The Art of Engaging Online Audiences

February 12th, 2014   •   no comments   

Courtesy of Hollywood Sapien

We’re both actors and audiences in the age of ubiquitous mobile social networks. Powered by tablets and smartphones, we either play the role of thespians or theatre-goers.

Don’t believe me? Well, consider the following:

1) Every post, update, upload or tweet is an embodiment of  our desired public image. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just put up everything that happens in our lives. Rather, we carefully choose each photo, sentence, and video to match our desired public persona.

2) Content that we engage with on social networks reveal our preferences as online audiences. A “like”, favourite, heart, thumbs up, or +1 is a virtual clap on the back or applause.

3) Those particularly moved by the “performance” would comment, share, or retweet that short-form work of art to their own audiences. As fellow actors, producers, scriptwriters, and broadcasters all rolled into one, we have the power to magnify, destroy or ignore. 

4) Instagram these days are all about tags, taglines and techniques. Because we are photographing ourselves, food, holidays, events and loved ones much more frequently than before, we’re now highly trained to preen and pose anytime, anywhere, with anybody.

5) And then there are short-form videos. From YouTube to Vine to Instagram, these 15 to 20 second snippets convey more than a thousand words. They act like short trailers of our life, giving our viewers a tantalising teaser of what the real deal may be.

In such an environment, we do not simply share everything that swings by our way. Instead, we curate content that passes through our one man/woman media machine, ensuring that they’re meaningful, reflective of who we are, and engineered to elicit a reaction.

While putting on “our best selves” have always been a unique trait of humans, the advent of social technologies have turned it into a 24/7 obsession-compulsion.

Content consumption is splintered into a million byte-sized pieces. We’re no longer just saving ourselves for that epic performance but are savouring every morsel that comes our way. With the power of 4G networks and ever larger mobile screens, we are perpetually tethered to never-ending streams of content.

There are several implications for businesses.

Those that seek to engage audiences must find a way to stream themselves into our consciousness. Because we’re highly adept at ignoring anything boring or run-of-the-mill, the battle for our attention is more fiercely fought than ever before.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1) What would interest my targeted community?

2) Who am I up against?  What do I need to do to stand out from the rest?

3) Is my content fun, humourous, shocking, relevant or incredibly useful?

4) Is it delivered in an easily digestible format that encourages spreading?

5) Does it have my audiences – and only my audiences – in mind?

6) Have I taken out the “eye-rollers”, ie corporate puffery, bravado, and hot-air?

Once you’ve created compelling content, consider how you should distribute it. Identify influencers and fans whom you’ve built a relationship with, and nudge them to get the word out. Supplement this with your own content channels.

While frequency may help generate top-of-mind recall, mindshare and heartshare are built on meaningful content that meets your community’s needs. Make it worth their while not only to consume it, but to spread it around.

In a world where everybody’s continually consuming and perpetually performing, businesses need to know how to play that game. Shouting out your brand or its virtues is no longer enough. Instead, you need to appeal to your customers by creating content that is helpful, fun, and designed to catch their eye.

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