There are warring factions within pretty much every audience.
Well, maybe not warring. But you are almost certain to find groups or tribes within an audience taking different and sometimes diametrically opposing views.
Here are a few examples.
In the world of buying gold coins, you have the “gold bugs”, who believe in a dizzying array of conspiracy theories, and are certain the price of gold should be higher. And you have the data-hounds who believe gold prices are where they should be, and can be predicted by studying countless charts.
In the world of coffee lovers, you have those who tell you that percolators make the richest, best-tasting coffee. And you have another group who swear that percolators make the worst possible coffee.
In the world of copywriting, some will say that hard-selling copy works best, and some will say it doesn’t.
Whatever your topic or business, you’ll have your own equivalent of white-hat SEO enthusiasts, or gold bugs.
And the editorial slant of your website probably already leans towards one faction or another.
But how do you engage your audience? Do you always feed them the information and opinions they already agree with? Or do you mix things up a bit, and stimulate some debate?
Preaching to the converted.
Many websites do well by choosing a single faction of readers, and then engaging them by reaffirming their point of view
Simply deliver the messages your readers want to hear, and many will become ardent fans.
If you are writing to people who think home schooling is better than public schooling, give them a site where they feel supported and validated.
If you are writing to people who believe that soft-sell copywriting works better than hard-sell copywriting, become their cheerleader.
Or, stir things up a little.
Let’s say your site is about healthy food, but you write primarily about organic food. That’s the focus of your site. And fans of organic foods are your principal audience.
Well, not everything you publish on the site has to support your audience’s viewpoint.
Maybe invite a guest contributor who wants to write about how he or she believes there is no proof that organic food is any better for you than non-organic food.
Or invite someone to write about how genetically modified rice helps get more food into the hands of the world’s hungry.
By taking this route, you are remaining clear about the focus of your site, but you are also stirring things up a bit. You are stimulating your readers. You are giving them a reason to respond to your content.
In other words, hearing from the opposing camp gets your blood pumping, and reaffirms your own beliefs.
Myself, I favor the stirring option.
First, I don’t think a homogenous approach works. You can’t write great content that will appeal to every opinion. When you do that, you compromise. And compromise pleases nobody.
As for option one, where you preach to the converted, I know that can work really well. Thousands of sites take that route, and have followings of ardent fans. They feel at home on those sites, and they like it.
But for me, option two is the sweet spot.
Yes, you take one position. But you don’t close things up completely. You don’t just write content that everyone will agree with, all of the time.
Consider the example above, about organic foods.
Personally, I agree with growing and eating organic foods, for a variety of reasons.
But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be interested to hear an informed opinion about how organic food may not offer real health benefits. I might disagree, but I would enjoy having my beliefs challenged.
As for that second guest author, writing about the benefits of genetically modified food, that would absolutely make my blood boil. And yes, I would comment on that article, with both pens blazing.
Therein lies the power of stirring things up. Your audience is not only reaffirming their viewpoint when they come to your site, they are actively fighting for it.
Don’t try to please everyone, all of the time.
Choose a primary position to take. And grow your tribe of fans.
That alone can work. But I think fans become more active when they can stare the enemy in the eye.
For that reason, I favor the approach of taking a stand, but also including some opposing views on your site.
Get that blood boiling.