Awhile back I was having coffee with a fellow who I consider to be one of my writing and networking mentors. We were discussing this past year, my book, and the future of this blog. As we were sipping our lattes and talking about our latest projects, he noted that he admired how I’ve been able to really drill down to my target audience: women; of a certain age; who like to laugh and share their wisdom.
I agreed and noted how much I was enjoying this creative work. I shared that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how enthusiastically my readers comment and share their experiences.
“So,” he noted, “now it becomes easy–just focus your writing on subjects that your audience cares about. You know, like shopping… and kids…”
Oh, he most definitely saw my hackles go up.
“Now before you go all ‘I’m a Sexist Pig’ on me, I’m just saying, knowing your audience is a GOOD thing. You need to pay attention to topics and issues that they care about. If you write about sports, or beer brands, you are going to lose them.”
Oh, HELL NO, I thought.
After I simmered down a bit, I attempted to rationally consider his advice. Do women truly only care about “girly stuff?” I do take sincere and sage writing advice to heart–this was certainly not the first time I had heard the “know your audience” mantra. For example, here is a link to a very good article by Dan Blank, published by “Writer Unboxed,” that speaks to the importance of connecting with your audience: http://writerunboxed.com/2012/08/24/do-you-know-who-your-audience-is-no-really-do-you/
However, I became a little hung up on the idea that women could be pigeon-holed as a demographic that only cares about certain things, stereotypical things, such as make-up or weight loss. So, I decided to conduct a little experiment. And you were all participants…surprise!
I posted two blog entries: one focused on a topic that most would consider masculine–automobiles; and the other was more centric to traditionally feminine preferences–shopping. How did I select these topics? Pretty much ROMA (right out of my …). For the record, this whole experiment was about the least scientific you’ll ever come across, so don’t split hairs with me regarding my methods. I wasn’t going for a Nobel Prize in science here (I’ll leave that heavy lift to my brilliant son Jimmy).
- My blog post What’s Your Car Avatar? focused on our attachments to our automobiles. Now I know, I could have been much more intentional and focused on, for example, the mechanics of a combustible engine, but I had to keep the post at least within a reasonable radius of a topic I could actually write about. According to Google Analytics, when compared to the previous blog post (which had focused on spring cleaning) the visits to the blog had decreased by 20%. Whoa, I had to admit that’s a pretty hefty decline.
- Next, my post SHOP.DOT.KIMBA focused on online shopping–a topic I envisioned to be a more stereotypical interest for women. And, guess what, my blog visits decreased again! Down another 5%!!
What can I conclude from this experiment?–practically nothing. The following post, I Blinked, received visits equal to and almost surpassing those for both the two previous posts combined. Honestly, there are just too many variables to account for: quality of the writing of each column (ahem [clears throat]), where the various posts may have been shared, other news of the day that folks found more interesting–i.e. was it a slow news day?–etc.
What I do know is that I’ll continue to write with my audience–yes my female, middle-aged, wise-ass audience –in mind. However, I don’t want for us, as a demographic, to be predictable. Let’s challenge a few of those perceptions about us. Anyone want to join me on my next salmon fishing trip? No, how about NASCAR? Anyone, anyone?
Do you think women are only concerned about particular issues? Are we different from our male counterparts in terms of what we care about?
Benjamin J. Gohs saysApril 24, 2015 at 8:43 am
As a white-ass, middle-aged man, let me just say: “Please, no NASCAR!”
From one anecdotal non-expert in audience market share, I can say I have been surprised by my audience over the last 10 or so years. My humor—the self-effacing minor misadventures of a ridiculous hypochondriac—seemed to me to be aimed at men 10 to 35 but I can’t tell you how many women, mostly 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, who have contacted me in various ways to share how much they liked my stuff.
Frankly, I never thought “girly-girls” would have liked my stuff.
After all, I’m foul-mouthed, disgusting, cowardly and oftentimes out there.
Now that I’ve made this all about myself, let me also say that I enjoy your writing … even if you are a girl.
