Types of Audiences

Technology, design, and creativity collide to create that experiences worth sharing. But these experiences depend on the audience. And first knowing who your audience is, is the first step to making a lasting impression.

Online, different types of audiences consume content in different ways. In his book

Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans, and Followers, Jeffrey Rohrs identifies three main types of audiences for content marketing online: Seekers, Amplifiers, and Joiners.


Seekers are the browsers, the visitors, the search engine explorers. If you can connect with them and fill their needs, they may become Amplifiers or Joiners. Amplifiers are people who boost your content by sharing it with their own audiences. And Joiners are your subscribers. The people who have given you permission to keep providing them with information about your brand.

Each of these types of audiences require a different approach, an experience design strategy, when creating content because each audience type will have a different relationship with that content.

Recognizing the type of relationship you want to have with your audience is crucial online, and becomes even more important when digital barriers are stripped away and the audience is staring at your physical face.

In live event environments, we’ve come to know four different audience types:

The Spectator:

An audience member in the classic sense, a spectator is someone who comes to watch a performance or presentation but not actively participate. There is a clear divide between the audience member and what they are seeing – what a theatre practitioner would call the “fourth wall.” Spectators expect to have clear direction as to where they should be and what is most important for them to be seeing.

The Challenge: Giving Spectators an opportunity to respond to what they see.

The Participant:

Participants want to actively engage with their environment. They learn by doing. If they just wanted to watch something, why would they have changed out of their pajamas at all? A participant wants to both listen and be listened to, and as a result will be drawn to games, discussions, and opportunities to control where they go within the event.

The Challenge: Allowing Participants the freedom they want while keeping the experience organized. Also, communicating a specific message will be a challenge as different participants will want to experience the event in different ways.

The Spy:

A Spy is someone who attends an event with the goal of reporting back to their own audience about the experience. The Spy might be on your side or they might not, but they are going to make a judgment either way.

This audience will often be paying more attention to the “man behind the curtain,” so to speak – the way the message is being communicated to them and why.

The Challenge: Getting the Spy to relax and form an emotional, rather than just analytical, response to the experience.

The VIP:

A VIP wants more than just a unique experience – they want exclusive content. What are they getting by attending an event that they would not be able to find online or in another everyday context? Exclusive announcements, early releases, and teasers for future ventures will attract VIPs.

A VIP may also be a Spy, eager to be the first person to share the most current information about your brand.

The Challenge: Satisfying the VIP with content that’s worth the price of admission (metaphorically or literally).

Purposeful Experiences Understand Their Audience

While you’ll probably encounter all four types of audiences at any given event, it’s possible to tailor experiences to encourage a particular type of audience.

For example, gamification and creative audience engagement can lead Spectators to become Participants. And an emphasis on exclusive content can make existing Participants start to feel like VIPs.

Once you’re aware of your audience, every aspect of the experience you create becomes part of fostering the ideal relationship with them. It’s the difference between sitting down in an auditorium, walking onto a show floor, and embarking on a guided adventure.

The audience is the most central part of any event, and thinking critically about what role they’re playing in molding their own experience gives creators a head start towards turning audiences, into advocates.

*Photos by Cramer from PTC LIVEWORX 2015