Successful web Series creators and filmmakers know exactly who their audience is. It’s not a vague concept to them and they never try to simply appeal to everyone. Simply, they know their niche. They know what kind of content to create that will get the most impact and audience engagement.
Internet user psychology is not a new science anymore. Facebook, for instance, knows 30 days before you do that your significant other is going to leave you. Not joking. But the average creator doesn’t have the far-reaching meta-data that large social networks and content platforms have, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have some pretty serious and effective tools at their disposal… and they’re all free.
What the science tells us is that people use the internet as a problem-solving tool. Doesn’t matter if it’s solving the problem of which ballpoint pen to buy or finding meaningful companionship, the internet is the place where that happens. People are looking to exchange uncertainty for hope and security.
"…people engage with content from an emotional place, not from a cerebral one."
Same goes for which content they are drawn to. People who watch escapist fair like light comedy are literally saying they want to escape. But escape from what? Usually its the grind of their job or raising kids, dealing with complicated social situations, so they seek out content that will provide them that escape. People who are drawn to political documentaries want their outrage contextualized and are seeking to make sense of the madness that can be inherent in political landscapes. Again, exchanging pain for relief. Simply put, people engage with content from an emotional place, not from a cerebral one.
So, ask yourself, “What is my audience’s pain-point”? Where are they stuck and how does my content serve to relieve that pain”?
Knowing your audience pain-point is critical to growing your online content business…Period. It’s not enough to read a few articles or blogs about the audience you want to target and say you know them. You have to immerse yourself into who they really are. What is their occupation? What do they read? What sites do they contribute to? What are they saying and complaining about on social media? It’s about researching what they want and what problems they’re having getting there. You literally need to find out what keeps them up at night. Why are they stuck where they are? Once you begin to see a pattern and you know what problems they are experiencing, that is where you begin formulating your solutions for them. Your content is based on being the solution to their problem(s).
"…They biologically remake your content with them in it."
I recently had a client who I was helping map an audience around content that dealt with the theme of loneliness. So, we started looking at places where people who wanted relief from loneliness hung out online and WOW, the results were staggering. Believe it or not, a TON of her audience came from meditation blogs and online communities. After all, people don’t take up meditation because their life is going swimmingly. Self-empowerment Facebook groups also proved to be a great place for her to publish content that led that audience to her web series. People actually see themselves in your content. They biologically remake your content with them in it. If your hero misses the bus, they miss the bus.
Below are 5 audience mapping tactics that will help you find out exactly who your audience is and where they hang out.
GOOGLE SEARCH? Maybe: Most people go to Google and type in “Top 10 blogs about (insert your topic here)”. Sure, this can yield a few results and feel free to do that. But it shouldn’t be your only tool for finding your target audience, in fact, sometimes it can do more harm than good as it can lead to a very general search which yields thin results. But do look at the top results as that means it’s a trafficked site and people are bound to be engaging there. Which leads to the next (and very effective) audience mapping tool.
BLOG COMMENT SECTION: One of the best Hacks I ever learned when I was starting this site was to type my persona’s problem into a search engine. You’ll be amazed at what you get back.
Let’s step outside the entertainment industry for a second just to give broader context. So maybe someone is starting a fitness content site that helps moms who just had babies lose weight. They might type in “I’m really self-conscious and I don’t know if I’d be comfortable at my local gym”. Or maybe they’re teaching people how to write better copy for their own websites, they might try, “I don’t think I’m a very good writer and I can’t afford to hire someone to do it for me”. Often, this type of search tactic will lead them to comment sections of blogs or publications. These areas are gold mines for discovering where the audience is around your topic. If somebody takes the time to write something in the comment section of a blogger’s website, often they are looking for a solution to their problem. These are great places to see what is making your audience sweat/stay up at night. Don’t forget, people who are complaining are really masking the fact that they have a particular pain point they want relieved. This is the basis for everything you are about to undertake as a creator.
AMAZON USER REVIEWS: Read Amazon book review comments. Find books on your topic (your audience’s problem) and you’ll be surprised at how many people reveal themselves in this space. If your web series is about an Introverted professional struggling to find love, there are hundreds of books on that real-world problem and in those comments, your audience is telling the world their problem. Pay attention when someone writes, “I’m having trouble with X” or “I’m struggling with Y”. Those are your buzz words that literally are revealing that person’s pain. So, start with the top five or ten books in your topic and use that as your jumping off point. You can always dive back in whenever you’re looking for further insight.
REDDIT & QUORA: Reddit & Quora will have hundreds of threads on your topic. Same thing, people are revealing themselves like crazy on these sites. However, don’t get pulled down the rabbit hole. Stick to the most trafficked threads. But remember, look for those pain points and buzzwords. People take action around their struggles because they want relief from it and your content can be that balm.
INTERVIEWING REAL PEOPLE: By interviewing real people and asking them open-ended questions, you’ll be amazed at how much they will tell you. Not because they’re lonely shut-ins, but because few people get asked about themselves. Let’s say you’re doing a workplace drama. You might ask them, “What’s your relationship with your co-workers like?” Believe me, they’ll tell you and quite quickly, they land on their problems.
When your content becomes a solution in people’s lives, they engage and share your content exponentially.
In the end, people who connect with your content on an emotional level are more likely to become long-term fans because of that emotional connection. They may not know why, but your content has become a solution to their problem. That problem that gnaws at them quietly every day and that problem they have been searching to find relief from for a long time. This is when they pay you with their time because your content has just become medicine. Once you REALLY get to know your audience, you can start tailoring your new content to serve their need for relief and inspiration. When your content becomes a solution in people’s lives, they engage and share your content exponentially.
Alex LeMay is a Producer and Director from Los Angeles, California. He creates and produces web series for Universal Studios, YouTube Red, Maker, Go90, Air + Style and more. His latest project has him producing/directing the thriller web series DARK JOEY with Jim Uhls, writer of the cult movie classic, FIGHT CLUB. In addition, Alex runs WEB SERIES CREATOR ACADEMY, which helps working filmmakers build six and seven figure original content businesses.