“Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.” – Avinash Kaushik
Engagement is gold. When your customers comment, like, or share your content, they’re telling you that your brand is providing value in a sea of white noise.
Earning customer engagement isn’t easy, though. It takes creativity, consistency, and a unified effort from everyone in your marketing team. At times, it can be downright exhausting.
Although striving to create engaging content is very demanding and challenging, those who do it right find that it’s worth it. Whether your content is in the form of pictures, infographics, videos, songs, blog posts or ebooks, here are seven important factors for generating engagement.
1. Know your audience by developing buyer personas
A customer persona is a fictional (yet research-based) representation of the customer you’re trying to engage with. For instance, Jeff here would buy a GoPro from your site but you would have a hard time selling it to Jack unless it brings some business benefits.
With carefully-researched buyer personas, you can visualize your ideal audience and relate to them as human beings. Relating to your customers as real people is very important.
Important elements to buyer personas include things like:
- Where your buyer persona lives
- Their age and gender
- Education level, job title and income
- Relationship status
- Buying motivations
You can’t engage with people you don’t know. If you haven’t spent much time developing effective buyer personas, the time is now!
2. Genuinely care about your audience
Once you begin to really know your audience through buyer personas, it’s time to ask yourself: Do I really care about my audience? This is important because you’ll need to empathize with your audience if you’re going to create content they’ll engage with.
When your team gathers to create a video, blog post, infographic, etc., don’t begin by asking, “How can we generate engagement for our brand?” Instead, ask customer-centered questions such as:
- What problems can our content solve for our audience?
- What will help our audience get more value from our products or services?
- What can we produce that will brighten our reader’s day, encourage them, or inspire them?
- If I saw this content online, would I find it interesting enough to stop in my tracks and read it?
- Would I take the time to comment on this? Would I give it a like on Facebook? Would I share it on Twitter?
Approach content creation with your audience in mind first, and your brand second. If you genuinely care about your customers, they will genuinely care about your brand.
A 2011 report in Truth Central about millennials showed the ‘then’ young to have a strong sense of justice, but today’s youth is extremely vague and distracted, thanks to the onslaught of social media channels and information overload.
This makes it all the more important for your brand to cut through the clutter and gain their attention with good content.
3. Really grab attention
In the marketing industry, pretty much everybody talks about the importance of “grabbing attention.” But how many marketers really command the laughs, tears, or inspiration needed to earn people’s valuable attention?
The marketers of Squatty Potty pulled it off alarmingly well. Using unconventional humor for an otherwise boring product – toilet stools – they earned over 27,000,000 YouTube views and over 5,700 comments. (Who wouldn’t do an eyebrow-raising double take at a video titled “This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop”?)
At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum is a heartwarming YouTube video from Thai Life Insurance. Because it grabbed and held the attention of people all over the world, it has earned more than 28,000,000 views and over 6,500 comments since it debuted in 2014.
One thing these examples prove is that even with dull products like toilet stools and life insurance, dramatic engagement is possible if you grab your audience’s attention.
4. Spend as much time on headlines as on creating your content
Headlines matter. A lot. Headlines (or video titles, email subject lines, tweets, etc.) are your most effective tool for getting people to stop what they’re doing and pay attention to your content.
Unless you demand attention through headlines that stand out in the sea of information overload, your comment sections will be a ghost town.
There are countless ways to write attention-grabbing headlines. Here are just a few that work well for generating audience engagement:
- Make your audience laugh. (Think Squatty Potty’s “This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop” video title.)
- Shock your audience with a titillating headline.
- Impress your audience with a stunning statistic, right in your headline.
- Start with “How to,” and finish it with something your audience would love to learn.
- Use negatives, such as “The Top 5 Worst SEO Tactics.”
- Be urgent. “Engage Your Audience Before Your Competitor Engages Them First.”
Always test your headlines. Top publishers to conscious marketers are using A/B testing tools to find the best headlines for their content. You could also determine your EMV score using a headline analyzing tool.
For instance, the title of this article got me an EMV score of 50%, so this headline appeals equally to people’s intellectual, empathetic, and spiritual spheres (whatever that means).
5. Monitor and respond quickly to engagement
Engagement has to be a two-way street. Do you monitor your comment sections? Do you respond when your audience engages with your content?
Sure, this takes some time and effort, but it’s vital if you want to become a “friendly” brand that fosters community growth. Undoubtedly, brands that practice good customer engagement strategies enjoy more growth and customer loyalty than competitors who don’t engage.
Engagement from your brand breeds further engagement from your audience. When you respond to a customer’s problem or help answer a question, you’re proving that your business is a fulfiller of wants and needs. And as an added bonus, your engagement will also nurture brand loyalty.
Just remember to respond to interactions quickly. The opportunity for your engagement gets cold after a comment has been posted for a day or two. Your audience will perceive delayed engagement as a lack of caring.
6. Consider creating content on new platforms
Sometimes the fresh air of a new platform will breathe new engagement into your content. For example, Snapchat users are currently more engaged than any other social media app.
Especially if you want to market to millennials, consider learning how to create photo or video-based content that makes sense for Snapchat. If you market to tweens and teens, keep musical.ly on your radar.
If you want to engage your audience, you need to be where your audience is. Don’t feel that your content has to be limited to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Keep an interested eye on any new channel that might be attracting your audience.
The live nature of Meerkat and Periscope also helps brands to build momentum and engage an audience with its real-time approach. “Ask Me Anything” campaigns enable marketers to engage their audience effectively.
Hyper provides a great way to connect with local audiences. It is a melting pot with some of the best features borrowed from Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit.
The most important thing to remember is no matter which platform you choose, create platform-specific content as nothing turns off followers more than lazily-written, cookie-cutter, boring content.
7. Focus on quality
“Beautiful craft requires time” says Marc Pritchard, Global Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble.
According to Pritchard, we’re spending too much of our time on metrics versus the quality. The P&G officer says that they’re currently forced to expend too much energy on issues surrounding metrics and while they (marketers) are fiddling with measurement debates, consumers are blocking them.
To cut the long story short, there is a dire need to move on from vanity metrics that don’t push you towards your end goal even one iota, and instead focus on delivering content that is worthy of customers’ attention.
Every time you create a piece, let’s say a branded video, ask yourself – is this worth my time? Is it worth my customer’s time? If I had to choose between finishing another puzzle or watching this video, would I choose the latter?
That isn’t much to ask of your content, is it?
Over to you
Creating engaging content is hard, but worth it!
Engagement is complex because people are complex. Content creators need to immerse themselves in the brand, identify universal human truths (without stereotyping), think long-term and simplify big ideas.
Marketers need to know how to cut through the white noise, appeal to emotions, and create messages people find valuable. Plus, we need to know not only what our audience needs today, but also how their needs will likely change in the near future.
As challenging as audience engagement is, the benefits are worth it. When we earn engagement, we humanize our brand, create trust, and develop brand loyalty. Over time, engagement creates a loyal audience that looks more like a fan base than a customer base.
Guest Author: Mansi Dhorda works at E2M – A Digital Marketing Agency. A social media enthusiast, she is well-versed in content marketing and other internet marketing niches. You can interact with her on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @mansidhorda.