There are very few hard and fast rules to writing. Almost any rule someone wants to quote you can and has been broken by someone who’s a better writer than you can ever dream of being. But there’s one rule that’s fairly universal in any kind of writing: Know your audience.

In blogging, understanding who your audience is and what their goals are for reading your material is one of the most important things you can do. Knowing your audience lets you better understand what kinds of things you should be writing about, how to phrase those stories and how you should promote them once they’re written. But when was the last time you really sat down and thought about who’s reading the articles you pump out?

Right now, I’m imagining you, dear reader, some beleaguered small business owner or harried marketing assistant, looking at your blog analytics with despair. Everyone said that blogging was the answer, but it just hasn’t paid off like you’d hoped. You know that you’re headed in the right direction, but something’s wrong. Then this blog post breaks into your Facebook feed or your Twitter stream like a holy light from heaven, and all your questions are answered.

All right, everything but that last part is true. I know one post can’t do everything.  This blog post is written for small business-types who are already blogging, who aren’t already my client. My hope is that some of them will hire Roundpeg to help them with their marketing or social media.

Other posts on this blog are targeted to different people.  For example:

  • Some posts are written for our clients. We hope they will embrace the lessons of the post and ask questions when we meet to discuss their marketing. Or sometimes when they ask a question, we can show them the blog post first to give them background information before diving more deeply into other information.
  • Other posts are for social media professionals. As I write those posts, I hope my comments will create a conversation in the community, giving us a chance to learn from each other–and spread Roundpeg’s name far and wide.

Even within an audience, we may have different purposes for our posts. The purpose of this one? To show that a little forethought and consideration can help make your blog more focused, more coherent and more valuable to your constituencies.

Before you sit down to write a blog post, just take a moment or two to consider who you want to read this post and what you want them to do as a result of it. No, your answer can’t be “buy from me!” You’re rushing things. What’s the next intermediate step? For me, it might be people sharing this post to spread Roundpeg’s influence, or people forwarding this to a friend who needs help. Ideally, it’ll be someone realizing the sagacity of my words and calling me for advice and help with their own blogging. But any of those outcomes are desirable. For you, it might be filling out a contact form, signing up for an email newsletter or picking up the phone and calling you. It all depends on who you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to achieve.

Find your reader’s pain. Understand it. Plot their next action. Reap the benefits. Do you know your audience? If not, you’re wasting your time.