You need it. You know you do. Audience research is a vital part of any project, but sometimes people are quick to cut it. “We know our audiences well enough,” they say. “We don’t have time!” But is that true?No! Of course not! If we knew what audiences wanted, we’d have an excess of donations, volunteers, members, newsletter subscribers, report readers, and we wouldn’t be having conversations about how to increase awareness or get audiences to act.
Why you need audience researchAt a minimum, you should be conducting audience research on a yearly basis. There are a few big reasons that stand out:
- The technology landscape is changing rapidly and your communications needs to adapt with it.
- Different audiences have different priorities. Baby boomers obviously have different needs and priorities than Gen Z. Your messaging and language needs to reflect that.
- You don’t know how your audiences will respond. You can form a hypothesis. Audience research helps you mitigate risk and test out your hypothesis before you spend money on your solution.
Three audience research methods that match your needsI’m glad you’re on board! Here are three lean audience research methods that any nonprofit can use. Each of these approaches take anywhere from 5-20 hours of your time. Of course, you could always spend more time, but it’s not required. You may find value in one type, or all three. The main thing to keep in mind going in, is what are you hoping to achieve from the results?
Audience Research Type #1: Social Media ListeningWhat is your audience saying? Social media listening (or monitoring) means going to social media sites and listening to what people are saying about your brand, your organization, or a topic. Why is social media listening valuable?
- You see the language and keywords that your audiences are using.
- You see sample messaging from your comparators or competitors.
- You uncover pain points or common questions your audiences have about a topic your organization cares about
- Your language should match your audience’s to improve your SEO.
- If your audiences are going to Quora or Reddit and asking questions, consider crafting website content that address those questions.
Audience Research Type #2: A SurveyA survey is a predetermined set of questions sent to a segment of people to get feedback. Why is conducting a survey valuable?
- Easy to scale. Need to get responses from hundreds of people? Start with a survey.
- Easy to distribute, whether their paper surveys or online surveys it’s pretty easy to get them in front of many people.
- Great for measurement. Surveys are excellent when you need quantitative data, particularly demographic information.
- Anonymous responses. This allows people to speak freely, without judgement.
- To ensure a high response rate, keep the survey short (5-10 questions max). Keep Online Surveys Short
- Limit open-ended questions. People tire of them quickly. 28 Tips for Creating Great Qualitative Surveys
Audience Research Type #3: An InterviewAn interview is a one-on-one conversation, where the facilitator asks the participant questions and explores a topic in depth. This really digs into ‘why’ a person feels a certain way. Why is conducting an interview valuable?
- It gives you more flexibility. Interviews allow you to ask follow-up questions and rephrase questions if people don’t understand them the first time.
- It uncovers attitudes and motivations. Interviews allow you to explore general attitudes and hear why people make specific choices and what influenced their decision (ex. What made them decide to donate?).
- Record your conversation so you’re not frantically taking notes. Or invite a note-taker to join the call. But not matter what, make sure you get the exact quotes from your participants. This will be invaluable later when you’re taking this back to your team.
- Don’t ask leading questions. Some of my favorite generic, non-leading questions are: ‘What are your impressions?’ and ‘What else?’
- Have the participant focus on what’s happening right now. It’s difficult for people to recall what has happened in the past or what they might do in the future.
Now what?Conduct your research, synthesize it, look for patterns, and triangulate! You won’t get a full picture with just one type of audience research. Make sure you share these results with your team. The valuable research you just conducted should help your team refine your strategy and tactics!
See you at #19NTC!You can get more communications tips and tools at my session on Wednesday, March 13th at #19NTC called The Ultimate Communications Toolkit – Tried and True Resources Everyone Can Use. Or visit the Forum One Booth #511 in the Exhibition Hall!
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