Finding Your Audience Online

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This short webinar explains how to find your audience online using tools like Google Alerts, Twitter and reverse link searching.

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  • Thanks so much for joining me today. For those of you who don’t know much about IssueLab, we are an open access archive and publishing forum for nonprofit research. Our mission is to help nonprofits and foundations more effectively gather and share their knowledge. And so you can imagine that we spend a lot of time looking for audiences who might be interested in the valuable knowledge we collect. But before we get into the nitty gritty of finding your audience online I just want to offer some bigger context for this work. Online dissemination does not replace traditional outreach. But it does complement it and most importantly, extend the existing outreach you do offline. Because information is increasingly shared through decentralized information networks you simply cannot expect people to come to you for information. With limited time on their hands and an enormous amount of content to sift through people use the information that is most readily available to them and that comes through local networks and familiar online spaces they can trust. So it’s to our benefit to find them, where they are already talking about our issues. Your audience will not find you. Directly related to this is the fact that we are less and less reliant on traditional media channels for information, and with shrinking newsrooms they are less and less apt to cover issues that matter to us. But fear not, the current online environment doesn’t just require that we find our audience and bring content to them, it also offers new tools and opportunities for reaching folks in ways we have never been able to before. As communications professionals, I don’t need to tell you the importance of both knowing who your audience is and establishing clear goals for your outreach efforts. Ideally these two things are decided at the outset of the research project, not just at the outset of your communications campaign. I am not just saying this because its good communications practice. I am reminding you of this because it is a critical first step in finding your audience online.
  • The more clearly defined and niche your audience is, the more successful you will be in finding them online. There are a few watering holes where social networks cross paths, like Huffington Post. But not only are these the toughest and most expensive spaces to get coverage in they also don’t make a lot of sense if your report doesn’t bridge the interests of several communities or your goals don’t include reaching people at the intersections of issues. For better or worse most social networks are engaged in conversations with themselves and people like themselves. So the more precise you can be about defining your audience, the better. You can still reach out to a lot of people but you do it through reaching several of the right crowds rather than trying to reach one perfect crowd. When you establish goals think about who you want to reach not how many people you want to reach.
  • Once you have established your target audience and your goals, how do you find your audience online? 1) Brainstorm Keywords related to the key issues in your report. These can be very specific or quite broad. For a project we did last fall on the issue of voting rights one of our goals was to interject questions about voting rights into the larger discussion of the campaign. So we hit a wide swath of keywords when searching for online groups and communities where those discussions might be happening. But since the media was so filled with election chatter we picked a more targeted set of keywords when searching for bloggers and online journalists. Otherwise we would have had way too broad of a target. Our narrower search included terms like disenfranchisement, ballots, voting rights, and fair elections, but when looking for groups and discussions we expanded our terms to also include: campaigns, politics, and democracy. One of the challenges in using keywords in finding your audience is to come up with terms that reflect the way that people different than yourself are talking about these issues. So for instance we might use the term home schooling whereas some home schoolers might use the term unschooling instead. Unless you make the effort to first LISTEN to the conversations you want to be a part of and to think about alternative keywords, you might continually miss an important segment of your audience.
  • An additional way to find alternative keywords is through using the keyword tool in Google AdWords. https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
  • You can see here how Google provides alternative keyword suggestions. In this case I was looking for disenfrachisement and found Diebold. I wouldn’t have thought of this on my own, but it makes sense. People who are discussing voting technologies are one of my key audiences and they may not always be discussing the topic in terms of the more politicized keyword disenfranchisement.
  • LISTEN to the conversation you want to join by signing up for Google Alerts based on your most popular related keywords and key phrases. Do this a few weeks or even months before you start your outreach and keep these alerts coming after the release too. Sometimes the perfect moment for you to insert yourself into a conversation arises after your “campaign” is over.
  • Just do a search in google news and when you get the results click on “Create and email alert for disenfranchisement” at the bottom of the page. Include news and blogs. In this way you can begin to organically track where those conversations are happening. And we have found that we get better placement with bloggers by following up on a recent post rather than only emailing them because they have covered a similar topic in the past. AT THE SAME TIME Begin to proactively search for where audiences and discussions are through the use of specialized search engines.
  • Use Twitter search hashtags related to your keywords and then subscribe to feeds of those results.
  • Use Twitter to search for keywords in posts. Look at who is following the people who are influential in order begin to build a picture of the discussion and follow it. Many people who tweet also list their blog in their profile, try reaching them from both directions.
  • Use Twellow to search for keywords in Twitter profiles.
  • Use a service like twitalyzer to understand which individuals will help you reach your audience. The number of followers an individual has is just one measure of influence and can be misleading in judging their level of influence. Someone with a high ranking in twitalyzer may not have many followers but is an active tweeter whose tweets get retweeted by the very people you are trying to reach.
  • Use Technorati to identify bloggers who speak to your audience and to get blogger authority rankings. AllTop is another great way to search for really active sites and blogs that provide feeds. You can see how important it is that the keywords you have chosen at the beginning of this process are the right ones. Much of this work depends on those initial key phrases and how audiences use them in their own conversations. Increasingly we are also seeing the emergence of social media aggregators such as Social Mention, Whostalkin, or Addictomatic. These are a useful way to track the use of keywords across many channels. In addition, you can look for your audience in the following places: Google Groups Yahoo Groups Listservs – don’t forget these, especially for specific groups that are organized in smaller and less public ways. Social Networks, with disciplined attention to which are the most appropriate for your audience? Gather, Facebook, Ning?
  • Another tool you can use to find your audience is r everse link searching. See who is linking to some of the bigger articles, papers, or blog posts on the topic by searching link:http://example.com in google or Yahoo (personally I prefer the way that Yahoo shows results for this.) You can see here that I searched on who was linking to a prominent report on a topic related to the work I was trying to disseminate. By looking at who linked to this report I get a short list of people who might also be interested in reading and linking to my report. This last technique can also reveal another important audience, which is other nonprofits who work on these same issues but maybe don’t produce research. Finally, finding your audience sometimes requires a little bit of old fashioned data mining. On several projects we have done a lot of outreach to specific professional communities such as corporate social responsibility officers or reproductive health educators by culling through the online staff directories of major corporations or the websites of state school boards. This requires a bit of leg-work but it’s a very targeted audience. While you are doing all this work be sure to keep a detailed list of the influencers within each channel and make notes about what the local protocol is. You don’t want to have to go back to every site to do this and the tone and content of your outreach will depend on the local protocol and culture of each of these online spaces. So when you find your audience do yourself a favor and make some notes about why this audience seems right and how you might want to approach them.
  • To wrap up I just want to quickly remind you of how IssueLab can help with your dissemination efforts: 1. List your research with IssueLab. Its free. 2. Partner with IssueLab to keep us updated about your research. When you create a contributor account on IssueLab you will see the option to partner. 3. Get in touch with us about our custom services , helping you to map your social media landscape. 4. Please consider releasing your research under an open license . Doing so is not only a contribution to the public pool of knowledge but it also empowers your audience to share your work more easily while also allowing you to ask for and track attribution.
  • Finding Your Audience Online

