In a content business, you need a target audience.

Who are you trying to reach? Who are the people who would be most interested in the content you’re creating?

While the phrase “target audience” works for a business model, it has a downside. It removes humanity from the equation and views your audience more as strategic assets than people who are interested in your content.

Thanks to comedian Michael Jr., there’s a better question to ask: Who do you want to serve?

To figure out your audience, ask: Who do you want to serve? #ContentEntrepreneur advice from @Michaeljrcomedy. #creatoreconomy Click To Tweet

That’s the interrogatory on which he bases his comedic content business, which includes live and digital shows, videos, a weekly podcast Funny How Life Works, and a book with the same title.

He is featured in Content Inc., the recently released book from The Tilt founder Joe Pulizzi. The two recently chatted on Clubhouse about Michael Jr.’s origin story and where he is today in his business thinking.

Surprising discovery

Since he was young, Michael Jr. always wanted to put people at ease. “I just had this innate desire to help people or to just make them feel comfortable,” he says.

At the age of 6, instead of fighting or arguing about who gets to play with what toy, he would line up his toys and ask his visiting cousin which one he wanted to play with. “It’s almost like I have this question in my head that I’m always trying to answer – how can I help people?”

Though that probably wasn’t what he was thinking the first time he told jokes in public. Nope, that was a dare from a friend in a movie theater after the projector broke. His fellow moviegoers laughed. After he sat back down, security came in to kick him out. “This white lady, who I don’t even know, stood up and said, ‘If you kick that young man out, I want my money back.’”

More people – bikers with long hair and tattoos, Black people – stood up for him too. The proverbial lightbulb went off. “What I’m called to do isn’t just to make people laugh. It’s to make them laugh and come together for something that’s bigger than just themselves,” Michael Jr. says.

He had found what would become his content tilt. “That’s what happened in that moment, and that’s what is happening in the moments of my life as I breathe right now.”

Tilt Advice

Well, we can’t do better than Michael Jr. So, let’s look at his advice and share a few thoughts from us.

See your audience from two lenses

Michael Jr. uses comedy to open up a person’s heart, so they’re willing to receive. “If the heart is open, I’d like to make some sort of deposit that can make a significant change,” he explains.

Whether he’s on stage or talking in a video or on his podcast, he’s asking: “How can I make some positive change into the person’s life who’s listening?” And that, he says, is what snowballed into appearances on The Tonight Show, Oprah, Comedy Central shows, and TED Talks.

Striving to make a positive change in an audience member’s life is what propelled @Michaeljrcomedy to be featured on The Tonight Show, Oprah, and more. #contententrepreneur #contenttilt Click To Tweet

You don’t need to be as magnanimous as Michael Jr. But it is smart to view your audience goals from two perspectives – your business’ goals and your audience’s goals. The first category centers around subscribers, followers, etc. The second centers around humanity.

Think give, not get

For years, Michael Jr. followed a formula in his comedy (you can see it in his older YouTube videos and stage shows.) He was always asking, “How can I get more laughs from this audience?”

As he presented joke one, he was doing the math on what joke three should be based on the audience response. That reaction informed joke six, and so on and so on.

Then, he shifted his thinking and changed the question. He asked, “How can I give my audience an opportunity to laugh?” He eventually tweaked it to: “What can I give to my audience?” And that changed everything.

“It wasn’t just jokes anymore. All I was doing was listening between the gaps and asking, ‘What does this audience need?’”

Listen to the gaps to understand what your audience needs, advises @Michaeljrcomedy, #contententrepreneur #comedy Click To Tweet

And that’s his advice for every content creator or content entrepreneur: “What question are you asking in between the gaps? Are you asking ‘what can I give’ or are you asking ‘what can I get?’ 

“If you don’t know the answer … you’re probably asking, ‘What can I get?’ because that’s what we all do by default. You have to make a decision to ask, ‘What can I give?’”

About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.