How Audience Engagement Influences Your Marketing Success

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Engagement, in today’s ever-connected world, has gotten a bit of a reputation as a marketing buzzword. While it is true that if you, as a marketer, focus on the wrong metrics, it will put a damper on the results. For far too long, companies have fixated on volume versus quality metrics.

In other words, it’s better to drive 100 clicks to your e-commerce page from an audience that is eager to buy than 1000 clicks from people who are not your core customers. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what meaningful audience engagement consists of across channels and provide actionable steps to driving real results while building a community-first brand.

Designing Your Website for Action

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It’s 2019 and 80% of consumers are on their phones while shopping. Yet, it is staggering how only 30% of small businesses have a site designed to meet the demands of mobile-first shoppers. With the vast majority of small businesses operating on an old website or even without one, it will be your competitive advantage to have a professional and responsive website that is tailor-made to drive engagement.

What should you consider when optimizing a website for engagement? First, we’ll need to define what engagement means to you. If you run an online store, add-to-cart and ultimately, check-out are the end goals of audience engagement. A few tips to consider: prioritize searchability, balance inspirational content with seasonal offers, and invest in customer service, eg. in the form of a chat function. This way, you’ll build trust and relevancy that are key to convincing online shoppers.

If you offer a service, it’s a great idea to feature your customer reviews and testimonials prominently on the homepage. Why? Deciding to use a new service, whether it’s a moving company, a cleaner, a new hairdresser, or even plumbing, people are looking to be reassured by peer reviews so that they can feel confident in their choice. In fact, over 70% of customers trust businesses more after reading about positive experiences.

If you don’t have many reviews yet, it’s time to cultivate them: look to your most loyal customers and offer a discount in exchange for a review or gamify them by running a social media sweepstake where all posted reviews are in the running for a free service.

Driving Email Engagement

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Email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient channels for small businesses, returning a whopping 40 dollars for each dollar invested. Email marketing engagement is broken into four sub-categories: subscription rates, open rates, click-through rates, and ultimately, the end conversion goal which can be a purchase, a sign-up, or a service booking, to name a few.

For high engagement rates across the board, you’ll first need to have a list of relevant people subscribed to your campaigns. Below, we’ve listed tried-and-tested strategies for growing your email list:

  • Include an email subscription box on your website: feature it prominently and on the most visited pages
  • Include mentions of your newsletter program frequently on social media
  • Build a reward-system: many e-commerce sites give 10-20% discount codes in exchange for a subscription
  • Run paid social campaigns to drive sign-ups
  • If you operate a brick & mortar store and put up signs for email subscriptions, there are services that can offer a “text your email” function to a number and return a coupon code as a thank you

Next, let’s look at email open rates: what you write in your email subject line determines your success. Writing persuasive marketing copy is an art of its own – luckily, there are many best practices and tips that can help you hone in on this skill. Let’s take a look at successful subject line approaches:

  • Avoid special characters, one-word lines, using spammy tactics like RE: or all caps
  • Ask a question
  • Include a stat in the subject line that is relevant to the audience
  • Tease with an exclusive offer or VIP access to sales
  • Invite to an in-store event
  • Be seasonal
  • Use a personalization token
  • Use action-oriented words: join, check out, find, meet, etc.
  • Make your value proposition or benefit clear
  • Try playful subject lines that include a pun

To drive those clicks, also pay attention to your body copy. Using images is encouraged but don’t hide key messages inside the image since not all recipients have their image processing on. As for text length, that is for you to test but generally, shorter copy with compact paragraphs works well.

Visual CTAs (click-to-action buttons) are another great way to drive clicks. Think of the one main message (eg. shop new arrivals) and make that your main call-to-action. Pay attention to the design: try a few different colors and shapes for a similar message to find the best-performing variant.  

Becoming a Community-First Brand

For audience engagement, nurturing your social community is a must. More than one in three consumers look to business’ social media profiles when looking for information on a brand or a product. Which social channels should you be on? Again, it depends on your business. Inspirational companies in fields like interior design, fashion, jewelry, or home renovation benefit from visual channels like Instagram and Pinterest. Note that a Facebook page is a must if you plan on running paid advertising across the Facebook family of apps; Facebook owns Instagram, Messenger, and Snapchat.

With social channels becoming increasingly competitive, you’ll need to be savvy and active every day. Posting frequent and real content on Instagram Stories can help drive brand awareness and preference. Your content does not have to be perfect, just show what your business is made of. Being approachable will drive likes, comments, and messages. On the note of comments and direct messages, always answer them as they come. Whether it’s a product question or an impromptu review of your product or service, showing that your business cares about its consumers will reap benefits in the long run.

How about influencer marketing?

On the contrary to what many small business marketers might think, influencer marketing is not out of their budget and a great way to drive engagement. You just have to approach it differently; instead of going after the big names, look to your own community or industry for people with 1000-5000 followers. Also dubbed nano-influencers, these people tend to drive higher engagement for their posts and content because they are more niche and hence, more authentic in the eyes of their followers.

In fact, you can take a look at your loyal customers and most frequent commenters on social and turn them into brand ambassadors by offering a discount or a free product in exchange for posting or reviewing your business on their social profile. This way, you can reach a whole new audience not yet familiar with your brand and product. With this budget-friendly approach to influencer marketing, you will be able to have multiple people promoting your business at the same time, driving engagement post after post.

Lastly, pay attention to post quality. We’re not saying you should hire a professional photographer, but a poorly managed social profile wreaks havoc on your overall credibility, especially if your business is based on beautiful-looking products. A good way to boost your social image is to hire a freelance social media manager and have them run this part of your operations.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.