When I started a website aimed at teens and parents a decade ago I wanted to gain more than readers — I wanted to build a community of fans that felt connected.
Focusing on sports, news and views that mattered to families we attracted a loyal following and a healthy dose of advertisers eager to reach our community. Along the way we created more than 10,000 pages of content.
This audience of teens and their parents is huge — the US Census Bureau estimates some 80+ million people living in family households — and has deep pockets with estimates that global teens alone control $819 billion dollars of purchasing power!
Here are three basic keys to building a website that engages teens and parents:
Our fans craved constant content.
We wanted fans to check our website daily and that required new content to share with them.
How constant were we? It got to the point that if we went more than 48 hours without new articles we would get contact from our fans asking if everything was OK!
One trick is to make use of your content management automatic posting features. Instead of dumping new articles at once, meter them out to have content appear on your website at intervals.
Your goal is reach the level we did with one father saying: “The first thing I do when I get to work each day is check your website and it’s the last thing I do before going home.”
While constant content is a must, it will do your website no good if the content isn’t quality.
You may get viewers to click once on content that is poorly written or organized, but they will not keep coming back.
Quality may take more investment in your time and in your content budget, but that investment will pay off in page views and a stronger community.
Our goal was to avoid controversy and negativity when covering teens. We wanted to create good news and stories they would share on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Always make sure that your content is age appropriate. Your content shouldn’t read like a dissertation on Dostoevsky but also shouldn’t appear as if it was scrawled in crayon.
Your content should be entertaining, informative and noteworthy, and ideally all three. Be creative and have fun and your fans will enjoy coming to your website.
Keep in mind that there will always be trade-offs. My experience was that by hiring top freelancers for coverage I was assured of quality content that could easily be highlighted.
I also used inexperienced high school interns and often their content would require extensive editing to make it worthy of posting.
Either way, never ever hit that “publish” button until you are satisfied with the quality of the content.
It’s easy for a website is to cover the big story or the star athlete. That is really an old-school, print way of thinking of things. Print, after all, is expensive so coverage has to be limited.
Your website, however, can be as extensive as you choose to make it. Why limit yourself to an article on the star quarterback when an article on the linemen that block for him reaches more potential fans.
We learned along the way that our stories on the last place team trying its hardest against all odds drew more comments than the stories on the top teams.
We didn’t limit our coverage to just football and basketball but covered other sports such as golf and cross country. Parents were appreciative and the biggest bonus came in advertising from a local running shoe store and golf pro promoting lessons.
Challenge yourself to expand your coverage to all extracurricular activities such as band and drama. And when covering drama remember that an article on the “Guys and Dolls” leads wouldn’t reach nearly as many teens and parents as an article on the back-up chorus or the backstage crew.
Expanding your content will create a stronger community around your website.
The best example I can give is the new take we did on the Athlete of the Month program that included a photo shoot and was popular but only elite athletes would ever achieve the distinction.
We added a photo shoot for “Student Athletes of the Month” that was open to any athlete that was a great teammate and good in the classroom and community.
We encouraged coaches, teammates and parents to submit nominations. The Student Athlete content earned our website praise and new fans. By extending the coverage scope and encouraging participation we cemented real relationships with fans.
There are many factors that play into making your website successful but if you focus on constant, quality and extensive content you have a good start towards building a community around teens and parents.
5-Star writer Dan S is a veteran journalist with public relations and media relations experience. He recently moved to the Houston suburbs with his family where he is freelance writing and maintaining his ranking as the No. 1 dad in the soccer carpool.