September 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 3
The first lesson of Web 2.0 is know your audience

You’ve probably seen some cool Web 2.0 technologies such as podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, Flickr, del.icio.us, and many others. And you may be thinking to yourself, “We have to use this stuff on our Web site.”

But when it comes to the Web — or any form of communication — it pays to understand your audience’s needs and your goals before chasing the latest technology.

Before insisting on the latest gadget, first find out who your target audience will be.

Once you have profiled your target audience, there are several things you can do. You can research what type of technologies that audience prefers. You can also survey your audience to find out what they would like and who would use any given technology.

No matter how you conduct this research, be sure to actually ask people. Never rely on assumptions or stereotypes such as “All young audiences like blogs.” Such assumptions may not hold true for the content you’re providing.

Second, consider your content before using a new technology.

Consider podcasting. Podcasts are audio segments that are usually published in a series that listeners can download to their computers or MP3 players and play later. Lengths vary from 30 seconds to 30 minutes or more, but many successful podcasts break their subjects down into short segments. In effect, podcasts are a lot like radio programs that listeners can play back anytime.

So, long podcasts full of technical information probably will not be very successful because the content may be too detailed, confusing, or boring for listeners.

Another technology to consider is blogging. A blog, or web log, is an online journal or commentary from one or several people that allows readers to leave comments. Blogs vary greatly in content, tone, and length.

Although some blogs are very popular, this technology may not be appropriate for every audience. For example, farmers who are spending all day in the field may not want to spend their time reading a blog and adding comments. Furthermore, a blog can take lots of time to create, read, comment on, and manage.

New technologies are great, but require some thought from you. Know your audience, know their needs, and know your goals. Only then can you decide if a new technology is the right choice.

Ginny Quesada, ginnyjr@purdue.edu

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