Good writing is good writing.
The best advice I ever got, and it took me awhile to finally follow it, was to just write “me” … to be the writer you need to be instead of trying to tailor your material for a certain audience. (I’m not saying you aren’t writing you.)
Some folks will get it and some won’t, but I think the folks who do end up being your fans will be more enthusiastic by content that hasn’t been market researched for commercial viability.
Kimba saysApril 27, 2015 at 10:52 am
Hiya Ben. Let me say that I enjoy your writing, even if you are a boy. “Just write me” – great sentiment and advice.
Estelle saysApril 20, 2015 at 11:55 pm
I agree that you should write what you want to write and not allow yourself to be boxed in!!
Kimba saysApril 27, 2015 at 11:04 am
Lois Alter Mark saysApril 20, 2015 at 11:41 pm
I’m happy to be one of your women of a certain age readers, and I love reading your work whether you’re writing about cars or shopping!
Kimba saysApril 27, 2015 at 11:05 am
Awe, Lois, thank you! And I love reading your stuff at “Midlife At the Oasis” – check her out folks, !
Karen D. Austin saysApril 20, 2015 at 9:33 pm
I find that if I write primarily for the purpose to engage an audience, I don’t get much bounce. But if I write about something that really engages me, then my writing resonates with readers. I figure that I can’t appeal to everyone, but if I write sincere content, then I’ll find the right people. To quote Field of Dreams, “If you built it, they will come.” That’s been my mantra for blogging.
Kimba saysApril 27, 2015 at 11:07 am
That is a terrific life-mantra. Might change my use a bit: if you serve it, they will drink. 🙂
Ruth Curran saysApril 20, 2015 at 6:44 pm
I have to hope that brain health and wellness are at least marginally gender neutral or at least cross over topics! Otherwise, I will be screaming into one huge vacuum. I get it that knowing your audience is key and I get (and share) your indignation. I don’t know where we find the balance but I do hope that when you get there, you fill us all in :)!!
Kimba saysApril 27, 2015 at 11:08 am
Well Ruth, it’s a learning process, right? Balance seems to be key to most things in life – nutrition, health, and yeah, even writing.
Lisa at Grandma's Briefs saysApril 20, 2015 at 6:28 pm
I don’t know that it’s sexist to think women all get into “the girly things.” I do, though, think it’s a tad ignorant. I’m pretty sure everyone who commented here has varied interests wherein at least one or two “passions” are nothing anyone else in the group would give the slightest hoot about. Broad strokes and generalizations (stereotypes?) are good for no one.
Kim Dalferes saysApril 27, 2015 at 11:53 am
A toast: to all the things that make us unique and interesting. And, to all the people who love us, quirks and all.
jamie@southmainmuse saysApril 20, 2015 at 4:37 pm
I used to write about my children — until they asked me not to. I’m not one to over share on personal drama either. That’s what fiction is for. 🙂 But like you, I find it hard to write for a certain demographic. I’m 51 and trying to figure out what that means. I write about midlife but also general interests such as gardening and keeping fit. I’ve found if I’m interested in it, there is an audience out there. Each post might not resonate with my target audience, but that’s okay.
Kim Dalferes saysApril 27, 2015 at 11:55 am
What I find really interesting in how many things we boomers find interesting! It’s a great time to be a midlifer and a woman.
Carol Cassara saysApril 20, 2015 at 2:33 pm
I don’t think there’s anything sexist in understanding that there are gender differences. Yes, of course there are women who care about mechanics and sports. and there are men who care about cooking and child rearing. But when we write for a mass audience we work on “majority rules”. That’s why magazines aimed at women do not cover sports and cars very much, if at all. It’s audience-interest, and they research. Can’t please everyone.
It’s true that i don’t have kids, so I don’t care much about reading mom blogs. I don’t knit, so much for that feminine craze. But for the most part I like most other “girly topics” as well as politics and writing and other things. Overall, I think it’s unwise to pretend gender differences don’t exist.
