I get a lot of questions about the best way to grow and engage online audiences and unlike what many “experts” say, there are no magic tricks or easy ways to do this. To grow, nurture and engage a fan base you simply have to consistently and purposefully do the work and put in the time.
If you want to grow your reach, you simply have to provide a meaningful experience through sharing valuable insights, content, and knowledge — and by listening to and engaging with others online in the right context. People won’t be interested in what you have to say or offer if you are not providing value.
It’s not about you
We are bombarded with a constant flurry of information, tools, and resources being thrown at us from every direction. Each company, consultant, or expert wants us to engage with them in some capacity. What types of content stands out to you? Think about the last time a post or article really had you engaged. What was it about the content that made it compelling? Was it the topic? Format? Content that only talks about you or how great your company or product is is probably not at the top of anyone’s list. Most people are thirsty for tools and resources to make them smarter, solve problems, and that makes them more successful in their daily lives. All we have to do is figure out how to rise to the challenge.
Customer pain points = engagement topics
You know your audience best! Start by making a list of their pain points, priorities, and everyday needs. Do this based on the outcome they are looking for. For example, perhaps your customers are small businesses that need to learn how to operate as efficiently as possible. Helping them with best practices around all aspects of running a small business, including tools, resources, and ‘grab-and-go’ templates for business operations would be of great value. If you don’t have these assets you can either create them or simply find and evaluate readily available resources online. Even if you are sharing resources from others, you are adding value by filtering and curating it for them!
Inventory your assets
Whether your offering is a product, service, program or widget – you have something to offer beyond what you are selling. You are a subject matter expert, and are in business to provide value to your customers.The subject matter expertise that your fellow employees have locked away inside their heads and the valuable content assets you have hanging out on random company laptops are your greatest assets! Take your list of customer pain-points and priorities and inventory the content and expertise you have that supports each item. Look for things like whitepapers, powerpoint presenations, recorded webinars, articles, research reports and more. Get creative with your people – your internal SME’s can write blog posts, participate in interviews, share presentations and much more.
Layer your content
Engaging customers with your knowledge and content is not a linear process. For each content asset you have, you can possibly create smaller, more consumable and engaging content products. For example, if your company publishes a research report, you can create several different content assets from it, including: Infographics, a series of individual data stats, blog post, webinar, powerpoint presentation, charts & graphs, downloadable executive summaries in ebook format and more. Layering your content assets is a really powerful way to increase the probability that more people will engage with you, because it can be used in many different contexts. Building layers of content adds depth and value to the overall online experience you offer – and ultimately strengthens your online brand.
My presentation from Digital East 2012
There are many organizations who are doing this well, and it’s worth it to do a little benchmarking to help get you started and to inspire some ideas. Hopefully this approach resonates with you – and is helpful in getting started with your online engagement strategy.
If you get overwhelmed, just keep it simple and remember to put yourself in your customers shoes and bring your value.