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Understand Your Target Audience
In my last post, I spoke about how to forge your brand on Instagram and your blog via establishing identity. Taking creative control also involves knowing and understanding your audience, and how they engage with you. The worst mismatch is getting a foundation comprised of an audience that you didn’t intend for and you don’t know how to satisfy, which in turn will make you doubt your content. (One of the downfalls of being a ‘suggested’ Instagram account – great numbers, dwarfed engagement).
I moved to Singapore after I graduated from university with the intention of growing my website. A huge challenge that comes from blogging from a different country is getting to understand your audience that have different internet habits from what you may be used to, not to mention cultural and aesthetic preferences.
For the first issue, a lot can be learnt through observation and the most obvious – Google. Literally, if you want to learn the habits of the users in a specific location, there’s a lot of information about consumer preferences online and ‘insights’ on your Instagram or blog that can tell you what you need to know.
Notably, what is quite underrated is asking certain people specific questions. For example, when Meat Liquor first opened in Singapore, the manager from London that came over to set it up said that in the U.K., people are avid tweeters. None of the customers or individuals (as opposed to publications) that attended the restaurant’s launch or were there in the first few weeks talked about tweeting the event. She found this strange because according to her that’s how people in the U.K. prefer to find out what’s trending, and this is true from my perspective too.
Hashtags on Twitter and opinions on certain events are frequently published on news channels or come up on the sidebar of Facebook. On the other hand, let’s consider web publications like the Daily Mail. They often publish screenshots of Instagram posts but as this is an image (duh), it is more often used to illustrate a point than to share news. The general understanding of the ‘greater’ use of Instagram, despite the app’s name, is not so much to share up to date information or opinion. Therefore, it seems that in the U.K., not only do the activity of users vary but also their attitude. This makes sense as captions on Instagram can’t be crawled through (although when you search for an account on Google, the caption of the latest image on the feed does show up) and they rely on hashtags to be noticed and categorised within the app.
Anyway, without getting too technical and going off on a tangent, let me quickly sum this up: in general, the Asian audience prefers images and videos to text. Furthermore, they look to Instagram more for the latest openings, brands, product launches and events (although I do see this tendency on the rise in the U.K.). Comparatively, the my Asian followers are more engaged with Instagram than my UK followers, and I believe this is at least partly affected by their internet habits.
Uncovering Aesthetic and Cultural Differences
The second puzzle is probably the hardest to solve. Yes you can start by asking relevant people about the cultural habits of the locals in the city or country you’re targeting but as for aesthetic preferences, that’s very much a matter of research and trial and error.
I will be careful not too sound too generalised as this topic is very subjective and I’m sure there are more than a few exceptions, however I’ll share what I’ve learnt from my experience. With regard to cultural habits, it is incredibly visible in Asia that during lunch and dinner, it’s time to catch up on the goings on of the Internet. By this I mean look at how many people in a restaurant are checking their phones during meal times. Combine that with strong connectivity on public transport in Asia (hardly any wifi and no data connection on the tube!) and that points to a lot of opportunities to push your content out to an active audience.
Moving on to aesthetic inclinations, accounts with the most respectability (note how I didn’t say following) in Asia are ones that have professional and creative images. For example, beautiful food flatlays or outfit of the day images with accessible backdrops shot in a unique way, such as a styled shot in the infinity pool at the exclusive Marina Bay Sands hotel. You could say that that applies to the UK too but let me go a step further. I mentioned a tourist landmark in Singapore (the hotel), however in London, red phone box shots are mostly ‘liked’ by foreign audiences as opposed to fellow Londoners.
Also, in Singapore like everywhere else, the minimalist, Scandi-style type of feed remains very popular. However, local influencers rarely employ this aesthetic. Girls often post a lot of pictures of, well, themselves. Oh, and food. (If you’re bored, do this little experiment: find an Asian based female fashion blogger and count how many images of her there are within the same 12 squares. Choose a U.K. based blogger with a similar following and do the same. Repeat. Can you tell the difference?)
In Asia, there is a click bait culture based on strong individual images rather than a cohesive feed. Although there were several other factors at play, I noticed that the period of greatest engagement for me was when I was primarily posting good quality portraits of myself, which includes selfies too. And that’s in comparison to outfit details or lifestyle images, even when my face was visible (statistically proven that images with faces in them do better).