Proud, outspoken feminist since before i knew what one was.
Stacey Toupin saysApril 19, 2015 at 10:47 pm
Nice to meet you! It’s interesting to me when certain people get painted with the same brush when there are so many colours and tools to create a picture. Thank you for your perspective. I laughed and you made me pause for thought..,great stuff! -Stacey
Kimba saysApril 20, 2015 at 1:14 pm
Nice the meet you too and happy to add a smile to your day.
Sue Kearney (@MagnoliasWest) saysApril 17, 2015 at 5:16 pm
Gorgeous new look, Kim!
For me, I think looking at your titles may be revealing. “I blinked” makes me want to know more, more than the other two titles. And yes, there are many factors, and I don’t think it’s necessarily black and white.
When you know in your heart that you’re writing to your audience, just keep doing it!
Kimba saysApril 20, 2015 at 1:16 pm
Hi Sue – glad you like the new website design. Yep, I agree, trust your instincts when it comes to writing.
Betty Eitner saysApril 17, 2015 at 3:13 pm
Great post as there are so many variables – not everyone is interested in every topic. I write about inspiring women and it just seems that more women gravitate to my blog – I wish there were more men interested in HERstory but “Times They Are a Changing” so here’s to attracting more male readers but not changing my mission.
Kimba saysApril 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm
Just a shout out that your post this week with all the great quotes from fabulous women was terrific! Happy to hang out here with all my gal pals. If the boys join us that’s great, but they enter at their own peril. JK fellas, well, sort of.
Marquita Herald saysApril 17, 2015 at 12:59 pm
First I have to tell you I just love the new website Kimba! As far as demographics, I definitely agree with others about the variables, but I also have to admit that many of the women i know do focus their attention on the ‘girlie’ things, which is probably why we only see each other occasionally. I’m definitely not a shopper, I am however a boxing fan, and so on. I don’t know the answers, but I am all for bucking the stereotypes!
Kimba saysApril 20, 2015 at 1:20 pm
Hey Marty – so glad to hear you like the new look. Love, love, love that you are a boxing fan. Here’s to doing the unexpected in life – cheers my friend.
Trina saysApril 17, 2015 at 10:30 am
Interesting — I think women in general can be interested in all sorts of things — some women may really be into cars — I personally like airplanes — but I do think the target audience for any particular product or service will have interests in common. We tend to attract audiences that resonate with us and our brand, so I suspect your audience cares about the same sorts of things you do — and get annoyed at the same stereotyping that annoys you. This is a great post — thanks for sharing.
Kimba saysApril 20, 2015 at 1:21 pm
Hi Trina. I think the balance has to be to write with your audience in mind, but avoid the stereotypes.
Rena McDaniel saysApril 17, 2015 at 10:20 am
That is pretty interesting and you are right there are all kinds of variables. I think we have lots of different interests. I like to fish and hate to shop but I shop more than I fish. I guess basically it’s like throwing darts in the dark with a blind fold on.
Kimba saysApril 20, 2015 at 1:23 pm
Love meeting another gal fisherwoman. Ain’t nothing quite like shouting “fish on!” Did you know that the title of my next book is “Magic Fishing Panties” ?
Linda Ursin saysApril 17, 2015 at 7:55 am
The only way to know what us middle aged wise-ass women want is to ask 🙂 And you’re right. Not all women care about the same things. I’m more interested in creative, fun, inspiring and pagan stuff than I am in reading about kids and shoppping 🙂 I’m not the NASCAR or beer type though. More broomstick and mead 😀
Kim Dalferes saysApril 17, 2015 at 8:12 am
Linda, you sound like my kinda gal! Might need to borrow your stick, traveling to Florida today…
Linda Ursin saysApril 17, 2015 at 10:22 am
It’s in for service 😀 I wish I had one that worked in real life
Kimba saysApril 20, 2015 at 1:24 pm
Oh, I have a whole fleet of broomsticks in reserve. Just let me know and I’ll send one over :-).