How do you get your audience to take that extra step? Quite simply, by getting them to participate.
Participation is the measure of engagement
Now, the concept of participation is simple, but mastering it takes time and patience. You must build your audience base, while at the same time establish yourself as a knowledgeable source.
And then you work on enticing your audience to become part of the discussion. Here are some techniques and things to think about when you work to get your audience participating in your message.
- Solicit their opinion. Everyone has opinions and in the social media culture of today, everyone loves voicing their opinions. So, ask your audience for their opinions. Give them something to talk about and then watch ‘em go. Get in there, too and engage directly with them. Have a conversation. This can be as easy as ending your content with “Tell us what you think in the comments!” It’s a beginning. A prelude to the deeper participation you’ll get with the next strategy.
Ask for help completing something. This is a slightly sneaky psychological tactic to get your audience to participate. When you help someone, you feel good about yourself and feel more connected to whomever you helped. Getting someone to help you makes them feel good and like you. It’s a scientific fact backed by science. One example of this concept is to create an unfinished list and ask your readers to finish it. This trick might seem similar to the previous one, but this requires even more participation on your audience’s part. This is helping you complete a task instead of just voicing an opinion. It can also lead to deeper participation.
- Pose challenges. Maybe you can come up with the next flipping water bottle bucket cinnamon challenge. Or, maybe it’s a “Prettiest Coffee Maker” contest. Give them a custom hashtag to use when they post their responses to the challenge and you’ve just engaged an army creating user-generated content in your name. Encourage them to challenge their friends and you’re on your way to something greater than you could ever have afforded with traditional advertising.
- Give them snackables. Snackables are bite-sized tidbits of information, packaged to be quickly read and easily spread (and company-branded, of course). They are the little posts your audience can share on social media to show that they, for example, find the fact that “Humans share 50% of our DNA with bananas” interesting. Use graphics, animation, and video to clarify numerical data. Interpret your data for your audience, so learn and share in one easy action. Make sure your snackables include a call to action, too, so your audience does something more than just share. And, make sure your data and facts are fully checked. Though you can find the 50% banana thing all over the internet, it’s not true. According to PhD student in Biology from the University of Cambridge, Lewis Thomson, we share 50% of our genes with bananas (which computes to only about 1% of our DNA). Whoopsie, internet!
- Involve them in something bigger. Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves—part of the team, part of the in-crowd. Create this for your audience. Make them want your content over others because they feel like you are including them in your company’s journey. As they participate with your content, participate right back. Reward them with exclusive printables or images or, in the case of a challenge winner, fun prizes. Your audience will feel like part of your company’s team and they will work like they’re part of your team (only for free).
Extra bonus content thoughts
One thing to keep in mind is Andrew Stanton’s Unifying Theory of 2 + 2. “The audience actually wants to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they’re doing that. . . . Make the audience put things together. Don’t give them 4; give them 2 + 2.”
This is good advice when you are soliciting opinions or spurring a discussion. Don’t insult your audience’s intelligence by spoon-feeding them. Rather, give them enough information so they can make their own decisions. If you craft your content right, they’ll come to the conclusions you would write about, only in their own organic way. Plus, since they reached those thoughts themselves, those ideas will be strengthened in your customers’ minds. Keep in mind this doesn’t really work for snackable content, though, where the goal is to give them pre-digested bits of info.
In her TED Talk, Dao Nguyen (BuzzFeed publisher) said, “Don’t just think about the subject matter. Think . . . primarily about the job that your content is doing for the reader or the viewer.” Make this the motto you live by as you develop content. To really engage with your audience, you need to provide content that thinks two steps ahead.
That is, don’t provide content just for your company or just for your audience. Create content for your audience to do something with. The act of doing something with your content is participation, which means your audience is deeply engaged. And when they’re engaged, they’ll spread your message.