Three Ways to Drive Community Engagement
“Content is king.”
That sentence flatters us writers and content producers. It’s true—content that attracts your target audience by addressing their real questions and concerns is a great way to increase your company’s organic traffic.
Content is not just the written word. No matter how valuable or relevant a piece of content is to the individual, a new reader always will be expensive to acquire.
As Alex Blumberg, co-founder and CEO of Gimlet Media has noted, podcasts are the ‘most intimate medium’ out there. The best way for a business to drive down the cost of new traffic is to improve the rates at which people re-engage.
Content is everything that you can create to attract, educate, entertain, and generally deepen engagement with your target audience. That means there are plenty of additional levers available to smart content marketers that allow us to foster deeper engagement with our community. A content marketing strategy that engages your audience across multiple channels can make your brand a part of their daily fabric.
If Content is King, Engagement is Queen
Thinking of organic traffic as an expense that must justify its return brings its relationship with engagement into relief. The question then is, “Do we perpetually pay for new traffic, which we hope will convert, or do we create a content strategy that deepens engagement with our existing audience?”
In an ideal world, no business would have to make that choice—both new traffic and deeper engagement are valuable to a business, and both are worth pursuing. A reality of limited resources can force difficult choices; as Tom French, Laura LaBerge and Paul Magill wrote for McKinsey, however, there are always actions available to drive customer engagement.
One way to foster deeper audience engagement is to use the other levers available to content marketers within an overarching content strategy. As an example, imagine an existing, free-to-listen podcast supported through a mix of advertisers and a tiered subscription model. The podcast does not currently publish a blog, and does not distribute any additional content via an email newsletter. It has a modest social media presence.
Given this scenario, our example podcast has the following three levers available to it if its goal is to increase engagement among current listeners:
1. Publish a regular email newsletter
Email marketing is the closest thing to a silver bullet for increased community engagement. [Tweet it] And, to be fair, email has long been considered an essential part of many marketing strategies.
What needs to be emphasized here, however, is that an email newsletter is a chance to speak directly to members of your community (and, in the case of our example podcast, to tailor messaging to the different subscriber tiers). As marketing automation leader Marketo has documented, applying email marketing best practices will allow our example podcast to entertain and more deeply engage their audience. These best practices cover:
- Subject line: short and useful
- Sender: likely the name of one of the presenters; for larger businesses, it might be the name of the business or a specific department within that business
- Body: easily digestible, with a strong value proposition and a clear call to action
2. Create and maintain a blog
Podcasts are an incredible content format. They allow audiences to engage with your content in a more natural, conversational manner. However, certain arguments or stories are a more natural fit to the written word.
Supplementing a podcast with a blog provides an owned channel where presenters can expand on a point only touched on in passing during the podcast.
It allows complex discussions to be fleshed out and placed in context, for instance by attaching GIFs or other visuals to a transcript to better illustrate a point.
Lastly, it creates a forum in which presenters or guests can lay out ideas that might be too broad, or too ‘inside baseball’, to tackle in conversation. It also relocates links and other information from the show notes into someplace more useful.
3. Community contributions
No one has a monopoly on good ideas. [Tweet it] And that’s a good thing.
As Mallory Jean Tenore pointed out in an article for the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, community content can be a powerful tool toward increased community engagement. Going one step further, regularly scheduled “Listener Question” episodes show your community that there is consistent and ongoing engagement. Soliciting questions from social media followers and email readers will again foster the sense of engagement and ownership among your audience.
Community engagement can be done in other interesting ways, too. The popular podcast Radiolab, for instance, has invited listeners to participate in the show—first, by having listeners read the credits and other underwriting, and later by inviting them to record and submit audio for potential inclusion in an episode.
Done right, community engagement creates a sense of excitement and shows users they really are a part of the conversation, not apart from it.
5-Star writer Noam R has over 5 years’ experience in various content marketing roles, including as the content marketing manager for a leading agency in the Boston area, as well as over a decade of experience writing for academic and government audiences across the world. His unique perspectives allow him to maintain a singular voice where appropriate, and to fit his writing to the needs and expectations of his diverse client base where and as needed.