At this time, media companies are facing some of the most pressing challenges they’ve encountered so far: shrinking advertising dollars, a strain on resources, endless misinformation and a shift to remote work. Brands are slowly realizing that the only way to survive in this climate — and keep individuals informed with trusted information — is to build highly engaged communities of consumers.
So here’s the big question: How much does the public genuinely want to engage with media brands… especially during a pandemic?
Viafoura’s data experts combed through millions of engagement data points based on the performance of our solutions across client platforms. And the results were jaw-dropping: the desire for audience engagement solutions online has never been as prominent as it is now.
We’ve summarized the main takeaways from our report below to help you make sense of your consumers and how you can build a loyal community.
Consumers’ Interest to Engage Online Has Grown by 53%
According to our data, the number of unique users interacting with engagement tools grew by 53% in March compared to February. This means that being able to interact on digital media properties is becoming more important to consumers during the pandemic.
After surveying over 2,500 people, Unruly, a video advertising platform, confirmed that individuals are in fact craving more engagement through content, brands and ads.
“The pandemic has resulted in rapid, unprecedented changes in consumer behaviors and their preferences,” explains Unruly’s VP of Insight Terence Scroope.
Scroope goes on to state that brands must now refocus their priorities “to maintain and grow connections with consumers, provide support and minimize disruption to performance.”
By satisfying the need for entertainment and social interaction, media companies have the power to support the public and build loyal communities through engagement tools.
Conversation Readers Have Increased by 50%
Some media organizations may find the endless selection of audience engagement solutions overwhelming. But with a growing number of people seeking out and reading conversations on media sites and apps, the value of conversation-based engagement tools is rising.
This growing interest in online conversations shouldn’t come as a surprise though. As physical distancing standards leave people socially disconnected, major global organizations like the CDC are encouraging individuals to forge meaningful connections with one another in other ways.
Consumers are now turning to media organizations with conversation-based engagement tools (such as moderated commenting, live blog or chat tools) to feed their desire for human connection. And since comment readers represent the most active and valuable portion of your digital community, everybody wins.
Building Interest Around Your Content
Engagement tools — such as content recommendation and conversation widgets — increased our clients’ page views by 24% between January 2020 and the end of March.
In other words, engagement tools can help to amplify interest in content. This is because offering consumers the opportunity to interact with brands encourages them to spend more time engaging with content.
“As the dust settles at the end of this period, people will remember how [organizations] have responded and that is the challenge,” writes Steve Impey, a SportsPro journalist. “How do you drive value in your community in this particular situation?”
Media companies without engagement tools may miss the opportunity to enhance their content and add value to the overall consumer experience.
How Engagement Tools are Being Leveraged During the Pandemic
To activate their communities, news and lifestyle publishers alike are working to improve the consumer experience through engagement tools.
While some publishers are running online chats and conversations alongside live-streamed shows or old sports games, others are relying on instant blogging tools for the majority of their COVID-19 news coverage.
Media companies are also using discussion-based audience engagement solutions to run online webinars and events. The Financial Times, for instance, hosted an interactive webinar with thousands of people who took part in live polls and Q&As.
At the end of the day, engagement tools are being used as a way to bring people together even though they’re physically apart.
Publishers are no longer just content distributors; they’re facilitators of social connections in an incredibly isolating and challenging crisis. By providing audience members with engagement tools online, media companies can make social isolation a little more tolerable for both consumers and brands.