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Center for Social Innovation volunteers Ghana

Why you need to understand your audiences to create impact

How well do you know your audience?

If you do not know your audience, their pain points and your solution to those pain points then you are asking for trouble. As social entrepreneurs and innovators we want to create positive change in our communities. To do that we need to know and understand our audience intimately.

We also need to be aware that we are serving multiple audiences which can include our paying customers, strategic partners, our beneficiaries, possible investors and even our employees. 

At the same time, we need to be aware that the needs of our audience change continuously and with it the way we offer those solutions.

In this article, we are going to look at understanding your paying customer as they pay your bills at the end of the day. Luckily, many of the considerations here also apply to other audiences with some adaptions.

Learning about your audience should be a starting point for any social entrepreneur and innovator. How do you plan to create impact if you do not truly understand the challenges your audience is facing and how your solution is the best to overcome those challenges?

That is why is vital to be empathetic and find out as much as possible about your audience so that you can use those insights to scale your business.

In order to truly understand your audience you have to know answers to the following questions:

1) Who is your audience?  

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Location
  • Educational background
  • Job 
  • Martial status
  • # of children

2) What Goals does your audience have?

  • What goals does your audience want to achieve on a daily basis, the next 6 months, year and even 5 years?
  • What are the values that drive your audience?
  • What does success look like to your audience? How do they define it?

3) What are the pain points?

  • What are the challenges they are facing on daily basis?
  • What is holding them back from overcoming their challenges?
  • What language do they use in expressing their pain points? What insights does this give you?

4) How do they learn about new information relating to what your solution offers?

  • What type of environments, both on-and offline, does your audience move in? Do they hang out on twitter, facebook, certain online communities etc.?
  • Who and what influences their views, opinions and attitudes?
  • How do they access new information?
  • For online information, what type of device do they use to access that information?
  • How do they learn most effectively about new information? Through text, spoken word, video etc.?

Knowing the answers to these type of questions is key in understanding what moves your audience. In Africa, which is viewed as a "mobile only" continent, mobile phones obviously have a huge impact across the continent and different audiences.

As such, turn to mobile to research your audience and leverage the data to truly understand your audience and what their pain points are so that you can refine your solution. There are many different ways how to research your audience and learn about what moves them.


One of the most powerful ways to learn about your audience is to ask them about their challenges and what is preventing them from overcoming them. You can do this by conducting interviews, focus groups or leveraging the many digital tools available today.

Here are a few digital tools that you can use:


Twitter can be an effective way to research and learning about your audience. There are over 320 million twitter users in 2016. According to the "How Africa tweets" report twitter is coming of age in Africa and more serious debates are taking place on the platform relating to political and pan-African issues with English being the dominant language.

Take advantage of this by creating twitter surveys and find out more about what really moves your audience:

Twitter survey Rise Africa Rise
twitter survey 1

Afterwards, pin your survey to make sure the poll shows at the top of your twitter timeline so everyone who visits your profile can see it and participate if they want to.

To pin a poll or tweet to the top of your page follow the steps outlined below:

Pin tweet Rise Africa Rise
pin tweet Africa
twitter pin Africa

Afterwards, your tweet poll should be displayed at the top of your profile page. Now you need to tweet out the poll and engage influencers to help you spread your reach to ensure that your audience participates and gives you the answers you need.

Once your poll is running twitter will show you how many answers you have received and will give what percentage each answers has received. Be aware that polls can run a max of 7 days on twitter.

This is an easy way to learn more about your audience and if you get enough engagement can give you very valuable insights.

Another way you can use twitter to learn about your audience and their pain points is to follow #hashtags related to your industry. People often discuss news and challenges related to their industries using #hashtags. This is a great research tool where you can learn more about what challenges your audience is experiencing and why.

In the hashtag #socimp below you can learn that a key challenge in the field of social impact is how to measure social impact. Further, down you can see a tweet about a guide to measuring social impact.

Social Impact Africa

If the focus of your business is to measure social impact this would be a great starting point.  Not only do you learn about a key challenge in that sector but you also have possible solutions in the form of the guide on how to measure social impact.

As we are moving deeper into a digital economy with every passing day, it will become easier to conduct online research as with the introduction of Internet of Things technology tons of previously unavailable data will become available and much of it online accessible.

Google Forms

Another option is to use Google forms. It is also very easy to set up. The advantage over twitter is that it gives you more options than twitter polls.

Google Forms Africa

You can completely customise the survey according to your needs. This means that you can name it, add as many questions as you like, choose whether answers should be multiple-choice, short answers and even long answers. You can add images and videos if you wish.

