A couple weeks ago I shared the template for an editorial calendar that’s served me well, in various incarnations, over the last seven or eight years of content program management. It’s a flexible format that can be adjusted to meet a program’s specific needs and I like it more than anything else I’ve found, so I’m going to keep using it.

That ed cal included a column for “Audience,” which I said should be used to tag which audience segment that particular nugget of content was being drafted to appeal to. Knowing that can help you draft different social posts differently to make different value propositions and calls to action that appeal more directly to the needs and behaviors of different audience types.

In order to do that effectively, I and my colleagues developed an audience matrix, a screenshot of which is shared here.

editorial calendar audience matrix

Before I get to what all is here, let me briefly recount the origins of this beautiful program resource.

I think it was late 2012 or when a client shared with us a massive report they had commissioned that detailed the demographics, interests, habits and more of its customer base. Paging through the report you could find out what stage of life someone was in and what they were looking for from the company, what kind of buying behavior they were engaging in and so much more. There were four distinct groups that were of high interest to the client.

We immediately wanted to use this data to better inform what we were doing with the social program. If we knew that X Person was on Y Platform for Z Reason, we could take the customization of our content production up several notches. But we needed to figure out how to do that.

For about an hour, we whiteboarded different models. Eventually, we arrived at a rough version we thought had potential and over the course of the next week or so I refined it, working through not just the categorization system itself but also how it could be applied to the daily content program in an easy and sustainable way.

This matrix was the result of all that.

It works roughly like the timetable for a train: If you want to find out what audience will be most interested in – and likely to take action on – the news you’re about to post find the appropriate outlet on the left and follow your finger over until you land on the row for the business unit that news relates to.

So let’s say you have four audience types: Sizzling Seniors, Exciting Xers, Marvelous Millennials and Terrific Teens.

You also have four business divisions that are part of the content program: Sales, Recruiting, Marketing and Brand PR.

Finally, you have four platforms you publish to: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

In this scenario, you want to share news of a corporate acquisition. You’ve determined you’ll share the news on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn because you know the audience on Instagram doesn’t care about these kinds of announcements. The metrics you track regularly clearly show that.

So you consult the matrix and see that on LinkedIn it’s Sizzling Seniors who are most interested in Brand PR news while on Twitter it’s Exciting Xers and on Facebook it’s Marvelous Millennials. It’s not that there aren’t other cohorts on each channel, but that kind of news is going to be most interesting to those specific audiences.

Because you’ve put the work into a brand style guide for the content program (the subject of several possible future posts), you know that to reach Seniors you have to be serious and informational while both Xers and Millennials want a more self-effacing tone.

That information will help you create unique copy that has a greater chance of resonating with that audience.

This isn’t easy. And for every company and program, it’s going to be different. It requires a level of audience analysis that isn’t easy or cheap. Getting everyone in the program on board with that kind of customization is a labor unto itself, something that’s often overlooked in the fluffy industry trade stories about brand Twitter accounts featuring a snarky attitude that becomes everyone’s obsession for roughly three weeks.

Believe me when I say it’s worth it. Implementing this kind of rigor and structure – which again came *after* the creation of a program style guide and then informed a revision of that document – takes work, though it helps if you have talented people who are skilled communicators (not just “good at Twitter”) on the team.

It pays off, though. After we went through this exercise and worked out the operational kinks the program saw a rise in already-substantial engagement levels across all the networks we managed that was sustained over the life of the program. Not just that, but click-throughs and conversions improved as well. The benefit to the program was tangible and measurable.

Have questions about what’s here? Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter and I’m more than happy to talk through things. As my colleagues who were involved in the creation of this matrix can attest, I tend to geek out about it and relish any opportunity to do so.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.