How can I turn my audience into a community?

    Last updated: May 13, 2024

    Cultivating a loyal and engaged audience goes beyond getting impressions and clicks – It’s about building a thriving community.  

    In this article, learn how to transform your passive audience into an active and interconnected community. From fostering meaningful interactions to leveraging the power of shared interests, discover the keys to turning your audience into a vibrant and engaged online community. 

    Demonstrate your industry leadership  

    On the Internet, everyone’s got a mic. By now, your audience has seen enough LinkedIn “broets” and scammy course creators to be discerning about who they follow and why. So to earn your audience’s trust, and keep them involved for the long-term, you need to establish your credibility right away. Here’s where to start:

    Master subscription models: 9 Proven tactics to skyrocket retention & revenue:

    • Host interviews with experts in your industry and adjacent fields.  
    • Want to take this a step further? Partner with other brands/creators to double or triple your reach — and reach audience members that are already more predisposed to trust you and your expertise.  
    • Commission exclusive industry research – lets you state a clear-cut perspective on  your industry — and base those perspectives in observed data. The presence of empirical research helps you show, not tell, your audience that you’re legit. (As long as your methodology is sound, that is.)  
    • Supplement your print content with downloadable guides and templates. A lot of people can tell you what to do. But only the experts can help you put those teachings in practice in a way that’s realistic, on budget and practical.

    Putting out those practical resources establishes your company as a trusted advisor in your space — and that’ll attract a self-selecting audience on its own.  

    Prioritize personalization  

    Every good community has two key components: First, you need to resonate with individual readers. Then you need to connect those people with one another.  

    And you can’t achieve the latter without the former. So before splurging on a community platform or multi-city event series, make sure you’re reaching everyone in your audience on an individual level.  

    • Use on-page content recommendations to give each reader the resources they’re most likely to enjoy. On Omeda, these recommendations are generated based on each visitor’s previous browsing history across every channel (email and website to events, print and more). As someone continues to engage, recommendations will get more accurate and start a positive feedback loop of relevant recommendations, increased time on site, and even more engagement. (PS: For first-time visitors, the Content Recommendations algorithm uses a collaborative filtering model to compare that person to similar visitors and give them recommended links. So even a brand-new site visitor will get something that’s somewhat customized to their needs and as they keep engaging, those recommendations will also become more precise.)
    • Target personalizations to custom audiences based on their past engagement, purchase and reading history. So if you’re promoting a new course about first-time  investing to readers of your finance site, you can create a custom audience of likely targets — say, 18- to 35-year-olds that have read at least one or two articles about basic investing, but have not signed up for a course or paid for a subscription yet. (On Omeda, you can account for someone’s engagement across other channels, like email and events, as well). Then display a personalization promoting that course to that audience.  
    • Use dynamic content in emails to serve different email content to individual recipients, based on how they’ve engaged in the past 

    Give your audience a strong welcome  

    Getting someone to join your email list is easy enough. Getting them to keep opening, clicking and reading for the long term is much harder.  

    And even if someone keeps reading your emails, they may not think to check out your website, webinars, podcasts, events, etc. unless you tell them so.   

    Nail your first impression with new subscribers by creating a welcome series. This consists of three to four automated emails that tell your new readers: 

    • who you are 
    • what value you provide and why you’re the best person to provide it 
    • what kind of content, knowledge  and resources you provide  
    • how frequently they can expect to hear from you  

    That’s a lot of work to achieve in just a few emails. And if you just send a flurry of aimless emails, you’re more likely to get spam complaints than long-term subscribers. So make the most of your welcome emails with these guidelines:  

