How to Create Content for Women
It makes sense to target a female audience. Like, dollars and cents. Females make up an estimated $20 trillion in annual consumer spending worldwide, earn more higher education degrees than men and start new businesses at a faster rate. On social media platforms, they make up more than half of the audience.
The data speaks for itself. Yet, despite this, many brands don’t take the time to understand half their audience. Often, content directed at us is predictable, lacking subtlety. It’s as if the content were conceived in an Mad Men-style underground incubation tank; rarely does it resonate with our lifestyles, our needs and our pain points in an authentic way.
Rule #1: Avoid Cliche
To begin with, don’t generalize an entire gender. “Women” are not actually a single market. Don’t make the assumption that women ages 22-45 all fall within just one target audience. For example, I’m a mom, and I’m often frustrated by the fact that I am targeted only in terms of my offspring. I want the rest of my identity to be acknowledged as I obviously identify as so much more than just a mom.
Women are a demanding audience because we understand when we are being pandered to, and we have high expectations. Like anyone in your audience, we have a desire to be seen, and to be seen in a way that validates who we are, what we have to offer. In her book, The Empathy Era, Belinda Parmar outlineoutlines three main streams of empathy: emotion (“make me feel something”), reassurance (“build trust”), and authenticity (“show me you mean it”). Your content needs to be empathically responsive. Consider how your brand is going to make an emotional connection with your audience. What does your brand enhance? What problem does it solve?
Define what your brand means by “women,” by “female.”
Using millennial pink just isn’t enough. This is where tone comes in. Consider this: does your content address how women define themselves, in their own words? Don’t make the mistake of being tone-deaf to how our understanding of gender is evolving.
As our cultural exploration of gender and identity continues to grow and deepen, the language we use when talking about gender also expands.
If you really don’t know where to begin, I recommend picking up an issue of Teen Vogue. Former editor in chief Elaine Welteroth undertook on the seemingly impossible task of taking a glossy magazine and reinventing it for a hyper-empathic, highly discerning generation. The prom-night-5-ways-to-get-his-attention-themed articles have been replaced by an open-letter to Jordan Edwards, (a 15-year-old black boy who was fatally shot by police), conversations with L.G.B.T.Q communities about the pressures they are under on our post Trumpocalypse climate, and profiles of black and queer-identified women working in the art world.
This reinvention has brought the publication not only into this century, but into the very axis of our political and social discourse. Lauded by critics and readers alike, they owe much of their success to defying stereotypes about teenage girls - who they are, and what they like. Rather, they are reflecting more of the possible iterations of their audience, and it’s clearly working. As of January 2018, the magazine’s online reach has increased from 5 million to 7.9 million, clearly evidence that readers appear to support this shift in content.
Be Open to Nuance, Discomfort and Evolution
Include diverse women and women-identifying people in the conversation, in every stage. Recognize that the best way to reach a target audience is to give that audience a seat at the table.
Don’t get discouraged if you find yourself splitting hairs, that’s part of the process.
In a panel discussion at The Globe Content Studio in Toronto, Make Lemonade’s founder Rachel Kelly talked about the process of choosing the right words, in the right order. Make Lemonade is a coworking space that’s defined as ‘a space for women and for those who identify as so’ verses ‘for women only.’ The former includes a wider scope of women-identified people, encourages community building and doesn’t exclude men - while simultaneously targeting a female audience. See, nuance and clear messaging is possible!
Taking the time to make these kind of empathic considerations will set you apart from the surge of pseudo-feminist content proliferating the corporate mainstream. It will help your core message and values resonate.
Invest in Your Social Media Content
Women want an immersive experience that makes them feel connected, and social media is especially good at facilitating this kind of engagement. Think about how the content on your social media platforms are working towards creating communities, and how those communities are coming together in real time.
That last part is key: in real time. Events, workshops, panel series. If you build it, they will come. This not only makes your audience feel included, it can also be a great place to engage in user-generated content. It's also ripe ground for collaboration. It will allow you and your audience opportunities to take full advantage of your members, partners, and internal teams.
Listen to your audience when they engage with you, when they tell you what they want. If your values and tone evolves through this exchange, this is a good sign that you are on the right track.
Put Women in Charge
This should happen at every stage of the process. We are discerning, we can easily smell the whiff if women are not at the helm. Credit our intelligence and the wealth of our personal experience.
Let me put in plainly: the best way to make sure your content is likely to resonate with your audience is to hire a content strategist who meets as many characteristics of your intended audience as possible.
At the end of the day, it isn’t just about just reaching women, it’s about creating content that uses the industry's best practices; it’s about thinking beyond demographics and creating content that speaks to real-life, fully dimensional people.