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Friday Philosophy – Know Your Audience May 7, 2015

Posted by mwidlake in Blogging, Friday Philosophy, Presenting, publications.
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There are some things that are critical for businesses that can be hidden or of little concern to those of us doing a technical job. One of those is knowing who your customers are. It is vital to businesses to know who is buying their products or services. Knowing who is not and never will buy their products is also important (don’t target the uninterested) and knowing and who is not currently buying and might is often sold as the key to ever growing market share and profit. But fundamentally, they need to know who the current customers are, so they can be looked after {I know, some businesses are shocking to current customers, never understood that}.

This should also be a concern to me.

Why? Well, I “sell” something. I don’t charge for it, but I put out my blogs and my tweets and my presentations. I’ve even stepped up to articles. So I am putting a product out there and I want people to use it. Any of us who blog, tweet, facebook or in some way communicate information are fundamentally trying to talk to people. It’s fine to just put stuff out there and see who comes, but if I am doing this in order to reach an audience, well, who is my audience?

I know who my audience is. I’m British. I live in the UK, 75% of my presentations are in the UK, 95% of my work has been in the UK. I drink tea as a hobbie, queue as only the British know how, want my ale at room temperature and I am self-deprecating in my humour. At least, I’d like to think I am, but please forgive me if I fall short of your expectations.

My Audience is UK:

Who comes looking from where

Who comes looking from where

My Audience is American.

Dang!

As you can see from the above, my reasonable assumption was wrong. Those are stats I pulled from my blog about visits by country for a recent period. Most of my audience is in the US. For this particular period the UK is my second highest audience and India is third, but I dug in a little more and at times my Indian audience is higher than my UK audience.

Other countries move up and down but the above graphic is representative – European counties, Canada, South America and Australia all are prominent areas for me, and South Korea – big technology country, South Korea, so I should expect a reasonable showing from there. However, I’ll just let you know that last year (different graph, I hasten to point out) I had only 1 visitor from the Vatican, Vanuatu and Jersey (part of the UK!) each. I’m a bit gutted about Jersey, having worked there once, but the Vatican? Does the Pope need a VLDB?

I have noticed a spike of interest in a given month by a country if I go and present there, but it does not last for long.

What about my Tweet world? The below shows where my followers are from:

Peeps wot Tweets

Peeps wot Tweets

It is nice that this graph emphasises that “others” outside the top 10 are larger source of audience tham any individual country, but it shows a similar pattern to my blog. I’m mostly talking to my American cousins, the home crowd and our friends over in India. I suppose if you think about the number of people working in IT (and, to a lesser extent, just simply living) in countries across the global, the numbers make a lot of sense. If I was doing this analysis on a database of the raw data I’d now be correlating for population size and trying think of a proxy I could use for “IT Aware”.

So now I know who my audience is. Does this mean I should alter the tone of my posts to be more American or International, or is the British flavour of my erudite utterances part of the appeal?

I have noticed one change in my output over that last year or so, as I have become more aware of the geographical spread of my audience. I tend to explain what I recognise as odd phrases (above paragraph allowing) or UK-centric references a little more. And I try to allow for the fact that not everyone visiting my blog speaks English as a first language. But in the end, I have to use the only language I know. However, I don’t think I appreciate well when I am using colloquial phrases or referencing UK-centric culture. I’ll try harder.

One thing I do resist is WordPress trying to auto-correct my spelling to US – despite the fact that the app knows I am in the UK. Maybe I should spend some time trying to see if I can force the use of a UK dictionary on it? I won’t accept corrections to US spelling because, damn it all chaps, English came from this island and I refuse to use a ‘Z’ where it does not belong or drop a ‘u’ where it damned well should be! And pants are underwear, not trousers, you foolish people.

There is another aspect of my blog posts that I find interesting, and it is not about where my audience is – it is about the longevity of posts. Technical posts have a longer shelf life. My top posts are about oddities of the Oracle RDBMS, constantly being found by Google when people are looking at problems. A couple of the highest hitters I put up in 2009 when almost no one came by to look. However, my “Friday Philosophies” hit higher in the popularity stakes when first published but, a month later, no one looks at them anymore. Stuff about user groups and soft skills fall between the two. Some of my early, non technical posts just drifted into the desert with hardly any notice. Sadly, I think a couple of them are the best things I have ever said. Maybe I should republish them?

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Comments»

1. Neil Chandler - May 7, 2015

To focus on the important, I’m from the North East of England, and pants are trousers (or underwear)

My blogs country stats are (in order) USA, India, UK, Germany, France, Brazil… go figure.

2. Paul Matuszyk - May 7, 2015

Hi Martin
Nice comments but you can have audience from US because of companies going through proxy in different countries (I work for two companies in UK but the proxy server – Internet gateway – was in US). I am not sure if this case can change stats much but definitively it happens.
I have my websites which I maintain and they are in Polish (useless for most of you unless you use Google Translate). I can see traffic from all over the world but some of them are bots. See the stats for May:
Austria
com
net
pl
br Brazil
in India

mwidlake - May 7, 2015

Thanks for that Paul. I know some of the figures will be wrong because of the reason you say – I figure that proxy servers might tip the balance slightly towards the US, UK, maybe South Korea and perhaps even some European countries with good IT infrastructure and an outsourcing industry like Bulgaria and Hungary?

But I suspect that over all the figures are reasonably indicative.

One thing I totally over-looked of course was the impact your language can have on your visitors. Nice point.

3. lotharflatz - May 7, 2015

I opt that relative to population Switzerland is your biggest audiance. (Because I live there.)

mwidlake - May 7, 2015

1.4% of my traffic shows as being from Switzerland, as opposed to 30% from the US.
Swiss population 8.2 (just less than London, at 8.6M!),US population approx 320M,
so yes, Swizerland is punching above it’s weight, by about 80%.

4. Debra Lilley - May 7, 2015

My 3rd country is France! Not sure why. Why not use twitter to direct your followers to old but yet still relevant content

mwidlake - May 7, 2015

I’ve thought about tweeting the older ones but I find those who constantly do that a little tiring! Maybe I should try one a week though?
So where is Ireland on your list Debra?

5. jgarry - May 7, 2015

Over the long term, blog posts are a one-way medium, as opposed to fresh posts, which invite response. So for the long term, write what you would want to read.

I think much of the “advice” out there about blogging is focused on the short-term, telling things like “post often” and “use this format to engage your readers.” So that’s marketing. The best technical posts aren’t marketing. You don’t need to sell anything to those who are already interested. Those people may be dispersed in time.

Remember the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the computer takes over the synthesizer keyboard from the fellow communicating in music with the mother ship? The mother ship quickly lost interest. That’s how I view both automated tweets of historical posts (the chance is low that it will be something I’m interested in), and blogs that merely repeat what other blogs or publications say. The “Top Ten Features Of 12c” can get stale real quick. Old posts that have current meaning, sure, tweet those, the manual evaluation of appropriateness is key.

Keep up the Briticism, it adds flavor. Don’t bother to explain unless people ask or seem confused (or of course, if it is what you are writing about – that’s an aspect of what people like about Kelloggsville’s posts, I think, I know I do).

mwidlake - May 7, 2015

Thanks for that Joel and especially for the Briticism list – I really enjoyed that.


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