C.  Defining Audiences And Targeting Information On The Web

Let's take a look at some traditional communication methods to learn more about defining and targeting. These are important steps in any type of communication and vitally important on the Internet because any person accessing the network is a potential audience member.

Internet users must initiate the communication activity by visiting our Web site and joining our communication efforts. In a way we are in a receptive position in this type of communication, and the only way we can initiate it is to attract customers or other interested parties. The end users can and will choose to communicate based on their needs. Our strongest method in this process is the development of engaging content for the end user.

But to do so we must first know who it is we wish to communicate with. Defining our prospective audience involves looking at our current customers, if possible, and determining why they are our customers and how and what we communicate with them now. If we don't have a current communication model, we can develop a model for the end user we wish to engage. Deciding who we wish to communicate with is vital on the Internet.

Once we know who we are trying to interact with, we can then determine what we are trying to communicate about. Then we can target information and presentations in an appropriate manner. If we are trying to sell a particular product to a known audience, then we can build a Web site that provides the information and transaction systems to do so. If we know our audience is looking for detailed information, we can supply it.

This is true in any media, not just the Internet. The first question a writer, speaker, or producer asks is, "Who is the audience?" Everything else is based on this answer. Successful marketing and communication efforts are targeted at specific audiences. Television advertising campaigns are excellent examples, though these are general and very stereotypical. Daytime television shows carry ads for domestic products targeted at homemakers. Children's cartoon shows carry advertising for toys targeted at children. Sports programs generally carry ads for tools and trucks targeted at the generally male audiences of these programs. Television ads are very expensive to produce and distribute, so they must be used in appropriate media channels to justify their use. They are targeted at specific audiences by the programming they are run with.

Our favorite Web sites contain information and other presentations that are valuable to us for some reason. They engage us with their content and provide something that keeps us returning to their addresses. These Web sites have been targeted to specific audiences of which we are members.

On the Internet we must target information presentations to the audience we wish to reach. Doing so will attract and sustain communication with these audience members. With so many choices for communication available to the end user, it is very important that our Web sites and other efforts provide the information the audience is looking for. Serving the needs of the targeted audience is a primary goal in Internet communication and will result in positive communication for all parties.

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