Experts always say to write as though writing for one specific person. Here’s my beef with that and a few thoughts on how to write for your audience.
Last year I wrote about making my own laundry soap. The recipe used essential oils, so the essential oils crowd passed it around a lot on Pinterest. That crowd, if I’m imagining it as a singular person, is a woman in her early thirties who has a brood of kids and is financially savvy and concerned about natural health.
I had a roller derby game that same week and my teammate’s husband ran up to me and said, “I made your laundry detergent!”
Let me describe him: He is in his forties and has a long, silver ponytail. He loves to grill meat in the driveway while drinking beer. His wife’s skater name is Becky Booty, so he is Mr. Booty.
Mr. Booty is not the essential oils crowd. He is the last person I thought would be reading my blog, much less making recipe from it. Mr. Booty is my problem with the audience of one. People are often more surprising and complex than we imagine. Reducing our audience to one single, specific person named Nancy can make humankind very two-dimensional.
I do not mean that you should wholly discard the idea of writing for a specific person. Rather, let me suggest an addendum. Rather than thinking of a singular person who fits into specific categories, think of a specific need. A need that YOU, specifically, can meet with your writing, art, product, or services.
Perhaps that need is for laundry detergent. Or encouragement. Or a page-turning suspense novel for a week’s vacation. What does your audience need from YOU? Do think about a specific audience, but realize people are complicated. There will always be a Mr. Booty (or twenty) in the crowd. Write for a specific need.
Do you write for an audience of one? Or do you write for a particular need? Let’s discussed like civilized folks in the comments.
Or…ignore me. These people say you should.
(Even Kurt Vonnegut disagrees with me. Not a good sign.)
How to Define Your Target Audience by QuickSprout
How to Write for Your Intended Audience by CoSchedule
How to Write Copy That Goes Viral by Seth Godin
(Shoot, if Seth Godin says write for one person…But I’m not sure we are totally at odds.)
Cathy Lawdanski says
Kirsten, here I am only 1/2 way through my first cup of coffee & I was thinking along those same lines when I came across this post in my Twitter feed. My target audience is women over 50. So I am thinking content & contemplating posting a recipe. Then I thought about some women my age that don’t want to cook anymore. But a lot of them love cooking. I can’t pigeon-hole my audience into one woman, age 57 with only these particular interests. Since I am new, I know that as I go through the process, I’ll find out the topics that MOST of my audience is MOST interested in. But for now, I am steering away from the audience of one.