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Online publishers have easy access to their audiences -- something that didn't exist 10 years ago. Back then, the concept of getting instant feedback on what you write and publish was unheard of, but today, online publishers get continuous critiques. Whether or not you like those critiques, they are an incredibly valuable source of research data.Today, you don't have to pay for expensive market research (although there is certainly a place for it). You can collect data and modify your writing and publishing strategy simply by listening to what your audience has to say about your content through their comments on your website or blog, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, online forums, and so on. Are you listening to them?Here are some tips to help you leverage the feedback your audience is already giving you about your content so you can make it even better in the future:

  1. Follow up: If someone shares a critique of your content that you don't fully understand, don't be afraid to reach out to them to discuss their concerns. Not only will your effort help you build a relationship with an audience member, but it can also help improve your future content.
  2. Don't ignore negative feedback: Don't let positive feedback take precedence over negative feedback and keep you from making changes that can improve your content. Furthermore, don't ignore negative feedback by telling yourself the source of the criticism doesn't know what he or she is talking about. If there is negative feedback about your content, it should be investigated and if it's valid, acted upon.
  3. Consider the source: Before you make drastic changes, make sure the source of the critique is someone who has a valid reason to offer their opinions about your writing. The Internet is filled with trolls and pot-stirrers who simply like to anonymously cause trouble. Try to identify the source of the critique and weigh its value to you and your target audience before you act on it.
  4. Segment your feedback sources: Market segmentation is the process of breaking your audience up into smaller groups of people who share similar characteristics (e.g., demographic, psychographic, and/or behavioral characteristics). Segmenting the audience that provides feedback for your content can help you identify gaps and opportunities. It can make you see your content and your audience from new, niche perspectives that can become very valuable to you.
  5. Don't be reactive: A positive or negative critique can motivate a content publisher to action -- either defending the content or modifying future content publishing tactics. Don't react too quickly. Take some time to evaluate the comment. Sleep on it if you have to. Never react without thinking.

Your audience is talking about your content. Don't ignore them. Instead, listen to them and improve your content based on their feedback. Now is the perfect time to get started.Image: Quil

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