How do you keep your audience engaged, loyal, and committed to your content in the battle for clicks?
My browser currently has 23 tabs open. No, I’m not looking for a new car, or the latest holiday specials on the internet; I’m looking for credible sources of information on the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
I’m struggling to find credible sources of information that provide objective insights on what’s really happening, why it has happened, and how it’s going to affect consumers in the coming months.
Right now, I’m getting sucked into a plethora of propaganda and political narratives. The number of sites that lured me in with their sketchy headlines and inaccurate information told me more about them than my naivety.
After all, clickbait is the eye candy of the internet. A title or picture so tantalising that we can’t resist clicking on it. Why does it work? Because it brings all the drama – and the world loves drama.
Do you know how many websites exist on the internet in 2022?
1,952,246,488. Don’t be ashamed if you read that in Jacob Zuma’s voice.
Here are some statistics:
- Over 5.25-billion active internet users
- China has over 1-billion active users
- 4.32-billion people use their mobile devices to go online
- 198.4-million active websites on the web
- Around 7-million blog posts get published per day.
- 4.2-billion active social media users by the end of 2021
- 47% of internet users globally use an ad-blocker today
- Twenty-six smart objects are located near every human on Earth
- By the end of 2021, more than 500 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute
(Source: First Site Guide)
By the time I’m done writing this, there will be well over two-billion websites on the internet – closes tabs!
The battle for clicks has never been more competitive, so how do keep your audience engaged, loyal, and committed to your content offering?
How do you maintain your credibility and tone of voice whilst maintaining your audience, growing your audience, and not compromising your brand’s integrity?
Here are 10 things I’ve worked on in the past to get this right:
Think and act like your audience
It’s not about you, it’s about your audience! Don’t separate yourself from who you’re speaking to. Connect with your audience and make them a part of your brand. If something in their daily life affects you too, empathise with them and let them know that you’re also paying R3 per litre more at the pumps. “You’re” not paying more for fuel, “WE’RE” paying more for fuel!
Have a plan, but stay agile
Content calendars are standard procedure these days, but you need to know when to drop the plan and act on issues that are affecting your audiences’ personal lives. In April 2021, East Coast Radio’s new digital strategy began to take shape but in July 2021 the KZN riots and unrest unfolded. As a team, we had to implement our disaster strategy and drop our existing content strategy. As a brand, we had to ensure that we provided our audience with credible, accurate, and relevant information to help them navigate through the crisis.
In March 2021, after achieving the top radio website ranking in South Africa (Narratiive, 2022) for consecutive months, the #KZNFloods took place. As much as we would have loved to maintain the momentum our content strategy had built over the past year, there was no doubt that our audiences’ needs ranked above our targets as a brand.
Don’t act like you care, show that you care
It’s easy to send out a tweet that “our thoughts are with you”, but how can you translate those thoughts into action?
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every initiative; sometimes you need to keep it simple, focus on the basic needs of your audience and partner up with brands that share the same vision as you. Remember when Woolworths, Checkers, and Pick n Pay put their commercial interests aside and reminded South Africa that we were in it together?
Don’t chase trends to stay relevant
Some trends are none of your business. Brands often feel pressured to participate in certain trends to avoid looking like they’re asleep. If you spend your days chasing trends you will never have any time to create your own trends. Choose what works for you and rather do those well.
Not every TikTok dance challenge needs every member of your staff to expose some of their questionable dance moves.
Believe in your long-term strategy and vision
Don’t panic when things don’t go your way. There will be great months and there will be terrible months, but that comes with the digital nature of the job. It’s easy to want to change the format when you have a few bad months, but you need to give it time to breathe. You don’t want to confuse your primary audience or potential new audiences. People like consistency and they attach to a brand because they identify with that brand.
Be transparent when you’re giving feedback and communicate what’s working and what’s not. In that way, you’re not left scrambling to spin any poor results when you’re reporting on them. Ask for time and reinforce that you believe in your strategy!
Don’t compromise when it comes to your values
Experiment, push the boundaries, but don’t forget what you stand for as a brand. If you forget what you stand for, how could you expect your audience to remember? As tempting as it may be to want to cross unchartered waters, rather consult trusted internal and – sometimes external – stakeholders. If you’re still not sure, engage in focus groups with some of your most loyal fans and see how they react. Facebook’s Top Fans feature is a great place to start.
Sometimes we will make the mistake of putting out a story that makes you feel a little dirty, but that’s when you can rely on your audience to let you know you’re straying. When your loyal fans start to troll you, that’s when you need to pay closer attention – we’re all guilty of this!
I remember when we once got caught in the “giving birth to a frog” Twitter trend trap – and our audience let us know.
Innovate and automate
Find new ways to automate old processes. There’s an app for everything these days and you can automate daily, weekly, and monthly reports. Use the additional time to give your content team more time out, more time to be creative, and more time to focus on quality instead of deadline-driven quantity.
Keep your eye on your competitors
It’s so easy to get caught up in what your competitor is doing and why you’re not doing it, but that’s not the point of staying connected to what’s happening around you. Keep your eye on your competitors because it could inspire you to do something similar, but something tailored to best represent your brand. I can guarantee you that on most occasions they’re looking at you and wondering why they aren’t doing what you’re doing.
Give it time. For any strategy to deliver the expected results I’ve found that you should give it at least six months. Make minor tweaks and adjustments along the way and use data-driven insights to make informed decisions. Mapping trends on Google Analytics has been a great foundation for my current strategy.
Be authentic and inclusive when marketing your brand
Being authentic means that you act in ways that show your true self and how you feel. Rather than showing people only a particular side of yourself, you express your whole self genuinely. That means to succeed in being authentic, you first have to know who your true self actually is.
This is what I as a consumer want from brands and what I as a marketer want to be for the brands I work for. In a time of chaos, we just want the people around us to be as real and relatable as possible – that is all.
But don’t get it wrong, there’s a fine line when using authenticity as a marketing objective. Bounce your idea off of various departments of the business to ensure that your decision-making is inclusive of different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
As a result, we managed to increase our year-on-year (YOY) performance between 10% and 35% across our high priority metrics, respectively.
It’s not easy to strike the right balance, especially in a world where the attention shifts so quickly and there’s always a different narrative being pushed.
Take some time out, reflect on what you want to achieve, and remind your team about why you started in the first place.
Don’t let the clickbait get you down!
Preneil Pillay is the digital lead at East Coast Radio (Kagiso Media). He’s worked in the broadcasting, media, and communications industry for 15 years – working with at some of South Africa’s biggest content creation organisations in South Africa. He has worked with brands in South Africa and some African territories, respectively.
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