Do you really know your audience?

I recently read a report on social gaming, put together by eMarketer, that includes this delightful statistic: More than 40% of casual social gamers are age 50 or older.

Does that surprise you? It probably shouldn’t. I know lots of people in that age group, and I see many of them playing games on smartphones and on Facebook — so many that I’m constantly hiding those posts from my Facebook news feed. Not long ago, during a long weekend at a friend’s beach house, I realized at one point that four people — three of them adults over 50 – were sitting near each other, each separately playing Angry Birds on whatever device they had available.

But seeing actual data showing that people 50 and over account for 43% of casual social gamers and 26% of hardcore social gamers still surprised me. And it made me wonder: What other assumptions might I be making that data would prove wrong?

I expect that’s pretty common. We all make assumptions based on past experiences, and we’re not always quick to rethink those over time. So how common is it for association staff to make assumptions based on outdated impressions of what our members want and who they are? Or for staff and volunteers with nonprofits to make similar assumptions about their donors?

When’s the last time you surveyed your members about how they use mobile devices and text messaging? When’s the last time you asked what information they need to help them in their work? Do you really know what work they think their association should be doing, or what their priorities are for your profession?

Survey tools have become so easy and inexpensive that there’s almost no excuse for not using them. Even if you can’t afford the time or expense of fielding a scientifically valid study, you can easily gauge member interest on a smaller scale and use that information to inform your work.

Maybe that information will validate what you’ve been doing all along; maybe it will challenge you to move in a different direction. Either way, you’ll be in a better position to make good decisions about what’s best for your organization.

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