Are you just chasing numbers and forgetting what really matters?
Many marketers busy themselves growing lists, fans and followers, but ignore a metric that creates mobs of raving supporters. It’s called engagement, and it can boost your brand lift by over 300%.
As 55% of readers spend less than 15 seconds actively on a page (Chartbeat, March 2014) we need to move away from advertising influenced metrics, such as clicks and page views, and start measuring the impact of our social media campaigns with more sophisticated metrics, such as activity and reach.
Valuable audience engagement is all about QUALITY over QUANTITY.
Too many of us skip ahead to the fun part and underestimate the importance of fundamentally engaging your target audience first – don’t wait for them to find you!
In this post, I’m outlining 5 ways to increase engagement with your target audience, to create more value for you and your readers and viewers.
1. Know where they are (Platform)
In the same way that our favourite football team can be decided by where we live, or our favourite food can be decided by our culture, our preferred method for communicating has a lot to do with our situation in life, our choices and our interests.
For marketers, it is important to know the preferences of our target audience so we can tailor content strategies to the most appetizing form possible, increasing the potential for successful engagement.
Even though social media has changed the way we communicate as a society, these personal and cultural preferences remain unchanged. A blanket approach to social media engagement is never going to be successful in the same way a blanket advertising campaign is not going to bring the ROI of a targeted one.
With this in mind, the most important thing for anyone planning a social media engagement strategy is to find where there target market is, and how they are communicating.
EXAMPLE: Recently, The NSW Minerals Council learned the hard way that launching a “grass roots” social campaign on Twitter without a solid follower base is a bad idea. Their “Australians for Coal” campaign was designed to show the government that there are people in Australia who support the coal industry and that over-regulating the industry was going to have a deep impact on local communities reliant on the industry… and they ran this campaign on Twitter.
“The main focus of this campaign … was the group’s focus on social media. It wanted to provide a counterpoint to the Greens’ influence and reach on the Twittersphere…. Few users actually supported the campaign. Instead the hashtag became a platform for everyone on the Twittersphere to vent their frustrations at the sector.” – Business Spectator
It’s true that Twitter is the platform of choice for Australian political conversation – but what they fundamentally got wrong is that this wasn’t a political argument. The objective is political change, but the means to this is showing how it affects the general public. And the best place to go to gauge public opinion? Facebook.
Facebook is the school playground where gossip, lifestyle issues and occupation play a role in the conversations taking place.
Twitter, on the other hand, has not infiltrated mainstream communication yet, and is more like the high school notice board. It’s not where you’d air your dirty laundry – you’re more likely to find information about news, events, and interest groups.
The NSW Minerals Council did not have a strong follower base on Twitter, but their opposition did – meaning their opposition quickly overturned the conversation.
Unlike other aggregative sites, Twitter is a moving stream – and those with a larger audience can swamp you. On Facebook, your conversation remains on the same page, and the same users will see each and every post or response.
Had the Minerals Council followed their audience before their objective, they could have built an online community organically, and when the time came to incite a political debate, they would have a platform from which to broadcast their message.
TIP: A quick and easy way to assess each platform and determine where your industry is driving the most organic engagement is to review the key recruitment sites for an industry and gauge where they are advertising to their audiences. Recruiters core value-add to any employer is their ability to put forward the highest number of suitable candidates for any role, and often that means sourcing talent in it’s natural habitat. If you’re trying to engage with mining and resources audiences, and their industry recruitment specialists have a Facebook page with 85,000 likes and a Twitter account with 7,000, you’re probably better off building your site on Facebook.
2. Know what they’re looking for (content)
Unless you’re happy to be one of the endless suppliers of cat videos and memes, chances are people are only going to come onto your site if you have what they’re looking for. In most cases, this would be one of two very simple things:
- You’re answering their question
- You have an insight into something they are interested in
For many industries, the internet is a saturated market. Trying to get started when you already feel like you’re behind the 8-ball can be daunting, so it’s important to do your due diligence on the current landscape and find the gaps that you believe you can fill with valuable content and insight.
EXAMPLE: Content is King. The deeper and richer content you can offer your audience, the more likely they are to return to your site as a trusted source. If your site is an add-on to any core product – i.e. the supporting site for a television program – then the first question you must answer is “Am I giving this audience something different than the core product?”
Online replays are not enough, you need to give the audience something different, something insightful – and something exclusive.
They don’t want a ‘recap’ that offers nothing more than what is available on their first screen, they want behind-the-scenes documentaries, deleted scenes or commentary from the cast and crew… This is the audiences’ reward for their commitment to the show! Not to mention, a television episode is only 1 hour out of the 168 we have each week – engaging with the fans online can substantially increase the attention paid to your television program which can make it a more valuable prospect to advertisers.
Australia’s high-rating cooking competition reality show ‘My Kitchen Rules’ does this with their supporting platforms, providing information on contestants, recipes and behind-the-scenes news and videos, as well as engaging with their audience through their social platforms.
