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How to engage your audience

April 20, 2010

Once you’ve established that you care about your audience, the next step is actually engaging them—and for the record, community engagement isn’t just about using social media. It’s a big part, though, and if you’re new to new media, it could be a little baffling to know where to start. Here are a few tips:

Know who your audience is

This should be obvious, but it’s not, and figuring it out is a multi-pronged process. Ask yourself:

  • What kind of audience are you targeting (sports fans, techies, etc.)?
  • What do your analytics say?
  • What are people saying about you already?

Intrinsic to all these points is that the more you know about yourself, the better your idea should be about who your audience is. Look deeper than “we’re a community newsbrand serving X-thousand readers”—know who reads your stuff, what time of day and where they come from (more on that in tomorrow’s post).

Find where your audience is

Your audience is likely in a lot of places, so you should be, too. You’ll find that some places are more popular than others and that’ll all depend on the preferences of your community. I’ve seen Facebook Pages absolutely blow up in some markets and fail miserably in others. I’ve seen other instances where a newsbrand’s website is bereft of comments, but their Facebook Wall stretches a mile long. Your aim should be to establish a presence on multiple platforms initially and cull that list as you discover what works and what’s a waste of time.

Like I said before, this extends beyond your desktop and social media. Where are people in your community meeting in person? If you just stop at social media, you’re not being very social. Put your face out there and make that tangible connection with people.

Have a conversation

Too many journalists treat the internet like a broadcast device—it’s not. Engaging your audience is about having a two-way conversation, and not in the we-write-a-story-you-write-a-letter-to-the-editor-and-we-run-it-a-week-later type of way. People expect promptness and clarity above all else, so treat your readers the same way you’d think of an acquaintance or business contact:

  • Respond to messages/comments;
  • Don’t condescend (i.e. “I’m the journalist, you’re the reader”);
  • Genuinely consider peoples questions/suggestions/opinions;
  • Talk as if you’re talking, not as if you’re responding as a faceless organization.
The upshot is that the faster you respond and the better responses you give, the better responses you’ll get back and a lot of those could turn into leads. Keep up your interaction enough and you could end up with some valuable contacts, too.

More tomorrow

Stay tuned—tomorrow I’ll talk more about the technical (re: techie) aspects of knowing who your audience is, listening and keeping up with them without getting overwhelmed.
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