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How to build an online community to drive engagement and purchase intent

An engaged online audience is more likely to make purchasing decisions while on your site – either to purchase directly from your available products or to consider purchasing a client’s product advertised on your site. Online engagement solutions provider Viafoura has released a whitepaper on how to increase audience engagement and purchasing intent.

The whitepaper, titled Unlock the Four Fundamentals to Improve Audience Engagement, states that the more an audience engages with a website, the more data you’re able to collect on their interests, behaviour and preferences – which can then be used to assess purchase intent and drive your business growth. 

“Engaged users come back to your site. They search your pages for other stories they might like. More than that, they’re more likely to register or subscribe,” the whitepaper states. 

So, how do you build an engaged online community with purchase intent?

The audience engagement ladder 

Viafoura cites research completed by Lior Zalmanson and Gal Oestreicher-Singer that identifies a user journey that progresses from ‘content organisation’ to participation, then leadership. At each stage, a user’s level of engagement and loyalty is said to increase. 

The engagement ladder.

“In most cases, users start off as ‘lurkers’ who passively consume content. These users may later make small contributions to the community, for example, by organising (tagging or liking) content. Users on the next level make more substantial contributions, such as posting comments to discussion forums. Finally, on the top rung of the ladder are members who take on leadership roles in the community, for example, by initiating or moderating discussions,” Zalmanson and Oestreicher-Singer explain. 

Viafoura says that understanding this user journey is an important first stage in establishing your engagement goals. Based on its own data “cultivated from over 600 top media brands…over 80 per cent of user registration happens on pages that feature some kind of onscreen engagement option.” 

So what are the whitepaper’s key takeaways for niche magazine publishers looking to establish an online community to drive engagement and purchase intent? 

Build trust and provide ways to participate 

For users, Viafoura explains, engagement is about finding a trusted community that focuses on a particular area of interest that matters to them. Users need to trust that any participation within this space will be productive and safe – or user-friendly, intuitive to use, and moderated to specified community guidelines. 

Viafoura says that ultimately these interactions need to stay on your website. 

“Depending on your goals, this might mean highlighting user comments, allowing your audience ways to follow the contributors they love, or offering content suggestions based on their preferences – all directly on site.” 

In addition, it should be recognised that not every user will engage in the same way. 

“Some might comment prolifically, others may be more likely to follow or share the content or comments they like. Personality and level of trust in your site will play a role, as will where users are on the Engagement Ladder,” says Viafoura. 

Users also engage differently on mobile devices compared to a desktop computer, generally choosing more passive engagement methods.

“Whatever their reason for engaging at the level they do, by offering users different ways to interact you’re providing important access points into the community you’re creating, giving readers the opportunity to climb the Engagement Ladder and develop increased loyalty to your site,” says Viafoura. 

Create conversations between your audience, editors, journalists and contributors 

Let your audience engage directly with the editors, journalists and contributors who write your content. 

Viafoura says “By actively engaging with their audiences, contributors enhance the conversation underway and give engaged users exactly what they’re after: the chance for on-point, two-way conversations that involve the journalists they admire. 

“These direct relationships not only make engaged users feel valued but increase site loyalty and keep users coming back to see what will happen next – all while offering journalists feedback on their efforts.” 

Viafoura states that it is important that the right tools are used to make sure that a two-way conversation is easy and immediate. 

By creating the opportunity to converse in this way, you have the potential to create a team of ‘cheerleaders’ for your brand: “If contributors can see the impact of that engagement – how it’s driving KPIs and the metrics that matter – they’ll know whether they’re really connecting, and be inspired to engage even more, building direct relationships with their users over time,” Viafoura says. 

Build your community based on the metrics advertisers care about 

Build your online engagement strategy by focusing on the metrics that your advertisers focus on – not just the number of users, but also those that demonstrate engagement: number of pageviews, return visits and time spent on site. 

“Creating engagement goals with those metrics in mind can help you build a better prospect for advertisers – and give them the assurances they need that the right readers will see their ads,” says Viafoura. 

Viafoura also states that as you build a clearer picture of your audience, be transparent with your advertisers about your audience data and their behaviour. 

“The more you know about your own audience, the more appealing you can make your site to advertisers, and the more you can work with them to focus their messaging and create effective campaigns. 

“Engagement helps accomplish those goals. User registration, direct newsletter sign-ups, and a view into audience interactions allow you to understand your users at the engagement level, to inform your sales team, paint a better picture for advertisers and create a more personalised advertising experience overall.” 

For more information on driving audience engagement and purchase intent, visit Viafoura’s website.

Written by Lyndsie Clark

Niche Publishing Network Founder and Editor Lyndsie Clark has over 10 years of niche publishing experience, working in a variety of roles spanning B2B editorial, sales, operations, events, BD, and management.

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