Online conversation tools offer ongoing opportunity for audience connection

By Jesse Moeinifar


Toronto, Ontario, Canada


2020 was a disruptive whirlwind for practically everyone. Between COVID-19 and the U.S. presidential election, Internet users have been flocking to digital media properties for essential information and much-needed entertainment.

For most companies, the explosion of digital traffic translated into significant audience and subscriber growth. This spike in audience interest helped to sustain media organisations throughout 2020. However, companies will need to fight to keep the attention of their audience members going forward.

“One of the major challenges for [media] companies now is to convince their online readers — many of whom will have signed up at [subsidised] rates or at the peak of their interest in COVID-19 news — to continue paying for their subscriptions,” writes William Turvill, a journalist and editor at Press Gazette.

Publishers need to put in the effort to stay in touch with and keep readers engaged.
Publishers need to put in the effort to stay in touch with and keep readers engaged.

Luckily, some industry leaders are adapting quickly by introducing conversation-based tools onto their Web sites as a way to improve subscriber and follower retention.

Keep up with your competitors by examining how conversation tools can advance your organisation and strengthen audience loyalty despite these challenging times.

Forming connections through online conversation tools

Almost every media company produces intriguing content, so how can you set your brand apart from others? Companies must go beyond their content to gain an edge over competitors and truly captivate audiences.

As a result, the ability to attract and keep subscribers in the months to come will ultimately come down to offering up exceptional, engaging experiences. This can be achieved through a simple solution: moderated conversation tools.

“With limited physical and face-to-face contact, digital acceleration across all media has massively sped up, with consumers across all ages and demographics looking for social connections,” according to an IMNA article.

People who are currently starving for social experiences due to COVID-19 are able to find solace in moderated, user-to-user social experiences online. Plus, enabling meaningful conversations in a safe space elevates the user experience, allowing visitors to engage with fellow users and content creators around the host brand.

By relying on digital social tools, media companies can encourage Internet users to connect to brands based on content and experiences that matter to them.

Rethinking brand relationships with audience members

In a recent report, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism highlights how subscription revenue is now more important than advertising revenue to industry leaders. This means that audience members have become essential to the survival of media organisations. “[The pandemic] has forced ... self-exploration, and forced us to connect with our readers and users and customers in new ways,” states Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones.

Media companies must now successfully understand their visitors and establish meaningful relationships with them to win over audience loyalty in the long run. And what better way to connect with someone than through conversation?

Keep in mind that relationship building must be done outside the realm of social media — especially considering all the misinformation and advertising challenges that overtook social platforms in 2020.

Instead, organisations must begin to nurture their relationships with visitors directly on their own, brand-safe Web sites and apps.

Creating a profitable community

To sum it up, social spaces let people attract and engage other people in a cyclical manner through user-generated content. These user-to-user interactions encourage visitors to return to the host brand’s digital properties as part of a community.

As Vice Media Group’s chief digital officer, Cory Haik, once said, “[People] follow people, not brands.”

If organisations harness the community-building power of social tools, they can grow a highly active, dedicated following centered around their content and experiences. After all, engagement sparks activity, which drives meaningful relationships and daily habits — all necessities for boosting customer registration and retention.

You can also use conversation tools to monitor your community’s first-party data for insight into behavioural patterns and preferences. This information can be used to improve each user’s unique experience around your brand and enhance advertising strategies.

While no one knows precisely what the future will look like, one thing is certain: Online conversations will be the ticket to growing reader relationships, loyalty, and revenue. All of this can help media companies navigate unexpected challenges with confidence.

About Jesse Moeinifar

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