Building and sustaining a loyal audience is the core challenge of content marketing. There is no doubt that it is not an easy task.
In one of the sessions at the Contently Summit, PureWow Director of Marketing Alexis Anderson, Mediaco Editorial Director Erin Scottberg, and Refinery 29 Senior Director of Marketing Irene Lee discussed some of the strategies they have used in order to build loyal audiences as well as the steps they have taken in order to ensure that their audience is growing in the right direction as well.
Do Not be Concerned with Quantity, But Rather with Quality
There will come a time when the number of readers is far less important than the level of engagement of those readers as the entire media industry moves away from vanity metrics.
Having said that, Anderson said, “Size isn’t so important to us anymore.”. He continued, “What’s most important is the perception of the quality of the audience.”. It’s better to have 100 great readers than to have 1,000 mediocre ones.” He continued.
A paid distribution campaign can be a great way to acquire an audience, but it’s equally important to track the quality of those new visitors once they have arrived on your site. Is the content they are viewing taking up a lot of their time? Will they be returning in the future?
Unlike other publishers, PureWow is not interested in acquiring readers who are less engaged than their organic readership, even if the method of acquisition is cheap and efficient. Rather, the company wants its readers to be interested in engaging with PureWow’s content.
As part of Refinery29’s experiments with paid audience acquisition, Lee explained, “We spend a little at a time to see if the audience is the right one for us and if it is worth spending money on them.”.
The Key to Building an Audience is through Email Marketing
In the words of BuzzFeed VP of Agency Strategy Jonathan Perelman: “Content is king, distribution is queen, and she wears the pants.”
It is no secret that Anderson is quick to highlight the advantages of focusing acquisition campaigns on email, which gives you access to an audience that you own, as opposed to one that you rent, such as one you might acquire through Facebook or via display advertising.
The recommendation she gave was to not buy displays, but to buy dedicated emails instead.
Take Advantage of the Power of Partnerships by Embracing them
In terms of growth, the most successful thing for us have been partnerships, Lee noted, pointing out that partnering with like-minded sites is a great way to not only introduce a new audience to your content, but also to acquire those oh-so-valuable email addresses that are part of the growing list of newsletter subscribers.
During Scottberg’s talk, he made the point that brands must trust their partners’ ability to understand their target audiences, which can help ensure that the campaign will succeed.
Be Sure to Test Everything at all Times
In Lee’s opinion, the secret to our success lies in the fact that we test a lot. Everything that Refinery29 sends out is subjected to an A/B split test before it is sent out. In addition to using data to determine when content will perform best, they use it to optimize the engagement of emails and social media platforms as well. In R29’s Intelligence blog, which launched last month, Lee and her team give us a close-up look at what goes on behind those curtains.
Provide High-quality Content for your Audience
Although this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s crucial to remember that building an audience always comes down to creating quality content that’s tailored to a specific type of user in order to attract them.
Anderson was quick to highlight how important it is for PureWow’s “compelling, smart, and a little risqué” headlines to engage their audience via email and social media, and what a huge role they can play in engaging their audience. In the words of the editor, “I don’t mean to insult [Refinery29], but we have the best writers on the planet.”.
As Scottberg pointed out, highly clickable headlines still have to deliver on their promises if they are to be successful.
Do not Forget the Importance of Good Design
The key to great design is not just good images; in today’s tech-savvy world, it’s absolutely imperative that both your emails and your site should be mobile-responsive in order to stand out from the crowd.
According to Lee, just changing the email signup module on mobile in order to make it more accessible resulted in over a hundred new subscribers signing up a day in a small test that only lasted a few hours. Using this module gave Refinery29 the opportunity to show that the concept worked, and it gave them the time to perfect it.
Take your Time and don’t Take Shortcuts
Taking Refinery29’s Intelligence blog as an example, there is a continuous process of iterating and improving content, design and strategy in response to data that is never-ending and takes a lot of time and effort. In spite of this, it is possible for nearly any publisher to follow in their footsteps.
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