    1. 1. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Gabriela Fitz Co-Director, IssueLab [email_address] Finding Your Audience Online
    2. 2. bringing nonprofit research into focus Image provided under a CC license by Glenn Zucman IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    3. 3. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    4. 4. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    5. 5. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    6. 6. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    7. 7. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    8. 8. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    9. 9. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    10. 10. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    11. 11. bringing nonprofit research into focus The Twitalyzer solution is our measure of "influence in Twitter" calculated based on: Your relative reach in Twitter, measured by the number of followers you have . Your relative authority , measured by the number of times you are "retweeted” Your relative generosity , measured by the number of times you "retweet" others Your relative clout , measured by the number of times you are referenced by others Your relative velocity , measured by the number of updates you publish over a seven day period. IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    12. 12. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    13. 13. bringing nonprofit research into focus IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    14. 14. bringing nonprofit research into focus How IssueLab can support dissemination efforts 1. List your research with IssueLab. Its free. 2. Partner with IssueLab to keep us updated about your research. When you create a contributor account on IssueLab you will see the option to partner. 3. Get in touch with us about our custom services , helping you to map your social media landscape. 4. Consider releasing your research under an open license . IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online
    15. 15. bringing nonprofit research into focus Gabriela Fitz Co-Director, IssueLab [email_address] 773-649-1790 Twitter: @issuelab Facebook: www.facebook.com/issuelab Blog: http://issuelabfootnotes.blogspot.com/ IssueLab Finding Your Audience Online

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