When you write and post your content, do you know who you’re talking to? And no, “everyone”, is not an acceptable answer.

In order to represent yourself and your brand, you need to have a good idea of who your audience is (and also who it is not). You need to connect with the right people, in the right way, using the right tools.

Branding depends on understanding your audience. You have a very specific target market of people who will most closely connect with you and your work. These people share your ideas, your way of speaking, and often many of your interests. Having a target audience allows you to focus your efforts and your message, and consistently connect with the people who will gain the most from your work. It can be a bit challenging trying to find this perfect audience, but once you do, you will have a clear idea of how to best connect with them.

In order to understand your audience, you can often look to people who are already connected to and enjoy your work:

  • Do you have a blog with subscribers?
  • A social media account with followers?
  • Friends that want to read what you have to say?
  • Customers of an already existing business?

Any of these groups can form the foundation for your audience. Looking to these groups for clues can help you form an overall picture of your target market.

So how do you process the clues that you find? And what do you do once you understand who you’re targeting?

Watch the conversations

The first step is to listen. See what people in your networks are already talking about. Do they all tweet about last night’s episode of Dr. Who? Are they World Cup fanatics? Does everyone seem to have an obsession with dark chocolate brownies? These are all clues that will give you an idea what your audience cares about.

You should also look at how your audience is speaking – the language used, the level of humor, the tone, formality, and any special expressions that are often used among this group. These language clues will tell you how your audience will like to be spoken to, and help you to craft effective content and messaging.

Create personas

Once you have listened for a while, you will start to see some similarities, and notice patterns. This is where the fun part comes in. These patterns can be used to create three to five “ideal target customers”. These are not vague sketches. Instead, you will create three to five fictional people who embody the characteristics of your audience. These are characters that should be as fully fleshed out as the characters on your favorite TV show or in your favorite book.

For each target customer you should briefly summarize her demographics (age, nationality, location, gender, etc.), personality, interests, hobbies, and goals. Think about how and where this person shops, where she hangs out (online and off), where she is in life, and what she cares about. Get a really good idea of this person, as if she were actually real. The better you know each character you create, the better you will understand how to connect with her.

Connect

Armed with your ideal target customers, start to think about having conversations. If you were talking to these people that you have created, what would you say? Where would you connect with them? What type of language would you use? How could you help them? How would you convince them to try your product, hire you, or read your work? This is where all of your research comes in. You know these characters really well at this point, so you should understand what motivates them and causes them to act.

Branding doesn’t have to feel like a corporate endeavor. Through thinking about individual members of your audience and searching for clues and patterns, you can begin to craft a plan that includes genuine human connections. While daydreaming about your ideal customers may not feel like work, it will help you to craft your brand strategy and connect with your audience in an authentic way. Go forth and connect!

Have you crafted personas for your target market before? Has it helped you to understand your brand? Let us know in the comments!

Laura Fredericks is the founder and CEO of Describli (http://describli.com), a new community helping authors connect with their audiences through writing prompts, games, and analytics. She is passionate about helping writers connect in genuine and meaningful ways. You can connect with her on Twitter @describli or at http://facebook.com/describli. If you’d like to be part of the private Describli beta (and skip the line!) you can email beta@describli.com with the code #WHISPERER.