We all understand that creating content no-one is interested in is going to do absolutely zilch to help your business grow.
Whether you’re in the news industry, or trying to sell pillows that will make your cat purr less obnoxiously, you need relevant and appealing content in order to engage your audience.
It’s hardly a revelation to say as much, but sometimes the obvious things stare us straight in the face, and you just need someone to give you a nudge to alert you to their presence.
So, here goes:
1. Address something your audience cares about
Of course this sounds like Mr. Obvious, but take a moment to check your latest blogs, articles or posts and ask yourself: what are you actually trying to get across? Does your audience even care?
In our experience, stories can almost always be improved, and they can be improved by refocusing on audience needs and expectations. Why should they care about the topic? Did you tell them what they are missing out on? How will their business improve by what you’re offering? You’d be surprised how often these simple questions yield massive results. And you’d be even more surprised to see how often we find these simple questions aren’t being answered.
Keep your audience and your brand at the centre of all your content planning and creation efforts.
2. Make sure the headline indicates what you’re actually going to write about
If you want to grab the attention of your easily distracted audience, you absolutely need a headline that reveals precisely what they can expect from the content you’re serving them. A question in a headline is a good idea, but hinting where the answer will lead to is even better.
- Will the Taliban keep their word in today’s Kabul?
- What these 6 former Taliban actions tell us about the trustworthiness of their promises.
Trust in media has roots here: if a headline suggests to your audience that they’re getting one thing, but ends up somewhere different, your readers aren’t going to thank you for the time you’ve just wasted.
3. Get your timing right
Various studies have shown that people do different things at different moments of the day. If your audience consists of mainly young moms, trying to connect with them on your website in the morning by sharing tips about the best places to get cheap car insurance, is probably less effective than an article about the best foods and drinks to help alleviate a lack of sleep, or ideas for last-minute costumes for World Book Day (whoops).
And, it also follows that different people do different things at different times. What are your audience’s rhythms?
4. Understand which format fits at what time
This tip is somewhat related to the previous tip, but it’s all about the format you choose to package your content in. A long read is asking a lot of effort from your audience, so when they’re in the middle of morning rush hour, trying to get the kids to school and weaving through traffic to avoid their boss yelling at them for being late 3 days in a row, that’s not the moment to try and feed them a 7-minute video on how to organise yourself better. Trust us.
Many surveys have proven that in the morning people have little time for anything save caffeinated beverages. Until that kicks in, most just want updates, information in little ‘easy to understand’ bites so they’re able to get a quick overview, the day’s Cliff Notes. Just enough to the essentials to connect to colleagues or for example other parents in the schoolyard. This goes mainly for news, but is even more the case for content that’s related to brands, services or products. Don’t try to sell your product in the morning unless it’s coffee, train tickets, newspapers or gas (or anything else that will help your audience through the first hours of the despair of daily routine, though we’re curious to know the viewing figures and stats for purchases of dream vacations during these hours).
5. Make sure you are crystal clear on what you want your audience to do
From all the data collection we’ve done, across the many brands and news organisations we work with, we know this: engaging content will help you optimise your business goals. It will bring in more frequent visitors, they will value your content more, be more loyal to you, start sharing & engaging with your content and even convert to different things (subscribe to newsletters, join online conversations, sign up for webinars, leave email addresses in order to download info or even buy stuff.)
So striving to get your engagement metrics to go up is a smart thing to do. The best way of making sure your audience will engage with your content is to tell them directly what you want them to do. Create a clear CTA. Vote here for … please tell us about your experiences … share your pictures here etc. And make it visible … People are lazy and tend to scan rather than read – and if it’s not clear what they need to do (and what they get in return) it will disappear in the mist of daily fuzz.
6. Use the input the audience is giving you
The biggest mistake you can make is neglecting the input the audience is giving you – and they are giving you input all the time – you just need to look for it.
You should never be absent in the online discussion if something of value is contributed.
Just answer questions, investigate things your audience is not clear about, and reply. People like to be in touch with people and especially social media (where 95% of all the engagement takes place) is built to connect. Heck, it’s even the tagline for Twitter: “be part of the conversation”. You’re not exempt from that just because you’re the publisher. Far from it (though many neglect post-publication communications). So, hop hop hop – start to be out there!
7. Be personal, authentic and real (if you can)!
The best way to engage with your audience is to share authentic and honest content. People engage more easily with personal stories. Especially when it explains or gives insights on how you (or your product or service) helped somebody make their life easier.
If it’s a story you can relate to it will help to open up yourself and start to engage. We all win.
Sure, it’s not always possible. Sometimes, news updates are just that: updates. But, as we’ve said before, this is just one part of the publishing puzzle – there’s plenty more opportunities to connect, and if everything you put out there is clearly stamped with your DNA, people can start to understand what you stand for and what they can expect. That, as Bogart might say, is the start of a beautiful friendship.
by Rutger Verhoeven
Republished with kind permission of smartocto, the world’s most actionable editorial analytics system offering a bird’s-eye view on The Story Life Cycle©.