Visibility is what too many organizations lack to be the best they can be and receive funding. Appeal, reach, storytelling, donor retention—none can grow without visibility. Here are some fundamentals to boosting your organization’s visibility online.
Visibility begins with your audience. You may think, “I (already) know our audience. They’re the people who donate to us.” Or “They’re the people we want to donate to us. Or “They’re the people who live in [area].” Or “They’re the people who want to see every child start the day with a hot meal ... Yellowstone National Park with no pollution at all and all the foxes and bison roaming freely ... job training for the homeless.”
If you’re thinking any of these things, you need to remember: People who don’t know that your organization exists aren’t going to become your new supporters. Someone 1) you’re right in front of who listens to your story, 2) has donated to your organization and was pleased to know his or her gift made a difference, or 3) who is inspired by your mission is definitely more likely to become your next donor, volunteer, or, long-term constituent.
Today there are many opportunities to know more about your audience. “Knowing your audience” really means understanding it. Here are four steps to help you achieve that goal.
Start by answering this one important question: “Who are you trying to reach?” “Everyone” is not the correct answer–you’ll never get “everyone” to do or read something or stay interested in what you have to say. Even the largest brands—Microsoft, the NFL, and governments—can’t keep the attention of and satisfy everyone.
Focus instead on segments of society. Your answers can be a bit creative, especially if you’re just beginning to boost your visibility, although they should always fall into a cookie-cutter form. Something along the lines of “19- through 35-year-olds who care for the environment,” “People over 30 with high school diplomas who are sentimentally bound to the community and would like to see it improved,” or “People in their late 20s and above, college educated, who want to help people do well in life or in general” are good answers.
As you start to define your audience, it’s normal—even recommendable— for you to include your own segment. It’s easiest to be successful among your own segment than among people who are less like you.
After you decide who your audience will be, label it as “target audience” or “specific audience.” Note any differences between generations to refer to later.
When you go out and about, observe and listen to your audience. They’ll practically tell you what they’re interested in, what they think of, what irritates them, what they like, etc. Listening works best when they’re with friends. They’ll give you themselves if you’re willing to listen. Talk to them if you like.
You can also follow the people who follow you on social media. Analyze them to understand why they do certain things, such as post status updates or tweets daily, share random posts, and like the celebrities they like. Take note of their attitudes, characters, etc.
Next, take time to understand their lifestyles. Learn whether many of your audience have kids, what portion is working or unemployed, and other things about them. These pieces of information matter. You’ll use them later to refine your communications.
Keep an eye on where your audience members are. Analyze where your reach has expanded to and how successful your visibility and efforts are in various locations. If you’re more successful at one location than another, you may eventually want to look into why those people are on board and try to replicate that success in other areas.
Over time, you should see consistency. Those consistencies can help you catch and appeal to your audiences if you use them well. Use them as an audience member, especially a sociable, likable, center-of-the-crowd character who likes to be in front of the show and is darn good at it. Doing so will help you overcome social barriers and processes, make relationships, and create interest and impact.
Before you interact with your audience, create personas for them. Personas are fictional characters representing members of your audience. Storybook and cartoon characters are excellent examples of personas—understandable, fake characters who represent humanity. As you create personas, give them names, backgrounds, jobs, hobbies, characteristics, favorite and frequent daily activities, the causes they support, why they do or don’t contribute to nonprofits, etc. The more realistic you can make your personas, the more you can prepare messages for your audience with foreseeable results. Personas can also reveal mistakes ahead of time, especially if you’re working as a team to brainstorm personas, which is recommended. A team member may identify “Courtney” as someone who may not go to a Lady Gaga concert because she prefers country music.
The last step to maximizing your visibility is to craft messages suited for your audience and then reach them. Timing and location—or media method—should be determined according to audience members' lifestyles. People who attend events should be introduced to your brand via events. Individuals who watch the news regularly should learn about you while the news is on air. Tailoring messages and delivery will increase your reception. Just make sure the messages are what you want the audience to receive.