Getting to know your audience is a long-term process. If you want to know what makes them tick, you need to convert anonymous users into known users before you can start gathering first-party data to better understand their needs. 

Converting unknown to known is the key to driving your entire business forward and helping you reclaim your audience from social media. One of the easiest ways to do this is by engaging your community and creating a space that people want to participate in. 

Using community engagement solutions creates added value for unknown users, who can then subscribe and start their relationship with you. 

Once you’ve converted unknown to known, there are some core tools you can use to help better understand your user’s behaviour, preferences, and tendencies so you know how to create a more relevant and engaging on-site experience. 

Below, we’re going to look at four experiences and engagement solutions you can use to gather data on your audience.

1. A gated comments section

The first step of converting users from unknown to known is to gate your comment section so that only subscribed users can participate in the conversation and communicate with other users. 

14% of Americans comment on the news, so providing a gated comments section provides these users with a strong incentive to register so they can engage in conversations with other users on your site about the topics that interest them. 

This incentive is critical not just for getting them to start actively participating in your community, but also to start gathering first-party data on their preferences. This data can tell you not only what type of content they engage with the most, but their sentiments on particular topics that you can use to guide future content creation.

2. Live content

One way to better understand your user’s behaviour is to host live content. Live content like Ask Me Anything sessions (AMA), Q&As, and live blogs allow you to cover live events and curate stories in real-time while giving your audience a valuable opportunity to interact with your journalists or experts. 

Having the opportunity to ask questions is something that many users are crying out for, with 60.9% of commenters or comment readers saying they would like it if journalists clarified factual questions in news comment sections, while 58.7% say they would like it if experts on the topic of the article responded to comments in news comment sections. 

One way to use live content was illustrated by UK news publisher Reach PLC, which offered a live chat section mid-article on sports-related articles relating to team signings and other topics that gave fans a space to come together and discuss the news cycle. 

These interactions are valuable because you can gather quantitative feedback on the types of content they’re interested in. If there’s lots of discussion about a sports team signing new players, then you could focus on covering some of the smaller news stories around the new players to see what effect that has on engagement.

Business analytics on tablet computer

3. Audience analytics

When it comes to developing more sophisticated insights into your users, audience analytics is perhaps the most useful. A community engagement tool that provides analytics can extract behaviour signals to identify new types of subscribers who are likely to register, so you can develop content to help optimize those conversions. 

Audience analytics are an important resource because they helps you to better understand the first-party data collected from your users, so you develop more perspective into their preferences that go well beyond age and demographics, and into more granular segments. 

It’s important to note that the longer you use audience analytics, the richer the insights into their preferences. Collecting that initial first-party data and analyzing it long-term can help you see your audience from a new angle.

4. Personalized newsfeeds

If your content isn’t relevant to your users, then it’s unlikely to interest them. So if you want to optimize engagement, then you need to provide your audience with relevant content recommendations. 

Using an AI-powered community engagement platform to develop personalized newsfeeds makes it easy to gather data on your audience because you can identify what types of content a user interacts with the most, their opinions on it, and how they react to particular topics or journalists. 

For instance, if a user reads everything written by one of your writers about NFL-related news, you can route new articles straight to their feed, so they can find their content immediately without having to waste time searching the site.

Building your relationship with your audience is the key to growth

A media company’s growth is directly tied to its relationship with its audience. The closer you are to your audience, the greater the value you can offer not just to your users but also to your advertisers. 

The moment an unknown user decides to subscribe to your site and becomes a registered user, the data you can collect about them and their preferences become much richer and more valuable, both to your organization and potential advertisers.

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