Audience engagement is one of those marketing buzz terms that gets thrown around like confetti. But while lots of people have heard of it, few truly understand it.
Which is a shame; audience engagement is vitally important and should be a key part of any marketing strategy.
While other people chase empty numbers like ‘followers’ and ‘likes’, we’ll be over here measuring the engagement levels of those followers. Because that’s what really matters.
What Does Audience Engagement Really Mean?
Audience engagement is the difference between having 1 million visitors to your website who do nothing and 10,000 visitors who do something.
Engaged visitors stick around, post a comment, buy a product, subscribe to your newsletter (and actually read it) and share their activity with friends.
100,000 followers, 1 million visitors, 50,000 subscribers – those numbers sure sound impressive, but if no one is engaging with you, they’re completely meaningless.
Engagement gives context to how your website is performing; it tells you what people think of your content or your products. It proves that you’re on the right track and tells you where there’s room for improvement.
In short, it’s a highly valuable metric and you should absolutely be measuring it.
What else does it do?
It Allows You to Develop Your Brand
There is no feedback quite like audience feedback. People on the internet are often ruthlessly honest, which might feel like a punch to the gut at the time, but can also be very constructive.
Encouraging audience engagement is a powerful way to develop your brand. You can interpret audience behaviours to fine-tune your message, build reputation (more on that soon) and offer greater value.
Likes and followers are a great boost to the ego, but they’re only useful when accompanied by comments and sharing and other engaged activities. Engagement gives us tangible feedback and data to analyse.
Similarly, a lack of active engagement is useful – it tells us people aren’t buying what we’re selling, and we need to do something about that.
It Strengthens Your Reputation
Audience engagement is an excellent tool for strengthening brand reputation and it does so by providing you with the opportunity to engage back with them.
Humans are sociable creatures by nature. We are compelled to feel connected and engage. Emotion drives a lot of our activities; and how we feel towards a company will influence our behaviours.
Content that moves, informs, amuses or enrages a reader will elicit a response. This has two benefits. First, you can use their responses to tailor future content. And second, you can further the connection with your audience and strengthen your reputation by engaging back.
Engagement is a two-way street and a full-time job. It’s essential that you monitor and reply to all comments and feedback; good or bad. Your reputation depends on it.
How you react to feedback of any kind will influence the way people view your brand. In one high-profile example, BodyForm’s video response to a disgruntled Facebook comment quickly went viral.
Reaction to the video was overwhelmingly positive and the company earned a reputation for being funny, classy and down to earth (despite being a huge multi-national). Even now, more than 3 years later, people continue to comment on the video.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you reply to every comment with a high-production value video. But we are suggesting you use audience engagement to your advantage.
Responding to feedback with integrity, honesty and a sense of humour will always get people on your side.
It Drives Traffic and Increases Sales
When it comes to a product or service, who do you trust to give you an honest review? Family and friends first, strangers second and the company itself last, right?
Audience engagement means people are doing some of the hard work of promoting your brand for you. They’re telling their friends about you, sharing your products or content on their social media accounts, and leaving reviews in public forums.
This is more valuable than any advertising you can do.
Word of mouth is considered the most powerful form of marketing. Customers trust it above all else. Audience engagement isn’t just people talking to your company, its people talking about your company.
What can you do to facilitate these conversations, Improve brand awareness and reputation and increase traffic and sales? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot actually…
5 Steps to Increasing Audience Engagement
- Give the People what they Want – audience engagement isn’t about you. It’s about them: the audience. Focus on producing content they’ll want to read and share. Provide a product or service they can’t live without. Use engagement to hone what you do, and always strive for more; more conversations, more subscribers and more sales.
- Know Where to Find Your Audience – in the age of social media, there are multiple platforms on which you can engage with your audience. If they’re on social media, join them! Don’t leave it all up to your website.
- Timing is Key – There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that when you post is almost as important as what you post. Afternoons and evenings are better for social media while mid-week is ideal for blog content and email newsletters. It’s also essential that you stick to a regular content schedule and respond to feedback and comments in a timely manner.
- Show Some Personality – as we’ve already seen, people respond well to companies with a bit of personality. Whereas droll, faceless businesses induce about as much excitement as a visit to the dentist. A few good examples of personable companies are MailChimp, Innocent and Oreo.
- Website Design and Usability – Your website must be beautifully designed and simple to use. If people can’t work out how to post comments, where to subscribe to emails or how to log in, engagement will drop off.
If you’re not working to improve audience engagement, you are doing your business a disservice. It’s not an easy task, but it’s worth the work. And following the five steps above will certainly get you on the right track.
For those of you who are old hands at building engagement, do you have any more tips to share?
This post was written by Mark at Phipps PR