Engagement is the end game for content marketing. Getting people interested in and involved with your product is half the battle in making a sale. When your customers know that they can look to you for stellar insights and advice about the industry, you’ve succeeded. But achieving this goal is not easy. It takes a lot of time investment to create the high-quality content you’ll need.

Here are five tips on how to use content to increase your audience’s engagement.

Create Gated Content

“Gated content” refers to information or whole sections of your web site that are only available to people who agree to provide something in return. Gated content creation can be tricky to execute, but when used well, it’s a great way to not only pump up engagement but also to generate leads. For marketing purposes, that “something” is usually contact information, such as:

  • Geographic location
  • Name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Company information

Gated content may also require payment for information, such as whitepapers or exclusive video, but generally speaking it’s just another rung on the sales funnel.

Gated Content-WebpageFX

WebpageFX’s gated content for a free marketing template

Not every company is comfortable with using gated content. Some are wary of alienating potential customers who are not ready to establish contact, or sending them to competitors who do not have gates. It’s best to reserve gated content for premium information; be sure to leave product descriptions and blogs free to navigate for any visitor.

For instance, a site such as Gate to Garage, which sells a wide variety of furnishings and décor, would not benefit from walling off its product listings to visitors. But it might consider requiring potential customers to submit an email address for future contact if they want to see a how-to video or white paper.

One thing to keep in mind, don’t gate all your content. Leave blog posts and infographics as free material for everyone. That free material will drive traffic to your site and then special gated content can be used to increase engagement and build an email database.

Run a Live Q&A Based On of a Controversial Piece of Content

Live chats have a colorful history on the internet. They’re one of the earliest ways that companies engaged with their customers, dating back well before the age of social media. Though they’ve evolved over time, they still remain a great way for businesses to gauge opinions about not only their products but also their industry. The smartest way to draw people in is to play off a piece of content that’s gotten a lot of attention.

This type of content will inspire strong opinions on both sides, which will draw people into the conversation. Be sure to promote the Q&A beforehand, but don’t just rely on live questions to fuel the discussion. Solicit questions and topics beforehand via social media, and keep things open-ended so that you can engage as many people on as many aspects of the issue as possible. If you’re doing the chat on Twitter or Facebook, look over your analytics beforehand to decide what the best time is to hold the conversation.

Last year Paper.li, an online content curation service, sponsored a live Twitter chat to promote awareness for bloggers, who make up the hottest area of its community. The success of the Q&A surprised even the company’s community manager, who personally heard from more than 200 people after the chat via email and on Twitter asking for help and offering their input. The chat also reached people in other countries, a bonus Paper.li hadn’t expected.

Include Calls to Action at the Bottom of Content

Sometimes when you become engaged in a great piece of content, whether it’s a whitepaper, a blog post or a podcast, you’ll forget how you stumbled upon it and your true purpose for looking into the subject. Don’t let that happen to your potential customers. While you don’t need to hammer them over and over with sales pitches, you do need to gently remind them as they reach the end of their time with your content that there’s something they need to do. That may mean registering for something, buying a product or filling out a form.

Whatever it is, make sure your call to action is clear and concise so that you don’t lose your fish from the hook. On the blog for WritersRelief, an author submission service, posts end with reminders that the site can help make writing dreams come true and a link to their submission page, a succinct but effective call to action.

Ask Questions at the End of Blog Posts to Increase Comments

This sounds like an obvious way to increase engagement, but a surprising number of sites do not try to interact with their readers this way. They’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Once you’ve finished discussing the topic at hand, ask your readers what they think. Many blogs put a daily question at the bottom of a blog post in bold, training readers to look for these queries and answer them, thereby increasing engagement.

Don’t just get people to comment, though. Interact with them in the comments section and see how you can further engage them. For instance, the Gawker network of web sites have perfected this approach. Writers interact with readers, exchanging ideas — okay, and often insults — in such a way that the comments sections themselves have become must-reads.

Be Consistent at Something

Consistency is the very best way to establish yourself on the internet, which is largely a bastion of inconsistency. Muck Rack is known for newsletters. Shweiki Media is known for webinars. Find something content-wise that you can be great at, that your customers have a real need for, and that you can deliver on a consistent basis. Then carve out your niche.

Muck Rack newsletter

Muck Rack’s Newsletter

Play to your personal strengths. If you don’t have time to blog, but you’re a pithy tweeter, make Twitter your thing. Establish a following for your brilliant daily take on something in your industry, whether it’s the latest headlines or even a reality TV show. Author Jennifer Wiener, for instance, is just as famous for her prolific tweeting about “The Bachelor” as she is for writing New York Times bestsellers.

Building an engaged community of readers takes time. Start with these tips in mind as you work on the content that just might make your site a hot spot for customers.

Read More: How to Improve Blog Engagement: 3 Ways