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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

5 Strategies to Build and Track Audience Engagement

image for scyther5 / Getty Images
scyther5 / Getty Images
  • Marketing relies on audience engagement, which in turn must be built on content and metrics.
  • Hire expert advisors and trust them to attract the audience you are targeting.
  • Always have fresh content on your site and experiment with new ideas.

No matter what industry your business falls under, engaging a targeted audience is critical. Whether it's prospecting for new leads or communicating with previous clients, audience participation keeps your brand fresh in customers' minds.

Engagement can mean a lot of different numbers, such as page views, email opens or Twitter interactions. While you don't need to analyze every single metric, you should focus on specific measurements that work toward achieving an established goal. Business News Daily spoke with some communication experts about digital strategies to help small businesses get started.

Audience engagement is a key part of marketing, and with any advertising campaign, you need to understand your target audience. Who follows your brand? Who would you like to follow your brand?

"Sometimes your current audience is different from the group you originally wanted to communicate with," explained Chevon Drew, senior communications manager at Race Forward and Color Lines.

"A business can manufacture and market baby wipes to parents for five years, experience an increase in sales and attribute it to parents wanting more wipes when it truly could have meant their audience changed from solely parents to parents and the limitless numbers of people now using wipes to remove makeup in the era of Instagram," she added. "That's an example I fabricated, but it illustrates the thinking behind doing less assuming and more surveying."

Depending on how big a business is, the marketing and communication departments can be completely separate. However, they should always meet when discussing revenue generation.

"It's important to make sure that your audience engagement initiatives align with your company's overall goals," explained Elizabeth Riley Boyer, director of marketing and communications at ThinkCERCA.

She recommends following the OKR framework, which is an acronym used by Google, Intel and other major corporations. OKR stands for company "objectives" and measurable "key results." Each objective should align with a company's mission and values, and each key result identifies a way employees can work together to reach an objective.

"For nearly all businesses, you probably have some sort of revenue metric that you're tracking," Riley Boyer added. "At ThinkCERCA, we have some great data on platform usage leading to great student achievement results, which leads to increased customer renewals and expansions. So my team is currently looking at launching and growing engagement initiatives that support increased platform usage among teachers and students."

In addition to revenue goals, make sure that your engagement strategy aligns with your image. Tony Tran, a media marketing guru, pointed out that what works for Wendy's is a completely different style than the approach Starbucks or Nike takes. Your engagement might be educational, or it might be supportive, or it might be humorous, but it should be consistent, and it should align with your company image and promote your goals.

An average day for Drew involves tracking which links receive the most retweets from Twitter and shares on Facebook, and analyzing open rates for their organization's email marketing lists.

That's why Christina Ochoa, social media strategist and founder of The Social Butterfly Gal, recommends hiring a tailored professional who is well versed in the online realm. To best serve her clients, she uses analytics and powerful visuals to market on Instagram.

"Digital strategy can be time-consuming and overwhelming," she said. "Small business owners should hire someone who knows the digital world, can respond in a timely matter and [be] one [who] isn't afraid to try new things when it comes to strategy or content."

However, since social media is accessible to the public, an experienced professional doesn't have to already work in the industry. Their own following and content can show how well (or not) they grab an audience.

Digital media is constantly changing. It was only last year that Instagram offered the analytics feature to any business account. Fortunately, it's easy to carry out experiments, because posting a tweet takes a matter of seconds.

"Our audience engagement editor is constantly testing subject lines and [the] best times of day to send a tweet," Riley Boyer said.

Plus, it's easy to get wrapped up in what a brand should sound like and lose your unique voice. Sounding overly promotional makes content feel less relatable. Especially when a company first starts out, you'll need to develop your voice over time. "Too many feel social media needs to be so straightforward," Ochoa added. "Don't be afraid to be real. That's how people will feel connected to you and want to follow you!"

Stoney deGeyter, president of Pole Position Marketing, offers several tips for enhancing audience engagement with your website. One that may get overlooked is website speed.  He points out that it is your job to ensure that your site is fast and efficient. Also critical today is that the site is friendly to mobile devices. Design your site to look just as good on a phone or tablet as it does on a computer screen.

DeGeyter also points out the advantages of flexible internal linkages. Having options on the landing page that can take your visitors in different directions, depending on their preferences, increases the likelihood that they will linger on your site, which enhances engagement and provides you with more opportunities to record their interactions. Additionally, it offers chances for commitment or connections for future visits. Make sure they know what you want them to do (sign up, click, call, come back) before they leave the page.

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.