Personal Branding: How to Find Your Audience

Last Updated Mar 30, 2010 6:12 PM EDT

It's easy to update your status on a dozen different social networks -- some tools even let you do it simultaneously. But if you aren't catering to the right audience, people won't pay attention. For instance, if you're giving financial advice to Fortune 500 CEOs, you might have difficulty convincing them to listen, and if you're talking about meat to a vegetarian, they'll just ignore you. Knowing your audience is a key personal branding principle, because once you find the right audience for your message, they'll respond positively and help you evangelize your business and career. Here's what you need to know about the importance of audience, along with four tips on how to build one.
Not knowing your audience can hurt your brand
When you forget who's following you on Twitter, or who your email subscribers are, or who's friends with you on Facebook, it can cause you a lot of misery. One worker in London updated her Facebook status complaining about her manager and her company, forgetting that her manager was friends with her. The result, which won't surprise you, is that the manager commented on her post and she was fired. There have also been countless stories about people getting a new job, sending out a pompous tweet, and then losing the job before their start date. The lesson here is that anything said online can be used against you, especially if it's negative. Your published content is public. Miley Cyrus quit Twitter because her tweets were showing up in US Weekly and other mainstream media outlets. By having a clear idea who's reading your material, you'll know what's acceptable, as well as how to better serve your following.

Be careful about how you handle friend requests from coworkers. 56% of Americans say that that it's irresponsible to be friends with a boss, and 62% say it's wrong to be friends with an employee on social networks, reports Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project. The second you connect with your manager or coworker on Facebook, your audience changes. That's why I recommend you create a separate Facebook fan page for your professional identity if you want to keep your profile more social with friends and family. You could also bucket your coworkers into a Facebook group and only reveal certain parts of your profile to them, but there's still some risk that you'll forget they're there, so play it safe.

How to find your audience:

  1. Sit down and think about who you are, what you stand for, and what valuable contributions you can make to the business world. Be as specific as possible, so you can attract the exact consumer or reader who would most benefit from what you have to say.
  2. Develop content outposts, so that you have a platform where you can communicate your expertise on a consistent basis. This could be a blog, a video-sharing site account, various social network profiles, or a combination.
  3. Publish content every single day if you can. As long as the content is focused on your niche, the people that aren't in your audience won't subscribe or take the time to read it. Think about this method as a funnel, where only the right people will become part of your community. The more content you put into the funnel, the faster this honing process will happen.
  4. Reach out to your audience and become part of communities. You can do this by subscribing to blogs and joining Ning networks, Facebook fan pages, and LinkedIn groups, as well as writing for blogs, magazines, and other media outlets that cater to your audience.
The online world is heavily saturated because the cost of entry is minimal. That means the sheer number of users on social networks and blogs can make your head spin. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to focus both your message and your audience.

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