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Increasing engagement in content marketing

Last month we looked at ways of increasing reach in your content marketing – how to expand your audience and put the great content you create in front of more people. This month, let’s look at another important metric: engaging with your (newly enlarged) audience.

Our goal in increasing engagement is to build trust, create a solid relationship, and move your audience toward profitable action. Here are a few ways to make this happen.

Start with the Basics
As with most things, your best bet is to start with the basics. There’s nothing more basic in content marketing than creating content that is of interest to your audience. Without that focus as a strong foundation, literally nothing else you do will matter.

You can also make your content more engaging by going the extra step to include visuals. Too often, and I’m certainly guilty of this, we create great content – interesting information presented in a easily digestible format with a personal feel – but stop at the written word. That’s understandable for those marketers who write well, but the real issue is typically time and expense. It takes more time to add a second type of content, like imagery, because you usually need the help of a second expert –writers aren’t art directors, usually – and because the visual content can be more expensive to produce or license. It should still be a part of your planning and budgeting, if only for select content. (And once you A/B that select content against content without visuals, you’ll find the budget…)

For social media content, images can help you stand out from the crowd. We’ve seen data suggesting that images on Twitter increase engagement by as much as 150%. The bigger basic in social media, though, is timeliness and repetition. Because most social media is a never ending scroll, you want to put your content out there when your audience is most likely to see it. You also want to hedge your bets by putting it out there more than once. I hesitate to use the word “repeatedly,” since that begins to sound like you’re beating your audience over the head with your content, but you do typically need to repeat yourself to be heard. (A feeling familiar to parents everywhere, I’m sure…)

More Advanced Ideas
Once you’ve got your “engagement encouragement system” in place, you can layer additional techniques on top of the basics.

Asking questions is a great way to start. But if your idea of this is adding, “Let me know what you think in the comments” to your blog posts, you may want to reconsider your approach. That’s simply too generic and too weak an invitation. Asking specific questions and framing those questions in ways that encourage debate is far more likely to yield results. You don’t have to stake out truly controversial territory, though that’s another tactic you can try if you have the stomach for it.

You can also work toward embedding your content and connecting it to other content. Truly great content gets your audience’s mind humming. You can feed that interest by making it easy to link directly to related content. Help your audience connect the dots.

Making it easy to share great content is another way to build engagement. Shared content expands your reach, of course, but the act of sharing is a form of engagement that invests your audience more in your content. It’s a great step along the path towards creating a customer and brand ambassador from a follower or subscriber.

Keeping a steady stream of content flowing is another key to engagement. It’s tough to engage when the content you’re engaging around isn’t fresh. Relevance matters.

The Ultimate Engagement Technique
I’ve saved the best for last. It’s also the most difficult of these engagement techniques to master: storytelling. Creating stories with your content makes them memorable and adds an emotional layer that is hard to create any other way.

It’s simplest to start this with individual pieces of content, using stories to illustrate key points and present your ideas in ways your audience can easily relate to. As you grow comfortable developing these stories, you can begin to tie your content marketing together more broadly through storytelling.

Done well, this creates a brand and personality that your audience can connect with almost immediately and with nearly any piece of content that happens to be their introduction to you. And it’s that connection that allows you to build the trust and create the relationship that ultimately leads to a fan or follower becoming a customer.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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