Maybe it’s time to retire the phrase “target audience”

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

As we are targeting audiences, defining target customers and using similar kinds of terms, I wonder if those phrases will withstand the test of time.

Targeting somebody brings to mind an image of somebody with a target on their back. We are after you!

Now, don’t get me wrong here. A part of authentic storytelling and content marketing is to connect with the people who care about the content that’s produced and who would find it useful. Yes, we are more than happy to have them become customers, but at first, they are members of our community. They are our readers or (weak) connections on Twitter or another social media network.

They are part of our close or extended network of friends and acquaintances.

What if instead of targeting audiences, we think about building communities?

Some might argue that I’m splitting hairs here. What’s truly the difference? We are still going after people who might become customers. No, we are actually trying to build the most relevant connections that are mutually beneficial.

It’s about providing a value to our community, which we’ll have to build. Once we provide value in the form of knowledge, products, etc., our communities eventually provide value for us.

In a world of abundance where many things are becoming commodities, what will make brands stand out with their communities is their knowledge and reason for doing whatever they are doing.

As Simon Sinek has said, people buy why you do something and not what you do.

So sharing your knowledge and building a community helps you get there.

Some might say “But ‘target audience’ is just an internal term. We don’t call them that to their faces.”

And that might be true for many organizations, but we behave the way we talk and even think about people.

When we think about targeting audiences, that’s what we’ll do and how we’ll treat those people.

When we think about building relevant communities that are mutually beneficial, we’ll go after that. Here we treat people as community members.

With that I propose that we replace target audiences with maybe one of these options:

  • Topical community
  • Interest community
  • Relevant relationships

There certainly are other and maybe even better ideas. Feel free to send me your ideas here or Tweet at me here with them. I’ll consider add them here.