Whether you’re a marketer trying to spread the word about a new product or service, a scientific researcher publishing a newspaper, or just a student looking to attract attention from the widest possible audience, content creation is all about creating an organic relationship with your audience.
The members of your audience have problems or questions that need to be solved or answered – the content that you’re putting out into the world is designed to do exactly that.
However, many people fail to realize that this is largely a two-way street.
Yes, you’re doing something for your audience with high-quality content — but what they’re giving you back in return is a high level of customer engagement (or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work).
Audience engagement is the key to just about every one of your goals, from increased revenue to brand loyalty to higher purchases to reduced churn, and even accomplishing your email marketing goals. If you really want to build a stable bridge to your audience, there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind in terms of engagement in particular.
You’re Training Your Audience
One of the most important things to understand about content engagement in marketing (or content distribution in general) is that whether you realize it or not, you’re training your audience.
A single piece of content, be it an infographic or a blog post, does not exist in a vacuum. As you create and put more content into the world, what you’re really doing is building a portfolio.
Because of that, your schedule matters.
If you always put out a new piece of content on Tuesday at noon, your audience will very quickly come to expect that. They will check back with you, be it on your website or on social media, every Tuesday around noon.
If they find a new piece of content available to digest like clockwork, they’ll keep coming back for more.
If your schedule is erratic and can’t be depended on, they’ll learn that they shouldn’t expect any type of regularity, too.
Because of this, it is hugely important to create a schedule and stick with it. This is why so many people choose to work with content delivery and scheduling systems so that they not only know what they’re working on for the future, but also when finished pieces are going to be hitting the Web.
If You Want People to Engage, Encourage Content Engagement
This may seem like a simple tip, but it really is something that far too many people fail to think about. Content engagement means more than just reading an entire piece of content – although make no mistake, that is very important.
However, if you really want your audience to take action, you must:
- Give them an opportunity to do so
- Make it easy for them to do so
- Tell them exactly what you want them to do in the first place
These are a large part of why a well-placed, thoughtful call to action is so important.
Do you want people to share that great new Infographic you just created?
Include a call to action at the end (and maybe another one in the beginning) that points them to the social sharing buttons you’ve also included in the post.
Are you trying to use that presentation you just created as a conversation stimulator?
Turn on the comments section of your post and point them in that direction to encourage people to share their thoughts, ask questions or even provide constructive criticism of what they’ve just read.
It’s a small step, but an essential one in terms of content engagement and permanently connecting with that larger audience.
Start With Your Audience and Work Backwards
Every terrific piece of shareable, viral content has one thing in common: they were all born from the same basic place.
They didn’t start with an idea for a blog post or white paper or video and then go out in search of an audience.
They started with a problem that their audience had and worked their way backward, figuring out the solution and even the execution of that content in the most natural way possible.
You need to do the same thing.
Thanks to advanced modern day tools, it’s easier than ever for even non-designers to create stunning visual content like presentations, Infographics, or even full motion videos.
However, if that isn’t what your particular audience is receptive to, it’s a step that you probably shouldn’t take just because some statistics on the Internet told you that you should.
Maybe your audience doesn’t want to see a presentation. Maybe they’d rather you take the exact same idea and give it to them in the form of a video. Or an Infographic. Or a blog post.
As you begin to craft a new piece of content, always ask yourself two questions:
- What problem does my audience have today that I’m going to try to solve? Or, what question does my audience have today that I’m going to try to answer?
- How, specifically, would they prefer that I solve or answer it?
This really is the be all, end all approach to building a bridge to your audience.
You’ve got the information that they want, but HOW they choose to receive that information matters just as much. Provided that you work hard to never forget that, you’ll find that you’re able to go far.
Thanks to the power of the Internet (and particularly the mobile world that we’re now living in), the audience that you’re trying to reach with your content is no longer a passive one. In fact, it’s more active than ever.
People WANT to be able to share content they love with their friends and family members. They WANT to use your latest Infographic to help them make the right purchase. They WANT to learn more about what you have to say or what you have to offer and use that information to take the next step.
You just have to give them the ability to do so. That, in a nutshell, is what audience engagement is all about.
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.