This is the second of a series of articles about what philosophy can teach us about content strategy. See the first about being a brain in a vat here.
Try to imagine being a bat.
Okay, maybe if I tell you the characteristics that we know the bat has, it will help – try to imagine flying, catching insects in your mouth, having poor vision, hanging upside down most of the day and making high pitched noises to find out where things are.
Though difficult(!), you can probably at least get some kind of idea what it is like for you to behave like a bat, by altering your perception of the world to match the differences that I said the bat has.
However, you can never know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. They have ways of perceiving the world that are so unlike anything we have that it is impossible for us to imagine what it is like to be one.
It’s a bit like trying to imagine what a new colour would look like – you can only think in terms of the colours you already know.
The same is true for people, even if the points of perspective should be slightly closer together! You can only know what it is like to alter your experiences to try and match what you think you know about another person, rather than what it is like to actually be another person.
This is why market research is so important when creating anything for an audience. Because you can only alter your own experiences to match theirs, you can easily miss the mark in terms of satisfying their needs and solving their problems unless you’ve had a look into verifying what they are.
In the context of creating content this means:
Unlike a bat, your audience can tell you what it feels like to be them. Though you can never really put yourself in their shoes, listening to them is at least better than just trying to imagine by yourself.
Interviews are absolutely key to finding out common behaviour drivers and interests – with the right set of questions.
Listening to them
Interviews/surveys are not necessarily a natural environment – asking the audience what they like will (hopefully) cause them to think before they respond. This is potentially not what they usually do!
Listening to what they say on social media is perhaps more of a natural day-to-day environment, which gives a better impression of how they naturally are.
Looking at their actions
A better insight into what people like is often looking at what they do, rather than what they say. Clickstream data is one way of looking at this – do they do what you want them to do; have you successfully predicted their behaviour?
However, you are limited in finding the reasons behind why they are doing it. This is why is always useful to combine a number of methods – qualitative and quantitative, in order to paint a fuller picture of what it’s like to be the audience.