A Marketer’s Guide to Audience Engagement
Effective content is crucial for audience engagement. Companies are increasing their content marketing efforts, according to Smart Insights, creating a more competitive environment for online marketers.
- More than 90 percent of companies are utilizing content marketing in 2017
- 75 percent of companies increased their content marketing budget in 2016
- 43 percent of companies increased staffing levels of their content marketing departments
Despite these figures, Smart Insights reports that approximately half of all content marketing strategies are not integrated with the rest of the business strategy. Add in the potential of marketing being in the “age of content shock” — or how the exponential increase in content production could result in content consumption increasing slightly and then inevitably plateauing — and it’s easy to see how the stakes have intensified for marketers.
With the right audience engagement strategies and tools, marketers can create valuable content that overcomes “content shock.” But it isn’t just a matter of quantity. The graphic below clearly shows that we’re already far past the point of just doing “more.”
Effective audience engagement depends on a well-planned, well executed, and coherent approach that delivers the results you want. Here’s how to achieve that.
Audience Engagement Strategies
Create High-Quality Content
Quality is the most important aspect for content, whether it’s a blog post, infographic, video or podcast. Content should be unique, targeted and, according to Kissmetrics, “easy.”
- Easy to Scan: Take layout into account for pages and articles. Readers tend to scan instead of reading pages, so use appealing typography and visual images to catch individuals’ eyes, which will cause them to read more. Content with relevant images receives 94 percent more views than content without relevant images.
- Easy to Interact With: Create interactive elements such as quizzes, polls and online chat.
- Easy to Load: A one-second load delay can drop conversions by 7 percent. Minimize bounce rates and maximize readers’ happiness by improving site speed. Minimizing image files and investing in a content delivery network can help.
- Easy to Share: “Social sharing is, to a great extent, the highest level of engagement that there is,” Kissmetrics says. Try to integrate social media buttons to content pages to make this a simple step for visitors.
- Easy to Monetize: Advertisers are struggling to turn a profit due to problems like few solutions for making money from mobile users and interruptive ads that have led to the increased use of ad blockers. One effective way is to integrate contextual ads into content, which automatically provide relevant and engaging banner ads.
Develop an Authentic Personality
Create content that aligns with your brand’s personality. For some companies, this means a fun, quirky style, while for others it means a more direct, concise approach. The Content Marketing Institute offers 10 tips for adding more personality into content.
- Tell a good story to draw readers in, offering entertainment value while matching the purpose or mission of your content.
- Elicit an emotional response to appeal to readers’ emotions.
- Ask rhetorical questions to get readers thinking, instead of merely being fed information.
- Use formatting like good paragraph spacing, bold type, italicized fonts and lists to make content pleasing to the eye.
- Widen your vocabulary for more personality (but don’t overdo it).
- Be interested in your topic, which allows your enthusiasm to be contagious to readers.
- Read entertainment content to become a better writer.
- Include fascinating facts to support why people read: to be entertained and to learn.
- Write like you talk to communicate clearly and avoid jargon.
- Build suspense to leave your reader hanging on your every word.
Integrate a Timely Communication Strategy
Produce content on a regular basis to keep your blog, social media accounts and other content marketing channels fresh. Give your audience a reason to come back with new content, and remember that it is important to be seen in your audiences’ social media feeds and by search engines.
Use Social Media Effectively
Social media is a natural landing spot for your content. For each channel, you should ask some key questions that tell you the purpose of the channel, goals for your audience (do you want them to share, comment or register for something?), what type of content your audience wants, the right tone and how often you should post.
The content you post, as well as your tone and frequency, will look different for LinkedIn and Twitter, for instance. Evaluate how you’ll appeal to your specific audience on each channel and leverage the channel’s best practices.
Focus on Targeted Outreach
Find other places where you can place your content. From a guest post on Forbes to a sponsored infographic on a leading personal blog in your niche, there are opportunities outside of your channels that provide potential. Developing relationships with influencers in relevant topics can be a powerful strategy for getting your brand seen.
Utilize User-Generated Content
Ask for your customers and audience to participate in building content. You can run campaigns that call for pictures on social media, user-created videos that feature your brand and more. These types of opportunities can help motivate and engage your target audience better by getting them involved actively.
Track Impact of Engagement
Identify metrics on your website, social media accounts and more to gauge your effectiveness. Performance indicators not only inform what your return on investment is for your content marketing campaigns, but they help reveal ways you can improve. Track your success and test different things to capitalize on your ideas.
Online Audience Engagement Tools
Audience engagement tools offer an ideal way for marketers and small business owners to track engagement and/or communicate with customers. Here are some of the top audience engagement tools.
- HubSpot: This social media tool allows you to develop a content calendar, automate posts and see a wide variety of data for your accounts. It’s one of the most popular tools of its kind for businesses of all sizes.
- Zendesk: Improve relationships with your customers through this could-based tool. This customer service software and support ticketing system lets you gather customer feedback and address questions and requests for help. It is fully scalable.
- Intercom: Intercom is an integrated customer messaging application that has live chat, customer engagement and customer support features. It integrates with several platforms and tools, thanks to its flexible APIs.
- MailChimp: Automate your email marketing campaigns for content efforts and more with MailChimp. You can schedule emails, use email templates, set up auto replies and track the effectiveness of your campaigns.
- Outbrain: Outbrain is an advertising platform that places your content on premium websites. It produces 200 billion recommendations for consumers each month.
- TweetDeck: This social media tool for Twitter lets you schedule tweets and track where your brand, industry or specific topics are mentioned.
Importance of A Marketing Education
Obviously, marketing is now more than ever an essential part of any business. There should be someone on board, or at least under contract, who not only knows business but has a good understanding of the nuances of marketing. But what if you’re a small company that doesn’t have that in your staff mix?
One answer is to work towards an online bachelor’s degree in business administration that focuses on the marketing skills and tools graduates need to adapt and excel in the business world. While there are many options, one that is particularly interesting is from Grace College. Their GOAL (Grace Opportunities for Adult Learners) program is designed for students balancing personal commitments while pursuing an education.
The fully online MBA provides students with a strong foundation in marketing, accounting, finance and human resources as well as coursework in entrepreneurship. These programs can help graduates gain the skills needed in today’s marketing-intense world and pursue leadership opportunities in business.
Audience Engagement = Skillful Marketing
The cost of marketing takes an increasing bite out of the budgets of most businesses. So it’s more important than ever to get it right, the first time. Take the time to execute the elements of effective marketing we’ve pointed out, and your bottom line will thank you.