5 Ways to Increase Engagement With Your Content

Bookmark and Share Monday, August 9, 2010

This month's guest post is contributed by Kate Brodock, who has managed content production teams and creates digital content for corporations such as Bose. I asked Kate to share her thoughts on how to use online content to encourage participating and collaboration online, and she's delivered the goods.

We've all been there: we've got a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, you name it.....you've got traffic..... but no one's giving you any love.  No "comments" love.  No "click" love.  No "Facebook Like" love.  No "Twitter Retweet" love. 

Is it you?  

Well, it is, but it doesn't necessarily mean that your content is bad itself.  It may mean you haven't given people a good enough call-to-action, a reason for them to do more than just read what you put out there and move on.  It doesn't mean that they walk away dissatisfied, or unfulfilled.  In fact, you may very well have left a good impression on them.  But you could be doing more to get them to interact.

So, you ask, what are some ways I can make people want to *do* stuff with my content?  How can I get them to react to it, or even to share it?  I've listed a few ways below, and would love to hear from you some of your success stories.

Way Number One: Question Them

Assuming that your content is actually good and offers value to your readers, and that you've distributed your content enough that it has eyes reading it, getting your audience to take that one step further and process your content increases the likelihood that they'll want to react to it in some way.  What I've found to be an effective tactic - as a practitioner and as a reader - is asking a question. 

Whether it's in the middle of a blog post or at the end, or as part of a conversation on a social networking platform, a question forces your reader to pause and think about what's being discussed.  Quite literally, the act of reading a question provokes your brain to actually ask it of itself, and therefore mull over answersThis is a much more active process than simply reading, which can sometimes be very passive as we skim, consume, and move on through the piles of content we see each day.

Additionally, asking a question invites your readers to a discussion, and shows them that you want to have that discussion, while also empowering them as capable and knowledgeable contributors to the discussion topic. 

Way Number Two: Connect and Share

One of the biggest ways you can get people to interact with and pass along your content is if you make it super easy for them.  Seems obvious, right?  But it requires taking a good look at each separate platform, recognizing how your content is being presented and the ways in which people can interact with your content from a technical standpoint.  Often times, it's small details that make the difference. 

Have you made it easy for people to leave you a comment, or is it a hassle to do so?  If there are a bunch of barriers up that make it difficult for me to leave a comment, I'm not going to do so.  A simple form and one click says to me "we welcome your input!"

Have you made connecting with you in various ways as easy as pie?  Think about how people can contact you further, follow your RSS feed, sign up for newsletters, follow you on other social networks, etc.  "Interacting with your content" doesn't necessarily have to mean that it's one particular piece.  If you get people to continue to come back to future content easily, that's great. 

Are your sharing options clear, and do you have some control over how your content is presented once it's shared?  For instance, if you have a button on your blog posts that people can click and share on Twitter, you not only want to make sure your readers do as little work as possible, but also that your content - your blog title, URL, etc - are as clear and attractive as possible when shared.  

You get the picture here.  You want to make sure that people can connect to you easily, can engage in conversation with you easily, and can share your content easily, while also keeping your content in the rocking form it should be.

Way Number Three: Buck the Trend

Sometimes "taking sides" gets the juices flowing.  There's no denying it, so, if you can, you might as well embrace it. Now, I'm not saying you should write every post from ontop of a soap-box.  But often times, companies and organizations back off from taking sides because it's safe to be neutral.  However, if there's a topic that fits into the theme(s) of your organizations "reason for being" that you feel you can comment on with some authority and take a diplomatic, professional stand, this is usually a good hook for people. 

This tactic should follow an internal discussion of your content strategy as to where the line is between "taking sides" and "creating controversy" (which can be detrimental).  This again also needs to be aligned with your branding and your Voice.  

Remember, a good way to present your side is to also make it a welcoming conversation for anyone from any side.  This can be done by combining your stance with questions, and asking people what they think.

Way Number Four: Involve Them

This will seem like a pretty easy one once I explain.  Creating a more "official" process by which people can directly interact with you makes them a lot more willing, especially if there's something in it for them.  Asking them for their stories relating to a particular topic or running a contest on your blog are sure ways to get more participation.

The tricky part here is to make the call-to-action applicable enough to "what you're all about" so people aren't just coming, participating, and then leaving and never coming back.  I've seen too many iPod give aways that had no thought put into whether or not the participants would come back or not.  They only came for the iPod, and then they left.  The reason to act was not compelling enough to have them stick around.  Some of the more successful campaigns have been something like submitting a story on a particular subject area that fits your organization's "thing" and offering a prize to the best (whatever you determine best to be) submission.  If you can engage them through company/organization-related issues, they're more likely to come back after they've responded to your official call-to-action.

Way Number Five: Think About the Conversation

Have you ever read an informative, but professionally (read: rigidly) written blog post and really really wanted to interact with it?  If you're anything like me, the answer is probably no.  I feel more likely to engage with content that sounds like I'm talking to a person.  Now, this doesn't apply across the board, because your Voice ultimately needs to be aligned with your brand, but I'm of the general ilk that adding a little bit of informality to some of the content you have on social media platforms can have its benefits.  This can complement your more formal pieces of content quite well.

In general, thinking about your content as a piece of a conversation can be helpful in putting it together.  How would you talk about a particular topic?

If you choose to adopt any of these, remember also that it doesn't mean you're applying it as the heart of your content production strategy (unless you really want to).  These are meant to be tactical level ideas that support your strategy.  You can use one way one time (or never!) and be done with it.  You can think about doing two of them at once, or try one every few weeks.

There are plenty of other ways you can get people giving your content some love, and I'd love to hear from you what you've found most successful, so please leave a comment!

235127021.jpegKate Brodock is Founder and Principal at the Other Side Group, a content production and marketing strategy firm that focuses on using new marketing techniques to increase brand impact.  She is also on the Strategy Board of the Meta-Activism Project (MAP), an organization committed to inciting critical analysis of how we develop knowledge about digital technology’s effect on activism, as well as a Managing Director of Girls in Tech Global, an organization seeking to empower and educate leading women in technology.  She can be found blogging at Ad Your Comments Here, Today and Tomorrow, and B2B Voices.

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