3 Things Marketers Can Do to Build—and Keep—a Loyal, Engaged Audience

Opinion: The allure of scale and reach has caused many to forget the 'social' component of social media

Scale is relevant, but it’s the connections with your consumers that signal real influence in the marketplace

All publishers and marketers are hyper-aware of the many ways technology has simultaneously expanded and altered content consumption. We now have more access to information than ever before, but trust in the media is at an all-time low.

Advertisers are scrambling to find brand-safe environments on which they can rely. From the emergence of fake news to the well-publicized power struggle between publishers and distribution platforms, one thing remains abundantly clear: It is incredibly difficult for publishers and marketers to spark and manage the one-to-one conversations that matter most to their businesses.

The allure of scale and reach has caused many to forget the “social” component of social media. It should come as no surprise that the more connected your social media audience feels to your brand, the more engaged they will be and the more they will like and trust your brand. A myriad of research highlights the importance of building strong emotional connections with your customers.

Scale is, of course, relevant, but it’s the connections with your consumers that signal real influence in the marketplace: to be able to say those people didn’t just have the opportunity to be influenced, but they were so touched that the content moved them to take action.

Every marketer yearns for this kind of loyal, engaged audience, but it can be hard to figure out how to reach people and keep them coming back for more. Here’s a look at three strategies that can help you build a strong, captivated audience:

  1. Leverage user-generated content to build a strong connection and a community-driven experience for readers: Brands with loyal customer bases know how to engage. They understand that customers want to not only interact with their favorite brands, but also want to interact with other consumers through powerful, immersive content experiences. I’ve found this to be especially powerful in the do-it-yourself space, with a range of categories from home improvement to home cooking. By encouraging your audience to document and submit their experiences, you can build one-on-one relationships that inspire loyalty. You can then highlight and distribute that content in a way that celebrates the reader at little-to-no cost.
  2. Be strategic about what platforms to embrace (and invest in) based on what you know about your most valuable audience: It can be tempting to jump on the latest trends to solve content challenges and to engage with consumers (e.g. Facebook Watch, Snapchat Discover, Messenger bots). Instead, challenge yourself to stick to a streamlined content plan and focus on engagement.
  3. Leverage data to strategically reach and engage consumers holistically on every platform where you distribute your content, rather than approaching your audience as if they are one universal group everywhere: Regardless of the company or the brand, I’ve seen time and time again that when you view your audience as personalized groups (i.e., Facebook audience, newsletter audience, on-site audience), you break down stereotypes or assumptions that prevent you from building powerful connections. With one brand I work on, in particular, editors had assumed that because the print magazine and on-site audiences were both male-dominated, then the same must be true for its audience across all platforms. That wasn’t true. For community-driven platforms, the more you know about your customer, the more likely you are to strike a meaningful relationship with them.

There is no secret sauce to increase social engagement. Publishers and marketers alike must have a nuanced understanding of their audience’s interests and social behaviors to make successful, data-informed content decisions. Having this in place will ultimately translate into a lucrative social engagement strategy.

Kari Hodes is vice president of digital content and audience development at multiplatform media and publishing company Trusted Media Brands (formerly Reader’s Digest Association).