A great feature of google forms is that it has logic threading. This gives you the ability to change the survey based on the answers the participant has given. So for example, if you are conducting a survey around a certain topic the survey can adapt the following questions based on whether the participant is male or female.

Google Forms gives you many options. Below is a tutorial that will teach you how to get the most out of Google forms.

In developing and optimizing your solution, make sure that it is mobile friendly and continuously optimize to keep up with the latest technological advancements.

Email Marketing software

If you have not started building an email list you should start as soon as possible, because email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels and ways to connect with your audience. There are many different email marketing software tools that you can use and you will have to decide which one is best for your own social business.

Most email marketing softwares will come with a built-in fuction to conduct a survey. At Rise Africa Rise we use getresponse as our email marketing software.

Here is how you can create a survey based on getresponse:

Get Response survey

Afterwards, fill out the form below with the requested information and click on next step.

Get Response survey 1
Get Response survey 3

Also, with an email marketing software tool you can set up welcome series to welcome your new subscribers. As you may have noticed if you have signed up to our monthly newsletter in our first email we ask what the biggest problem is that you are currently facing as a social entrepreneur.

For us, this is a great way to really understand what your challenges are as social innovators and what we can do to help you overcome them.

Sometimes we receive responses such as the one below from our subscribers:

Audience feedback social entrepreneurship

Emails like this one are hugely valuable to us, because now we know what challenges our audience are struggling with. It is much better than making well-educated guesses. In response, we have decided to work on a case study with this subscriber to see if we can use digital tools to connect with decision makers.

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If we experience any success, we will share the case study with the rest of our audience so that you too can benefit from our insights and learnings. Maybe it will give you new ideas on how to connect with decision makers in your space.

For this reasons, it is important to ask your audience member directly. Email is really great because it can give you valuable insights from your audience members which you can then use to amplify your impact.

Observe behaviour

While surveys are great and can in many cases provide very valuable insights, it is also well-known that responses in surveys can be limited due to a variety of reasons that include among others the following:

  • Respondents can feel uncomfortable giving answers that present them in an unfavourable light
  • People's memory can be inaccurate
  • If conducting online surveys remember that not everyone has access to the internet
  • If the survey takes a long time to complete, respondents may answer superficially. It should be avoided to ask too many questions.
  • If answers are multiple-choice, then respondents cannot give context to their answers which makes the answers somewhat superficial.

Therefore, you should combine questionnaire insights with insights you derive from observing your audience and by leveraging data. With the rise of big data and the Internet of Things more and more data will become available that will give you cues about the behaviour of your target audience. Take advantage of these opportunities.

African girl reading

Google Analytics

As we are transitioning towards a digital economy at an ever increasing speed you should particularly be interested in digital behaviour. There are an array of different tools to do that for different types of behaviours.

A great one to start off with is Google Analytics. It is free and gives you great insights about the digital footprints of your audience on your website or app. You can pull a tremendous amount of insightful data from this tool to help you really understand your audience.

Understand your audience Africa

In our case, for example, we can tell that based on the insights provided by Google Analytics close to 60% of our visitors are male and about 50% are between 25 - 34 years of age. Based on insights like this we wrote an article entitled 7 tech companies that are changing Africa for the under 35

According to Buzzsumo, at the time of writing (August 2016) that article has been shared over 800 times across social media. This is not bad if you consider that 75% of articles get shared 39 times or less.

Tech companies changing Africa

As you can see some basic insights about your audience like this can be hugely valuable and allow you to better tailor your solution to your audience.

The better you understand your audience the better you can tailor your solution towards them. In turn, this will help to keep your social business profitable and amplify your impact.


Understanding your audience is essential. Without understanding your audience, your social enterprise will not be successful as you need to intimately know the audiences that you are serving.  Only once you truly understand their pain points and how your solution is best meeting their needs will you be able to truly make a positive impact.

As we like to walk our own talk, we are continuously looking to understand how we can better serve our own audience. That means, you guessed it, how can we better serve you? Knowing how we can better serve you is very important to us. 

Let us know in the comments section how we can better serve you and what the challenges are that you are struggling with. We will use those insights to develop content that is tailored towards giving you answers that will enable you to scale the impact of your social business. 

Go ahead and leave a comment. Don't be shy:-)​

About the Author Rise Africa Rise

Rise Africa Rise is your online guide to tech entrepreneurship and (social) innovation for African entrepreneurs, startups and businesses. Our aim is to provide you with valuable digital strategies, tools and insights to support you in building a world-class and competitive business in the 21st century.

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