Writing for an audience is one of the key reasons many of us write online.
We often strive to reach as many people as possible, hoping to satisfy a diverse range of readers.
Seth Godin proposes the idea of a smallest viable audience. Instead of aiming to please everyone, he suggests focusing on a specific group of people, a niche audience with whom you can truly connect.
When we define the smallest viable audience for our work, we can become better at producing something useful and something the audience resonates with. Being very specific allows us to create with the knowledge that there is someone that our work is tailored to. Think of it as creating bespoke content for a specific audience.
Specificity is the way. It has nothing to do with absolute scale and everything to do with being really clear about what hook you want to be on and setting a standard for producing work that people connect to and are changed by. 1
I have been practising this idea in a few ways:
- I’ve established an audience taxonomy on my blog. Some posts target writers, others target managers, and some are for a general audience. This audience designation is part of the post’s metadata. This post is tagged for a writer audience.
- In my Obsidian vault, I have a ‘role’ field within each note’s frontmatter. This field allows me to specify the intended audience for each piece of writing, ensuring my notes remain focused and relevant. Some roles I use include ‘role/parent’ and ‘role/employee.’
- One of the core audience for my writing is me as I try connecting my future and past selves.
The strategy of the smallest viable audience doesn’t let you off the hook–it does the opposite. You don’t get to say, “well, we’ll just wait for the next random person to find us.” Instead, you have to choose your customers–who’s it for and what’s it for. And when you’ve identified them, the opportunity/requirement is to create so much delight and connection that they choose to spread the word to like-minded peers. 1
Writing offers the unique opportunity to choose an audience, whether it be someone we know or someone we don’t know.
So who is your smallest viable audience?
A version of this post was posted to my personal blog in May 2022.