Determining Your Target Audience: The Basics of Audience Analysis

What is an audience analysis? What is its purpose? And how do you execute one?

So, you’re interested in creating an online course. Undoubtedly you’ve already come to the conclusion that your course is going to have an audience (otherwise, what’s the point?). But do you know who your audience is going to be? And is there a benefit to figuring out who your students will be before you create your course?


You might not yet know the answer to that first question (though this article can help). The answer to that second question, however, is a resounding yes.


Crafting your course with its intended audience in mind is a surefire way to streamline your course building process, increase its impactfulness, and maximize its value.


Enter the audience analysis.


What is an Audience Analysis

At its core, an audience analysis involves gathering and analyzing data about your target student.


Its Purpose

An audience analysis is intended to help you identify your, what else, audience. By clearly establishing a clear picture of their wants, needs, and interests, you can begin to build common ground with your students. Conducting an audience analysis will also make building your course easier and more streamlined. Learning about your course’s demographic will help inform the structure and design of your course, and ensure that it is appealing, appropriate, and informative for those taking it.


The Execution

Alright, so assuming all of the above sounds good and helpful to you, how exactly do you execute an audience analysis? Read on below for 5 steps to help you on your analytical journey:


Step 1: Identify Your Audience


Don’t worry, this step isn’t nearly as daunting as it seems. In fact, you may have unknowingly begun the process already if you already know the topic of your course or the environment your course is being delivered in (i.e., is it being designed for a university or a corporation?).


Some questions you may want to ask yourself about your audience at this stage include:

  • Who is likely to be interested in the topic of your course?

  • What is your course designed to do, and who will benefit?

  • What knowledge can your course provide, and what’s the demographic for it?

  • What problems can your course solve, and who might experience those problems?

  • What prior knowledge are they likely to have?

  • What prior knowledge do they need to have before taking your course?

Once you determine the overall idea of who your audience will be…


Step 2: Define the Specifics of Your Audience


...you can get down to the nitty-gritty details. Now that you’ve sketched out the general outline of your audience, you can fill in the relevant details.


A helpful way to determine your audience’s specifics is by categorizing the data into three major audience groupings, classified as Socio-Demographic, Geographic, and Psychographic. It is important to note that not all of the specifics listed below will be important factors to consider—which ones will matter depends on your course.

Some Socio-Demographic specifics you may want to consider about your audience include:

  • Sex

  • Gender

  • Ethnicity

  • Religion

  • Age range

  • Occupation

  • Educational level and background

  • Marital status

Some Geographic specifics you may want to consider about your audience include:

  • Location

  • Language

  • Region

  • Urban or rural environment

  • Home environment

Some Psychographic specifics you may want to consider about your audience include:

  • Values

  • Lifestyles

  • Interests

  • Likes and dislikes

  • Wants, needs, and concerns

  • Learning styles

  • Preferred media

Knowing the specifics of your audience will help you tailor your course accordingly. For example, having a working knowledge of your student’s prior educational backgrounds will make determining the difficulty level of the class, and the projected learning objectives, that much easier.


Ultimately, the more you know about your prospective students, the better you can provide for them (and the more successful your course will be). How does the saying go? Knowledge is power.


Step 3: Research Your Audience


Now that you’ve identified your broader audience and your more specific audience, it’s time to learn more about them. It makes sense to design your course to appeal to your audience, but in order to do that, you’ll have to get a general idea of who they are and how they operate.


That’s right—it's time to conduct a little research. There are a number of different avenues for gathering information about your audience.


Some already established research findings you can utilize include:

  • Media reports

  • Focus groups

  • Market demographics

  • Social media analytics

  • College and university student statistics

  • Professional contacts in your field

Again, conducting a thorough investigation into your students allows you to better serve them through your course, and it’ll help you step into their shoes and predict what they may want out of it.


This leads us to Step 4...