How would your target audience rate your site? It’s not a question often considered by grassroots organizations or coalitions when building a website. The question usually drifts even further out of mind once the website is up and running for some time. Rather than continuing to publish content and find ways to put it up on the website, it is beneficial to step back from time-to-time and ask how your target audience – your customers – would rate your site.
Last week, ForeSee released its Annual E-Business Report for the American Customer Satisfaction Index. This was the first time social media sites were listed on the index, and somewhat surprisingly, their showing was quite poor. For the size of the market share and influence online, Facebook and MySpace both had very poor customer satisfaction ratings. However, despite the poor rating, customers clearly continue to frequent these sites: “Customers are willing to suffer through a poor experience in return for the benefits Facebook provides.” ForeSee goes on to note, “usually customer satisfaction is intertwined with market success. The few exceptions to this rule are operating in a sphere where there are no standouts, so the bar is low.”
While Facebook and a handful of other sites may be able to maintain, even grow, their customer base without taking into account user experience this is the exception rather than the rule. When building a grassroots advocacy or coalition site, it is important to take a few moments to think through the user experience. While advocacy sites are often short –term microsite sites based on a specific issue, it doesn’t mean user experience should be an afterthought. Review your content plans and site map from the perspectives of your target audience; take into account the different interaction scenarios. Any website, regardless of the lifespan, is an opportunity to build a brand and engage visitors.
News and information sites fared much better than social media sites in Foresee’s annual report. Fox News debuted at the top slot in the category, thanks in part to their “distinct, loyal audience, which usually correlates with higher satisfaction.” Foresee also noted that Fox News’ customers “rel[ied] much more on FoxNews.com as their primary source of news compared to visitors of other sites and news sources (who tended to rely on multiple sources).” Findings in the annual report also point to customer satisfaction being hurt by websites “trying to be too many things to too many people.”
Grassroots organizations and coalitions often focus their websites on a specific issue and are looking to reach a target audience. As a part of building a website, it is important to note this target audience and work to make the site relevant to them. Rather than trying to ensure content is posted on the site, it is of greater benefit to ensure the content posted is relevant to the target audience. Understanding the target audience of the website provides the framework for content, tools and widgets when building a site. It also provides a guide to development and content updates throughout the course of the campaign.
Four Things to Consider for Your Site:
- Who is your target audience?
Before launching a website, take a few minutes to determine a clear picture of the target audience and possible secondary audiences. Go beyond “media” or the “public” and delve into specifically which media and who in the public. Don’t fall victim to trying to reach everyone, focus on reaching the audience which is central to your issue or goals. Remember to keep the target audience as a central focus throughout the campaign. Continue to assess if the target audience has changed based on the goals and if the content and messages of the site are geared to reach this audience.
- Why should your target audience be interested in your site?
Simply creating a website and putting it out there for the world to see will not guarantee you any web traffic let alone the right web traffic. Take a moment to answer the “why” of your website. Clearly define why your target audience is interested in your site; what messages, content, tools or information does your site provide that is of interest to them. Most importantly, when new content or tools are being considered for your site, ask “why would our target audience be interested in this?” If you can’t answer this question, then they probably won’t be interested.
- What one message do you want your audience to take away from the website?
The average web page is viewed for 55 seconds, making it crucial for your key messages to be clear and forefront on your site. Pinpoint the one key message you want the audience to teak away from your site. Then focus your site structure and content to ensure this message is at the forefront. Think of this message like your front page headline, and don’t burry it on page 6 – keep it on the front page. Updates to content and structure should be done in consideration of what the key message is, and ensure that message is still clear to your target audience.
- Are you looking to inform your audience or have them take action?
Don’t just say both. It is possible to have both as a goal of the site, but truly consider what you are looking for from your audience. Information and action goals are not mutually exclusive choices.
Also be sure to consider what the campaign may look like three or six-months down the road. The first few months may be spent trying to raise awareness and inform your target audience while the next few months may be focused on sending letters or signing a petition. Determine what potential needs may be upfront to prevent having to hand-jam the content on the site down the road.
After determining whether your site is seeking to provide information or incite action, develop your structure and content to support the goal. Make the central purpose the easiest to access and find on your site.
Would your site make the grade? Share some sites which you think deserve an ‘A’ for customer satisfaction and those that fall far short of passing.