Ahead Of The Curve Blog

digital audience engagement

4 ways to embrace your digital audience without creeping them out

11 September 2014 · by Peter Marsh

Reader engagement is not enough. Publishers must go further and provide audience embracement, which fosters trust and credibility with relevant (and not just targeted) content creation and advertising.

Two large groups of people walking towards eachother with their arms outstretched.

You’ve canvassed, contacted, and courted your online audiences. You’ve showered them with targeted prose and personalised promises. You’ve fed them cookies that you baked yourself and some that were made by others. You believe you’ve made a good impression.

But, unfortunately, some of your cherished audience members see your actions as creepy. Some still behave promiscuously – they visit one or two of your pages, hang around for a few minutes, then leave you for another site. And only the most loyal are willing to pay for your content.

It’s time to think beyond audience engagement to what we will call “audience embracement.” Audience embracement can be defined as an advanced relationship between you and your audience that is characterised by four things:

  1. A deeper understanding of your audience’s needs and interests.

  2. An ability to deliver to your audience an experience that amazes, delights, and is better than the experience offered by others.

  3. A commitment to action, with the understanding that engagement without action will not be tolerated for long.

  4. Delivery of a more efficient, less complicated, and generally superior online experience for all your audience members.

A common theme in audience embracement is relevancy. Content may be king, and context may be queen, but relevancy rules. Just take a look at how the Content Marketing Institute defines “content marketing:”

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Audience embracement puts relevancy at the core of your audience relationships.

Audience members are almost always willing to trade privacy for relevancy. Besides, targeting without relevancy is indeed just plain creepy. This is where so many early audience engagement retargeting strategies have failed.

Remember the last time you searched for a pair of shoes or wedding gifts online, and advertisements for shoes or honeymoon vacations kept popping up on almost every Web site you visited thereafter?

Under an audience embracement model, targeting is based on a deep understanding of your audience interests, intent, and actionable insights. This understanding is gained through a continual process of collecting, semantically enriching, and fusing together all sorts of audience data, including demographics and other segmentation criteria.

It also includes – and this is the cornerstone of a healthy online relationship – the ability for the audience to opt-out whenever the collection process is felt to be getting too personal or too intrusive.

Embracement extends beyond the newsroom to include advertising content as well.

A July 2014 study of 5,000 news site visitors conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Edelman Berland showed this clearly. When looking at the effectiveness of sponsored content, the study found that relevancy (90%) is the top factor in sparking audience interest.

Furthermore, criteria such as brand trust (81%) and subject matter expertise (82%) were identified as the most critical factors in driving audience attention.

The IAB study showed that a news site’s credibility has a direct impact on readers’ feelings about sponsored content. So, whether a site is looking to achieve that next level of engagement for its news content, its advertising, or both, the key point is that the strongest audience relationships are built upon trust.

Trust leads to credibility. Credibility gives added value to these relationships and helps build brand equity. When put together, credibility and relevancy form a powerful combination that sits at the heart of a media company’s unique potential for audience embracement.

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