The goal for this week of our self-guided Introduction to Outreach class is to identify your audience and begin to establish a relationship with that audience. We’re going to use Twitter this week to do a little bit of “market research,” which is a useful technique to understand a target audience. Our version of this is to observe the conversations that people in and related to our audience are having.
Finding Your Audience on Twitter
Find at least 10 people in your audience who are on Twitter. Those people should be tweeting regularly (inactive accounts or people who tweet once a month won’t be very useful).
How do you find people on Twitter who are in your specific audience? There are multiple ways:
- Is there a prominent person who is part of, connected to, or popular with your audience? If so, search to see if that person is on Twitter (hit the Search icon in Tweetdeck that looks like a magnifying glass that you used before to search for #SciFund).
- Search for keywords on Twitter that might be associated with or used by your audience. For example, say you are a tropical ecologist and want to connect with coffee drinkers interested in the biodiversity potential of tropical coffee farms. You might search for terms like “organic coffee”. Heck, a search for “Starbucks” might lead you to some very interesting people. Note that Tweetdeck has many search options. For example, as you can see in the image below, you can search for either tweets or user names that use your search terms. The “content”, “users”, and “engagement” options also listed on the same screen give you still more search options.
- Once you have found a person who seems to be in your target group, check to see who that person follows and who follows that person (see image below). Many of those people may well also be in your target group.
- When reading the tweets of a person in your audience, do particular hashtags seem to pop up frequently? If so, search in Twitter for those hashtags – they could lead you to yet more people in your target audience.
- After all this, are you still having trouble finding people in your audience? The problem could well be that you have not defined your audience properly. Perhaps you defined your audience too narrowly. Perhaps, what seemed at first glance to be a cohesive audience actually describes a set of people who have very little in common (and are consequently hard to search for).
For each person that you identify as an interest, be sure to follow them or write their name/username down. Congratulations! You now have a window into the minds of your audience. Now let’s discover what your audience cares about right now.
Adding Your Audience Members to a Twitter List
The goal now is to get your 10 or more Twitter audience members in one place, so that you can easily keep track of what your audience is thinking. The ideal way to do this is via a Twitter list, which is a set of others’ Twitter accounts. Anyone can create a Twitter list and you can add anyone you like to any list. You don’t have to follow or be followed by anyone that you put on a list. The value of a list is that it allows you to group together tweets of a particular set of people or on a particular topic. If you group all of your audience members into a single list, you’ll have one place where you can keep a finger on the pulse of your audience.
There are two kinds of Twitter lists: public and private. With public lists, the people who you add are notified; additionally, anyone can see it and subscribe to your list (as it’s public). With private lists, no notifications are sent out and no one other than you can see it or subscribe. Though there are advantages to using either kind of list, we suggest you use a private list for this exercise. It will allow you to do your initial experimentation out of the public eye.
How do you create a Twitter list? In Tweetdeck, there is a “+” icon at the bottom of the leftmost column (1 in the image below). Hit “Lists” (2 in the image below).
In the box that comes up (below), you have the option of either a public or private list.
In this last box, you can add the Twitter users that you found to your new list. Just search for the users (you can use their real names or their usernames) and add them to your list.
Listening to your audience
Now that you have put your audience together, the next step is to listen to what they have to say. Read through the tweets of your audience to get a sense of the issues that they are tweeting about right now. How many tweets should you read through? You can stop when you feel you have something of a pulse for the current frame of mind for your audience. Pay particularly close attention to anything that surprises you about your audience Keep checking in with your audience from time to time over the week! The issues your audience tweet about (and therefore care about) may change and you want to have a feel for that change.
Lastly – and this is most important – start thinking of how you might connect your science message to the current concerns of your audience.