You don’t want to suddenly announce to your weightlifting community that moving forward, you will be refocusing on ice skating.

That’s why you’d better make sure you have the right target before you launch. When trying to narrow down your audience, you’ll want to look for at least two of the following characteristics:

Well-defined

In this case, the larger the target, the harder it will be to hit. It’ll be hard to foster an active and passionate community if you launch yet another site about “tech”. But if you pick a specific framework or programming language, you’re already dramatically increasing your chances of seducing at least a few die-hard fans.

Reachable

It also helps to pick an audience that’s already well-connected and easy to reach. It’s tricky to build a social network for fishermen when your audience spends half its time away at sea without Internet access.

And “people who hate avocado” might be a well-defined market, but there are no existing places where you can easily reach all avocado haters, making it harder to acquire members.

Avocados: the top issue facing the world today.

Passionate

And finally, it always helps to find a topic your audience truly cares about. Either pick something people truly love (like the Twilight saga) or really hate (like the Twilight saga), just don’t choose something that leaves your audience indifferent.

As an example, many popular tech blogs have a massive audience, but their engagement in terms of comments is actually pretty low quality. The truth is that after the 30th “world-changing” new startup of the day, it’s hard to care much one way or the other.

Growing

Picking the right wave to ride is an art in itself, but if you can do it you’ll be well on your way to having a successful site.

After all, when it comes to communities, network effects matter a lot. So being the first to address a specific domain can often be enough to tip the scales in your favor.

We saw this with the success of Discover Meteor, a book about the Meteor JavaScript framework written by Tom Coleman and myself. By being the first book to target a new platform, we were able to not only capture the lead (and keep it even as competing books launched), but also benefit from Meteor’s own meteoric (pun intended) growth.

Homework

  • Say something controversial about your topic of choice on Twitter. See if people actually care or not.
  • Use Google Trends to search for relevant keywords and get an idea of how fast your potential audience is growing.