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#23 - 7 Habits of Highly Effective Creators: Know your audience
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The power law, which results in a small number of winners who extract the majority of value in an ecosystem, is all around us. This pattern can be seen in music, sports, business, and just about every other arena.
So as you might expect, top creators earn significantly more than average creators. But what sets top creators apart from the rest? What can we learn from them?
Top creators have adopted 7 key habits that improve their odds of success in an extremely competitive field.
This is part 3 of the series — Know your audience: What does this mean, how do creators achieve it, and what do they do with this knowledge?
Know the audience
What does it mean to know your audience?
It’s one thing to recognize someone by their username, but truly knowing the audience is completely different.
When successful creators talk about their audience, they can give a shocking level of detail about the people they make content for.
“My audience is early on in their career, and they find me when they’re desperately seeking career advice.”
“My viewers skew older and more female, lots are moms with busy morning schedules. They tend not to be the most tech savvy, are scattered across NA/EU.”
“The most engaged people in my community need a lot of attention. They have trauma or scars from their past. They want someone to talk to and be heard. They’re willing to pay, some even offered me money to have 1:1s with them.“
More than just audience demographics, creators often know the blunt truth about their audience’s state of mind, gaps in their human needs, and their core motivations for consuming certain content.
Great creators know their audience to the extent that they can more accurately predict what topics, what language, and what visuals will work better. They can guess the types of questions and reactions people will have for their content. In other words, it makes them better creators.
How do creators get to know their audience?
Creators are getting more data savvy when it comes to their audience, and platforms are giving them the tools to get a deeper understanding of who they create for.
For instance, YouTube analytics provides YouTube creators with a treasure trove of information about their viewers.
Creators slice the data to see big picture trends and find deeper insights. Common things creators look for include where users find their videos (e.g. search, home, watch next, explore, channel, subscriptions), whether they’re returning or new viewers, where people tune in from, viewer demographics, and even what time of day those viewers tend to be on YouTube (i.e. useful for planning live streams and premieres).
If a creator says or does something that resonates with people or touches a nerve, people will voice their support (or disagreement).
Creators pay attention to this feedback because it gives them an indication of what connects with their audience in different ways. They use this feedback to calibrate, and build up an intuition on what works and what doesn’t.
Live streamers have perhaps the tightest feedback loop on these interactions. With tools such as Live Polling, creators can ask a question and get an immediate sense on what their viewers think about a certain topic.
Over time, people will also share their own stories, or ask the creator for personal advice. This further deepens a creator’s understanding about the specifics behind their viewers’ interests, their continued support, and their struggles.
Note: For an established creator who gets thousands of comments every day, it is probably not a good idea (or even possible) to reply to each one. But for aspiring creators, it can be valuable to address literally every meaningful comment. Small live streamers have some of the strongest connections with their audience, and it’s in part because they acknowledge and answer every chat message they get.
Knowing an audience is sometimes not about demographic/psychographics, or any particular question / comment. It’s often intangible, such as understanding how people prefer to interact with others, or how something will make the audience feel.
There are no short cuts with this. The only way creators build up this intuition is to go through shared experiences with their community over sustained periods of time. Importantly, successful creators recognize that building an audience vs. having shared experiences happen in very different places.
These experiences results in common history, a sense of community, and mutual understanding. According to research, in a “team” setting, this allows people to predict each other’s actions, and provide relevant information before being asked.
The more time people spend together, the more easily they can recognize each other’s tendencies and needs. By immersing themselves in the community, creators get meaningfully deeper empathy with the members of their audience.
What do creators do with this knowledge?
Knowing the audience gives creators a mental model of who they’re making content for, and who they’re nurturing a community for. So how do they make use of this info?
Studying audience data can also give creators insight on which topic or content format people are interested in. For example:
By looking at this data, a creator can conclude that a live stream they did on Nov 11, 2020 reached lots of new viewers — people who saw their content for the first time.
If the creator wants to grow their audience, perhaps they can dig into what this live stream was about, how people discovered it, and where the viewers came from. In short, they can find what gets results, and double down on those insights.
Creators can also study the comments and common questions from their audience (or audience of other creators) to get a sense of what topics are interesting, and identify the gaps between existing content and people’s never changing needs.
These signals lead creators to effective topics / themes, and lets them modify their content to pre-empt questions, making their content more relevant and complete.
Content analytics help creators understand content performance and people’s behavior in the context of content consumption.
Community analytics help creators understand community performance and people’s behavior in the context of community interactions.
What “good” community analytics look like will be a separate post. The takeaway for now is that ideally, creators who study community analytics should gain a deep understanding of their community, including the following:
Who are my most loyal, engaged, and valuable community members?
How healthy is my community for different member segments?
What do members talk about? Where / how do these conversations get started?
How do members of my community like to spend time together?
How does my participation or content lead to community engagement?
What about my community attracts or repels people?
Why do people leave my community?
Creators can then make informed decisions on what activities or conversations to introduce in their communities, which community members to recognize and elevate, and how to keep different segments of their community engaged.
Creators study analytics, listen to qualitative feedback, and live shared experience with their communities to get to know them.
With this knowledge, creators calibrate their understanding of what is valuable and relevant. This lets creators fine tune their content and community interactions, which drives toward their goals and meets the needs of their audience / community.
Whether or not you’re a “creator”, each of us has an audience in some context, and what you know about that audience can make or break your success (e.g. nailing a work presentation, making a good impression with a partner’s parents, landing a term sheet with an investor).
So look for ways you can better understand your audience, and tweak your behavior accordingly to achieve your goals.
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