Marketers discuss the term “audience” a great deal, but what does “audience” really mean? I’d aruge it doesn’t mean anything. It is undefinable and therefore cannot adequately be contained within a box. Audiences are the electrons of online marketing.
Both Jeff and Shawn/Lisa have podcasts that tend to cover similar topics, yet their audiences are different. Zanox and Commission Junction are both affiliate networks with reach in the US and Europe, yet the audiences are different. Market Leverage and Azoogle are both CPA networks, but have different audiences. CPN and ReveNews are both blogs about the world of online and affiliate marketing, yet we have different audiences.
How well do we all know our audiences?
In the blogosphere, we use tools such as MyBlogLog, Google Analytics and Feedburner to find out more about who’s visiting our blogs and where they are coming from. However, those tools don’t tell me much besides quantitative numbers. Numbers are wonderful and can be put together and taken apart in fantastic OpenOffice Spreadsheets (use open source!). But numbers don’t tell me much about the actual visitor. They don’t give me the kind of data that I’d love to have on who you are, what you like, what you don’t like and how I can get you to do something.
So when I write a blog post, am I writing to or for my audience or am I writing to or for myself? When Shawn or Jeff does a podcast, are they doing it for themselves (and their contributors) or are they doing it for the audience. When Market Leverage finds a great new offer from Dreammates, do they help construct the payout structure and creative details to fit their own vision or do they have their network publishers in mind?
How much of an impact should our audiences have upon the nature of our marketing efforts? Think about that before you make a decision. Is playing to your audience a measurable value and an quantifiable metric? Is there a way to measure the value of audience impact over and against your (or your network’s or your affiliate program’s or your podcast’s) own voice?
There’s grand money in a solution like that. Am I trying to build one? Yes. Can you use it? No. It is completely subjective and it’s called intuition. Some marketers have it and some don’t. It’s a skill, but it does require a working knowledge of ajax empathy coding with a little python powered gut feeling. Truly, the singularity is upon us.
The truth (and that’s a relative term as well) is that you can never fully “know” your audience. To know something is to fully understand it. You can describe the basic characteristics of your audience, and you can come close to making a definitive statement about how they behave and how they respond to your offers, podcasts or blog posts… but you should give up on any attempts to “know them.” Your audience is a misty fog that can’t be contained or defined.
Better yet, your audience is like the thousands of stars in the night sky. You can see the stars and point to them, but what you are seeing, pointing to and describing are those stars (or your audience) as they existed in the past. There is a distance between every podcast/network/offer/blog and audience. The stars you see and the audiences you want to reach vary in distance from you, and that distance affects how you perceive both stars and audiences.
The electron is the best example. We can see the trail left by the subatomic particle, but we can never see the electron itself. We know where it might be located (hence quantum theory and the term ‘electron clouds’) but we can’t positively define their location.
Even if you are within touching distance, you’ll never be able to put them under your thumb because what we see, and what we perceive, are always actions from the past.
So, learn to see the trails left by your constellations of quantum audiences. But don’t ever try to define them, and don’t get frustrated when you can’t completely reach them because your audience is constantly changing, and constantly moving. Such is the nature of all things… even affiliates, publishers, listeners and readers.