certainly needs to be a decision point,” added Jenn. “When do we need to be agile and scrappy and move quickly and do research at a low cost, and when can we invest a little bit more?”

Read next: How to use video surveys for market research

“The approach should fit naturally into the business it’s in,” Bianca said. “BET is media entertainment, and video surveys play a great role. Video surveys have a place in media entertainment, and especially in the times we are in. We can get to the heart of the matter through video and conversation but in the comfort of people’s homes.”

Bianca said she likes how video surveys capture verbal and nonverbal feedback.

“Their eyes lighting up, searching in the corners of their eyes, their gestures,” she said. “You can really pick up on that through this approach.”

How to find out about target audience content preference

BET used the Voxpopme video survey platform to determine whether the BET audience was interested in unscripted reality shows.

“The resounding answer was ‘yes’!” Bianca said. “Everyone doing their videos and providing their insights were so into it.”

She said respondents gave ideas and shared a message of Black empowerment and wanted unscripted shows on BET—which many saw as a gap in the market.

Concept testing

Concept testing comes in several different formats in media.

  • Loglines: This is the copy that viewers see when they scroll through channels. Is that descriptive line grabbing people’s attention and drawing them in to click into watching the show?
  • Positioning: Similar to brand positioning.
  • Content: Show pilots
  • Scripts: “Scripts are harder to do because you don’t want to put 100 pages in front of your fans,” Bianca said.

“We are very keen on understanding the before — before something airs,” Bianca said. “We are also interested in the after something aired, too.”

For example, the NAACP Image Awards teams did a post-mortem after the program aired.

“Where my gears start turning a bit is ‘what can we do more upstream’?” Bianca said — from where your teams can try to impact the experience that is about to happen. Trying to influence the current experience, as opposed to always looking back, is also something James Dodkins discusses on this episode.

Bianca said BET also does:

  • Focus groups
  • Binge tests: Fans watch an entire series
  • Polling
  • Internal panel
  • Online surveys
  • Video surveys
  • Social media listening

“That’s a lot to bring together,” Jenn said.

“It is and also references readings,” Bianca said. “How many — preferably, millions of people —watched?”

At the end of the day, the content experience in media and for companies drives business. Content experiences also can help in other markets. But to know what content should be served, and what can draw eyeballs, it’s helpful to test the content and optimize it for the best possible customer experience.

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