On Audience Development

It doesn’t come as a surprise to me when I get blank stares when I say, ‘I’m an Audience Development Manager,’ in response to questions about what I do to make a living.

Behind the nod and deer in headlights expression, I know exactly what people are thinking: ‘WTF is that.’

I’m not going to lie – I wish people just knew so we can move on to other, more pertinent subject matters. But truth is, there are not a lot of us who have this role and title; and even then, scope of work can vary.

Simply put, audience development is about attracting viewership. 10 months into the job, here are some nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned in the three key functions I serve:

On marketing: Clicks are for the shortsighted

There is an abundance of activity on the Internet across all devices and we are all competing for someone’s attention so we can serve them a product, service or brand message. Spending marketing budget buying traffic is a costly, short-term solution that promises little return. Conserve your efforts on counting clicks; instead focus on building loyalty by understanding and retaining your existing audience through data incurred.

Discover patterns and translate these into powerful stories that reinforce your brand and put you top of mind with the audiences. Clever marketing is no longer about expensive billboards, TV ads, SEM and click-bait headlines; it’s about identifying gaps and needs, and integrating your brand so you are in a strategic position that adds value to peoples’ lives. Ultimately, it is about building trust between you and your audiences. When there is trust, loyalty is formed, and your audiences naturally become authentic brand ambassadors that stand behind your brand and also encourage their network to follow suit.

On business development and partnerships: True value exchange is priceless

One thing I love about my job is creating various content sharing models that are unique to the partner, and exploring ways of working together. Working in Asia, I’ve noticed there is a tendency for people to focus only on what they want and how much they can get out of you. It’s rubbish. A true partnership is transparent, mutually beneficial and supportive.

All of my best and successful partnership deals are geared for the long haul, with collaborative people who have my best interest and understand my objectives; and vice versa. These deals are not based on a one-time revenue transaction, but built on a continuous and consistent exchange of value over time (“value” here can come in different forms – knowledge, insight, reach, exclusivity, et.al.). And these go a long way.

On social: Listening is key

Investigate. I see and hear a lot of crazy stories about brands, products and services making huge blunders on social media – and all this stems from the fact that no one really took the time to look at what is being said about them in the first place. So they go ahead and generate irrelevant content based on unclear and uninformed objectives with little strategic thinking.

It’s not a race to be on every single social account conceived and launched – it’s about understanding your audiences, how and why they are using the platform, what they are doing, and how you can position your brand, product or service on that platform while being engaging and relevant. Take your insights to inform your content strategy, then execute and repeat again. Learning is an ongoing cycle and social is a great and quick way to test… so long as you have a well-researched hypothesis that could work to your advantage.

As Margaret Thatcher said, “You know, if you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn’t you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing!”



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