TIP: This sounds simple, but it’s so important – immerse yourself in the topic and be passionate about it! If this topic is something important to you, something that you’re already a part of, then you can ask yourself one simple question – what more would I want to know?
In answering this question, you’re identifying the gap that is available to you, and probably echoing a thought had by many users or fans. Within that answer is the theme or angle that you can use to engage with your audience and differentiate yourself from the rest of the current landscape. Following on from the example above, many MKR viewers want to try their hand at cooking a certain dish after seeing it on TV – making the recipe available online allows MKR to drive traffic to their site, where audiences are then exposed to further content. A recent study by Nielson and Twitter Australia revealed that 66% of audiences searched on Twitter for a brand or product seen on a TV ad. (Source: Nielson Twitter Consumer Survey Australia March 2014)
3. Time is money – be on the money
The Internet has bred a generation hooked on instant gratification. Timing is everything, so you must be extremely conscious of what you can offer and how best to accommodate the demands of your industry to be up-to-date.
You will occasionally receive views/visits when someone accidentally stumbles across your website while “window shopping” or frenemy stalking, but in general there is a catalyst to every person’s internet voyage. If you know what events, trends or ideas will drive readers to your content, then you are in a better position to time your posts effectively and get the maximum engagement out of each one.
EXAMPLE: The Daily Telegraph’s Super Coach site is part NRL news part Fantasy League, and their engagement is driven by the National Rugby League’s weekly games. Due to these games being played weekly, the Super Coach site has a minimum number of posts that it does every week, and these posts are dictated by the NRL game schedule. They have preview posts before the games and reviews after each game and then an update on the full week’s matches once they’re all played.
Super Coach knows that it’s audience will be hitting up their site before the match for game and player information, and then after match for reviews, scores and news. In this case, they couldn’t afford to post a pre-game post after a game is played, and likewise, a post-game review is useless to their audience one week later when they’re already talking about the next round.
TIP: If you have decided to blog weekly, then make sure that there is time in your diary set aside to getting the blog done. Too often we give ourselves deadlines that become impossible because we don’t devote the necessary time to the task at hand, thinking we’ll just “get to that at some point”.
A blog or social networking site is no small undertaking, and is very different to updating your personal Twitter or Instagram account. Your posts have to be insightful accurate and engaging, and this is going to take time and effort.
If you’re committed to the task, commit the time – it could be the most valuable few hours you spend each week!
4. Be consistent and reliable
Once you’ve got your audience’s attention, it is now crucial that you are consistent!
Is there anything worse than getting hooked on a weekly blog only for the author to go on an unexplained hiatus for 3 weeks? In a world where literally everything is just one click away, it’s unlikely that an audience is going to remain loyal to you for long if they think you have nothing new to say.
If you’re consistent in your delivery of valuable and insightful content, your readers will consistently return to consume it. Similarly to knowing what time you should be posting content, it is crucial that you know how often your audience would be willing to engage with you and be eager for new material.
EXAMPLE: For both of the examples listed above, consistency is a key factor in building and maintaining their target audience. It is important to keep up with the industry, campaign or topic that you’ve chosen – no one is going to listen to a Thought Leader that has had nothing to say for a year.
If you’ve committed to an industry that has regular events – such as television or sport – you need to be consistently updating your content on the same time frame.
Timeliness is a bonus, but the most important factor is reliability. If you provide quality, insightful content every Wednesday – even if your catalyst event is on a Monday – your audience will return on a Wednesday to read it. If you start posting it on a Friday, and then a Saturday, and then perhaps you miss a post, that’s when you lose the audience, and the credibility you had built up until that point.
TIP: Before starting a blog or social site (Twitter, Facebook etc) create a content calendar which maps out the ideas, topics or milestones you’d like to cover for at least 6-12 months. It is important to have a strong “story engine” when planning a content calendar so you’re not left scratching your head for new ideas two months down the track. If you’re having trouble filling in six months worth of content, then it’s time to start rethinking the topic you’ve chosen.
Once you’ve plotted out key milestones and ideas, you can then categorise how you would like to use each story to engage with your audience. It might be that for one idea, a live, one hour Q&A session will drive higher engagement than just answering a question on a blog post. Or in the case of an event, just using your knowledge to interact with audiences conversations organically will be a more beneficial exercise.
5. Social is a two-way street
It’s great if you can commit to blogging once per week or posting a video once per month, but don’t forget how important sporadic engagement can be to the audiences that are in conversation everyday. You have to be listening and responding to your audience’s spontaneous conversations as often as you are trying to generate your own.
Engaging with your audience by way of answering questions or giving the odd hint or tip is a sure fire way to ensure a reciprocal kind of loyalty to your site – and it humanises you. It cannot be stressed enough that social media must be an inherently social activity – the conversation goes both ways!
It’s also a great way of getting raw feedback from your audience – how many other avenues of communications allow you to get real-time data on the success of your communications outreach?