How to increase interactions with content

We find that there's lots of discussion online about how to reach and convert audiences, but not so much about encouraging the softer interactions. We reference this as "Act" within the RACE framework, it's about encouraging interactions on site or within your social outpost. You can think of Act in the context of the Forrester Social Technographics Ladder, where you are encouraging those that are watching or "lurking" to contribute, to get involved. These are people most likely with a problem or question, maybe a passion for a topic area; your challenge is how you get them to contribute.

These are the tactics I'm talking about:

• Blogs
• Social networks integrations
• Widgets, tools and objects
• Community
• Content
• Gamification
• Review and ratings


The whole idea is to design specific communications techniques that encourage interactions on your websites or social outposts, an area we feel is more often overlooked.

Social media is more often pitched as a means to gain reach, especially within the social networks. We thought it would be useful to kick off and share ideas as a means to gain traction and interaction on your website, and suggest how that in turn creates reach through brand assets being shared.

Think of these interactions more broadly, as very practical ways to help increase participation and sharing amongst those visitors who most likely aren't on your website to purchase, though you can make steps to earn permission to sell later. Interactions then are a means of:

• Starting a dialogue on your domain -- this eventually giving rise to a user registration, sales lead or transaction
• Generating user-generated content -- this can boost conversion through social proof and help with SEO
• Encouraging the sharing of your brand -- in the form of content, in the social networks
• Sparking interactions between people -- facilitating the discussion
• Aiding in decision making -- the site visitor learns or realises something of value, something inspiring ideally

Here are seven ideas to get ideas flowing for your brand...

1. Blog interactions 

Let's start simple with the most obvious and easily the most over-looked way to gain interaction. Assuming your blog has relevant and interesting content and is on a stable platform like WordPress, this is all about frequency and being topical -- manage this process well, have a publication schedule to help you keep on-brand, on-topic and on-time. Insert actions, polls for example, to be taken. Encourage comments within the post, ask for feedback and link to other pages on your site, forum pages etc. Ensure every post is designed to do something.

Measures:
  • Number of posts
  • Audience growth (unique and returns)
  • Conversions
  • Subscribers
  • Inbound links
  • Directory listing: Technorati, Alltop for example
  • SEO Improvements, traffic specifically -- watch the key phrases

2. Social network integrations

Whether enabling social sign-on, social commenting, embedding social sharing buttons or even Slideshare or Sribd code into a blog post -- the goal is straightforward since you simply want to make sharing easy of your stuff from your site and into those relevant social networks, and of course traffic back to your site.

Though most effective on a blog and home page, also consider rich landing pages that have useful video, and product pages. Social sign on is pretty important since it not only allows data capture (via the Facebook API) but makes it easy for users to interact using the network of choice, the bar to participate is lowered.

There are many ways to allow interaction, especially via the Facebook API and you can get serious with tools such as Gigya and Janrain, these are independent tech web services that act as an intermediary between your domain and multiple social networks, an area of mass growth, no doubt.

Measures:

  • Traffic from specific social networks
  • Friends on Social Networks
  • Site shares and re-shares measured via short URLs in tools like Gigya

3. Widgets, engagement tools or social objects 

There are three ways to say the same thing! It's maybe confusing too, I prefer social objects from a marketing perspective since it describes the real purpose. Afterall, we design and build these tools to spark interaction, discussion and sharing because the user is happy with the result or outcome. There's a big opportunity since calls-to-action tend to focus on generating leads and sales, this totally neglects people further up the decision-making funnel, softer calls-to-action encourage interactions (ideally without data capture) have their place and are where gaining permission to sell is the purpose. I come across very few client who are authentically trying to just earn permission to today in order they can sell tomorrow. In the social world these devices should encourage participants to share their results with others, the output, whether entertaining, funny, informative, insightful.

Measures:

  • Usage of widgets (by count)
  • Posts/Mentions about social widgets offsite
  • Referrals from offsite widgets (if any)
  • Conversions
  • Inbound links

4. Growing your communities

There are a number of ways to create a sense of community, having a relevance and purpose is the key. The world doesn't need another "forum", it may however need a bespoke community Q&A around managing tax liability as an SME, maybe a crowd-sourcing ideas community that facilitates feedback to a whole industry. It has to have a purpose. I am convinced this is the future and a massive opportunity for savvy, authentic brands. More and more niche, super-relevant communities will seek to support people wanting answers and ideas to aid in their decision making. Imagine the sales potential for the brand supporting people higher up the sales funnel.

Measures:

  • Registered users
  • Posts
  • Mentions offsite
  • Referrals
  • Conversions
  • Inbound links
  • Pages that rank on key terms due to user-generated content

5. Crafted content

Start with the customer or personas type, asking who your content is for, their unmet need is extremely important otherwise you risk creating stuff that you think is useful, but you're not the buyer, they are. Be on brand but ensure your content is answering needs. Consider relevant formats especially video, ebooks and webinars since all spark interaction and are also shareable objects in the sense that I can easily comment and have an opinion about the usefulness of your stuff, or maybe just how fun I found it.

Measures:

  • Page views (key pages only)
  • Audience growth (unique and returns)
  • Conversions
  • Inbound links

6. Gamification

A fast emerging area for the rest of us now that the bigger brands have pioneered, it's now more accessible than ever and to some extent more affordable. To engage consumers, social gaming can be a great way to encourage interaction and so reach. The WildFire Promotion builder, for example, shows the types of engaging promotions that can be created in the social networks such as Sweepstakes, user generated content, coupons, Pick Your Favourites, Trivia and Quizzes, Instant Wins and Voting around topics. Again, tools like Gigya enable scores against such interactions, which enables leader boards and a sense of kudos – that being the key driver in gaming mechanics and ultimately why it's fun to share and compare. Imagine combining gaming mechanics into your onsite community to add another dimension and lighten the experience.

Measures:

  • Participants
  • Mentions offsite
  • Referrals
  • Conversions
  • Inbound links

7. Product reviews and ratings

The popularity of TripAdvisor, Amazon reviews and retail site Reevoo show how we love to give our opinion. This form of user-generated content is fantastic in terms of assisting conversion and contributing to SEO, so it's a must-have for retail sites. Think about how you encourage and share comments. We think Firebox is a great example -- they offer spot prizes for "amazing" contributions and these days all comments are in Facebook to encourage amplification. You can add mass credibility with independent tools such as Feefo.

Measures:

  • Reviews (by count)
  • Conversions

Remember email, too, that's Enewsletters and other email offers -- we know many consumers and business people alike will subscribe to email if it offers unique value or convenience to them. Email is a great way of encouraging participation in many of the types of site or social network engagement we've described above. Make sure you make the most of email contact to encourage social interactions. Of course so much of the above is all content for email which will drive subsequent interactions as a result.

What are your thoughts, anything we've missed?

Danyl Bosomworth is co-founder of Smart Insights and MD of First 10 Digital.

 

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