    • Consider using a marketing automation platform that connects with your audience database. This way, new subscribers are automatically added to relevant segments and email campaigns as soon as they meet that segment’s underlying criteria (like “new email subscribers” or “new email subscribers that have not subscribed to the magazine” or “new email subscribers in finance”).  
    • Cap your welcome series at three or four emails. Anything longer will generate spam complaints and unsubscribes.  
    • Even the best welcome emails are worthless if none of your subscribers get in their main inbox! So when confirming someone’s email address, include whitelisting instructions so that subsequent emails aren’t sent to their spam or promotions tabs. (Learn how to avoid Google’s Promotions tab and improve your newsletters’ inbox placement here!).  
    • Establish your credibility upfront — describe your bonafides in the industry or include testimonials from happy readers.  
    • Capitalize on your new subscribers’ interest by linking to newsletters, reports, and eBooks/whitepapers you’ve done in the past. The more they read right away, the more likely they are to form a habit and keep engaging with you long term.  
    • Adopt a first-person, casual tone (as your brand guidelines allow). The more approachable you are, the more likely your audience is to relate to you and keep reading. 
    • Link to any subscriber-exclusive resources on offer, like templates, guides, access to online communities, and/or event registration or subscription discounts. 
    • Consider giving new subscribers a weeklong free trial of subscriber-exclusive resources, like access to a members-only community, webinars, or job boards. 
    • After your first or second email, you’ll probably have enough data to personalize content to each user’s individual reading history. So in your third email, consider using dynamic content to give each recipient an article, white paper, or webinar that’s more closely related to their interests. 
    • Use a fatigue filter to temporarily pause sends to someone that hasn’t engaged with the first few emails.  

    Spark dialogue wherever you can   

    • Start by participating in LinkedIn groups, Slack communities and other networking circles related to your industry. This way, you can contribute to a pre-existing community and see what your audience is thinking, feeling and worrying about without investing in research (or losing touch with what they need) . Then when you’re creating your own community, you can find opportunities to differentiate. 
    • Trigger polls and surveys in your articles, webinars, and videos. Also include time for Q&As in your webinars and other events. After all, there’s no substitute for actually talking to your audience. 
    • Listen to your audience. Conduct annual or twice-annual surveys about your content strategy, covering preferred formats, channels, topics and anything new your audience would like to see. Your most loyal audience will likely be overrepresented in your survey sample — so use the results to extrapolate trends about your most active users, rather than your whole reader base.  
    • Encourage your public-facing leaders, editors and writers to develop their own personal brands, whether it’s posting LinkedIn or Twitter/X, participating in/hosting webinars and podcasts, or speaking on your industry’s event circuit. It’s easier for people to connect with individuals rather than faceless brands. Spotlighting your people — and empowering them to engage with their own audiences — is one of the best ways to do that. 
    • Use Capsule or other video question submission services at your events to solicit feedback in a more conversational, 3D way.
    • Good creators can tell you what to do. But the best creators connect you with a broader network of knowledge, resources and firsthand experience. So if it makes sense for your brand and industry, consider launching an online community or paid membership group for your readers. 

    A great example from the tech world: Exit Five, a paid professional development community for content marketers. In only a few years, Dave Gerhardt has grown Exit Five from a free newsletter to a $300 annual paid membership with a member-exclusive job board, podcast, newsletter, educational resources and a career accelerator. Beyond all the resources, members can use the community’s expertise to improve their own work product – they can use exclusive campaign templates, copy, and creative; get feedback from other content marketers; and get the kind of advice you can only receive from someone who’s been there, done that.   

    Get together IRL  

    There’s a reason that every media company is betting big on events (Case in point: TIME appointed its first Chief Events Officer in December 2023.). Nothing beats getting together in person. So if your budget allows, consider hosting subscriber-exclusive events.  

    Can’t afford a multi-day conference a la Atlantic Live? No problem. Experiment with some lower-cost gatherings before making the case for a big conference. Some ideas:    

    • Host local networking circles 
    • Host member-exclusive meetups before/after larger industry conferences  
    • Host a series of small dinners in different cities  
    • Host a small year-end dinner or reception for your VIPs as appreciation for their loyalty.  

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