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How to Perform Audience Research for Online Courses

Researching your target audience for e-learning marketing is probably the first step toward developing engaging campaigns. Audience analysis is the process of identifying audience characteristics, group size, and behaviors to possibly convert them later on. 

What is Audience Research?

E-learning audience analysis is all about personas and identifying real students to whom virtual education is relevant. The main aim of conducting a target audience analysis is to discover unique insights that will accomplish business goals. 

When enrollment marketers create a student persona they are basically defining an ideal student based on motivations, demographics, interests, behaviors, and what digital channels they use. Marketing teams can then develop creative messages that appeal to these persons over their preferred digital platforms. 

Why is Audience Research Important for e-Learning Courses?

Developing personas and researching your target audiences is a critical part before moving into the marketing and conversion stages of the student journey. Understanding the important interests and characteristics of students offers great insights for marketers to develop content that will appeal to different audiences. 

Discover What is Important to Your Students 

E-learning marketers can identify considerable valuable target audience interests, hobbies, wish lists, as well as challenges that students face. Enrollment marketers can then strategically create e-learning messages that will encourage them to enroll.   

By identifying their pain points and challenges e-learning universities can provide solutions through their courses. Students are interested in learning to change and innovate, providing them with these answers from ideal personas can result in more relevant conversions. 

1. Attract Relevant Audiences 

Conducting audience research allows education providers a chance to identify their ideal personas who will dedicate themselves to the e-learning experience. Targeting audiences who are more likely to continue with the online course is a priority since these are the quality conversions for marketing teams.  

By understanding students’ purpose and motivations to pursue e-learning marketing teams can readily identify personas who are looking for a serious means of virtual education. For instance, young professionals looking to enhance their skills or secure promotions are actively looking to enroll in online learning courses. 

2. More Personalized Learning

Once personas are identified, teachers and administrators can develop more personalized learning experiences through insights and student demands. Teachers can deliver better support, while the entire learning experience can be more efficient and productive for students. 

Teachers can personalize the e-learning experience through challenging tasks, activities, and gamification. Allowing students to engage through teams and groups can also enhance their learning experience, allowing them to develop essential social skills too. 

3. Identify Future E-learning Trends

Regular audience research allows institutions to learn about the core challenges and future opportunities in the e-learning sector. Audience research can identify new courses, make improvements to older ones, and develop new niches for online learning. 

Developing surveys to identify students’ learning needs, the development of new technology and new audiences makes it simpler for e-learning institutions to identify new trends. 

How to Perform Audience Research for Online Courses?

Audience research should not be confused with marketing research as one is a smaller part of the other. Marketing research is the process of evaluating a particular industry's macro elements like competitors, barriers, potential opportunities, and external stakeholders. 

Audience research for e-learning involves engaging audiences, interacting with them directly and indirectly, understanding their motivations & challenges, identifying specific demographics, and defining their needs. 

Step 1 - Research - Online Resources, Research Papers, Industry Statistics  

The first step is to get to understand the online learning industry and its communities. This is where we answer the essential questions, including:

  • Who are our potential audiences
  • What digital platforms do our audiences use 
  • What are their behavioral patterns and buying behaviors 
  • Where do our audiences live
  • How does our audience interact with us effectively 
  • What are the different age groups, genders, and nationalities of our audiences 
  • What type of content do our target audiences enjoy and share
  • What is the education level of our audiences 

A simple google search is the best way to begin if enrollment marketers are really out of ideas. A simple search about online learning statistics for 2022 provides some remarkable insights into the e-learning audience characteristics. 

Marketers should begin developing varying personas for each demographic they intend to target at this stage. Once different personas are established, marketers should begin the more advanced process of approaching audiences for short surveys, interviews, and email campaigns. 

Step 2 - Study Competitor's Branding & Marketing Initiatives  

It's imperative that e-learning marketers have a close eye on competitors and how they are executing their business strategies. In addition to creating a competitive environment, studying the competition offers insights into potential leads and industry trends. 

Enrollment teams should always research new courses & degrees, facilities, and other benefits the competition is offering students. It's also crucial to keep an eye on competitive online learning providers to learn from their mistakes. 

Step 3 - Conduct Students Surveys & Interviews 

It is finally time to step onto the field and find out what students aspire to, and what they demand from an e-learning course. 

Conducting surveys and short social media polls is probably the easiest way educational institutions can over time collect a treasure of data about different students. Sending out survey emails to chosen leads is also a great idea to engage them from an early stage. 

Interviews both in person and online are probably the most effective way to identify your target audiences, their characteristics, buying behaviors, and interests. By directly interviewing smaller samples from different nationalities and social groups, enrollment marketers have the opportunity to complete their student personas instantly. 

Students can provide great insight on how courses should be structured, how training should be delivered, what knowledge gaps exist, and how to overcome challenges in learning online. 

Step 4 - Social Listening & Social Enterprise Marketing

Once the platforms that students regularly visit are identified, it is time to begin a complex social listening campaign. Social listening is a creative way to not only certify marketing personas but also identify potential leads ready to convert.

Maintaining active social profiles is the easiest way for educational institutions to constantly stay engaged with their potential students. Social marketing still remains a core part of the digital marketing funnel, as it allows brands to interact with their customers directly. 

Sharing creative content, announcing events, and conducting surveys are some popular ways e-learning professionals can engage target audiences with their courses through social marketing. Leveraging popular social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, and others is crucial to attracting audiences to engage with an online learning institution. 

Step 5 -  Create Content Magnets to Build mailing lists 

Developing creative and valuable content magnets like eBooks, whitepapers, research studies, etc. can be a great way to engage demographics who are not active on social platforms. Still considered a top marketing research tool, email offers the highest ROI for every $1 spent on campaigns. 

Gating content like ebooks and research papers with an email login can effectively provide specific niches for marketing campaigns. 

Tips for Building Audience for Your Online Course

Like many other business processes, building an online audience requires establishing best practices to achieve intended targets. Here are some useful tips to build interested audiences around e-learning courses. 

  1. Define a unique selling proposition, and how a course delivers value to the students in terms of knowledge, skill, and job enhancement. 
  2. Create a blog and a video channel to attract audiences to educational micro-content 
  3. Partner with influencers in niches to attract students from their followership
  4. Build active email lists with verified contacts 
  5. Conduct social enterprise marketing campaigns to feature your brand name on social media 
  6. Conduct webinars and podcasts related to e-learning, online student life etc. 
  7. Collect testimonials and feedback from students to feature on websites, social feeds, blogs & vlogs, and emails.  


Building audiences that share the same values and ideas is essential to making online learning courses successful. As more education moves towards digital means, educational institutions are increasingly capitalizing on data to engage directly with their potential students. Building personas and identifying future audiences is critical to increasing conversion rates for online learning institutions. 

We hope you enjoy our simple guide, for more interesting reads and guides remember to bookmark our blog.  

Orion Editor