How to build a following around your journalists, your coverage, and your brand

Building a loyal following isn’t a short-term effort. It’s a long-term process that requires you to break down rich first-party data to identify the type of content that engages your audience. Without first-party data, it’s very difficult to know what type of audience a journalist is building. 

Implementing a community engagement platform to collect first-party data from registered users is essential for finding out what types of content your users like, planning future content, and developing a strategy to create a following around your journalists and your content. 

Below, we’re going to look at some tried and tested ways media organizations can build a following around their journalists, their coverage, and their brand, from driving registrations to personalizing newsfeeds and producing live Q&As.

Drive registrations to capture first-party data

Getting visitors to register to your site is the first step toward building a loyal following because it enables you to start collecting first-party data to analyze users’ preferences, so you can create and recommend content that’s relevant to their interests. 

When building a following, the easiest way to encourage your audience to register on your site is to provide them with a gated comment section where they can enter their name and email address to leave their opinions on articles and interact with other users. 

It’s worth noting that once a reader subscribes to your site and participates in the comment section, your journalists can start to monitor their feedback to identify what topics they’re interested in, so they can create more engaging content and start to build a bigger following.

Provide users with personalized newsfeeds

Today, consumers expect personalized digital experiences whether they’re shopping online or searching for news. As a result, it’s becoming more important for media organizations to provide their audience with personalized newsfeeds so that they spend more time on-site engaging with relevant content. 

The best way to personalize newsfeeds is with an AI-driven community engagement platform that lets you see what types of articles users spend the most time on and their sentiments toward particular topics and journalists, so you can recommend the types of stories they’re most likely to be interested in.

For instance, if someone reacts to an article on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by clicking the “like” button, the AI can infer that the user is interested in left-leaning news coverage and recommend other political topics and authors that a democratic supporter might also be interested in reading or following.

Gain loyal followers by offering live Q&As, AMAs, and interactions with guarded journalists and speakers

If you want to increase your loyal followers, live content like Q&As and Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions can be a powerful tool to build a closer relationship between your journalists and your audience. 

Live content like Q&As and AMAs gives your audience an opportunity to interact with journalists they wouldn’t be able to reach normally. 

Direct interaction between your journalists and users makes the audience feel like you value their opinions, while also giving them a chance to ask questions, fact-check live content and recommend future topics they’d like to see covered.

Keeping the conversation civil with automated moderation

When building a user community, you need to have a strategy to address toxicity if you want to retain your audience long term. If you don’t have a solution in place to moderate comments and remove hate speech or abuse, then the conversation can quickly spiral out of control and push people away.  

For example, on Twitter, toxic messages accounted for 21% of all conversations around the Covid-19 pandemic. The high level of toxicity across social media is a key reason why as little as 18% of Americans believe social media companies are doing an excellent or good job at addressing online harassment. 

Automatically moderating comments with an AI-based solution is critical for making sure that abusive content is removed from the conversation, while also ensuring that your audience has a safe space to communicate with each other and with your journalists to form a greater connection.

Give your audience the content they want

Getting to know your audience in real-time with first-party data is the key to building a loyal following around your journalists and your brand. The better you get to know your users through their data, the better you can develop the content they want to see.

How to grow your audience: 5 ways to stimulate subscriptions and registrations

While it’s easy to gauge the growth of your audience, it can be difficult to develop a clear portrait of who they are unless you have the right tools. Building a user community on your site with a community engagement tool is critical for getting to know your audience and what makes them tick.

With more users discussing news and content on and off social media, audience development on your site is now critical for attracting a wider range of readers, accelerating your engaged user strategy, and increasing subscriptions. 

Taking simple steps like creating a comments section, using registration as a gateway to participate in the comments, and providing interactive content like live blogs or AMAs can be the push your audience needs to subscribe to your site. These should be a key part of an audience growth strategy for publishers and digital media organizations alike.

So let’s look at five simple ways building a user community can help accelerate your subscription and registration strategy. 

Offer users a two-way dialogue

The days of readers passively consuming news are long gone. Today’s users not only want to read the author’s opinions, but they also want to contribute to the conversation in real-time. 

You can grow your audience by implementing a comments section that provides them with a space to engage in a two-way dialogue with journalists and other readers, so they can share their perspectives on current events. 

This enhanced dialogue can actively attract new users and drive subscriptions among those who want to leave their thoughts or opinions on content. In fact, research shows that 60.9% of commenters or comment readers would like it if journalists clarified factual questions in news comment sections. 

Gate your user community and comments

A discussion space can be used to further your audience development strategy. Once you’ve set up a comments section that allows users in the community to have a live two-way dialogue, you can gate it to incentivize people to sign up so they can participate in the conversation.

Gating the comments section can help boost subscriptions and registrations by encouraging your audience to create an account so they can leave feedback on published content.

The signup process should be effortless, with users able to quickly enter their name and email address so they can start engaging with your community about the topics that are related to their interests.

Building a relationship between commenters and journalists

When building an audience, the relationship between the reporter and reader is often overlooked. Building a user community with an active comments section not only provides users with a place to communicate, it also gives journalists and writers a resource they can use to build a closer relationship with their readers, and better understand them. 

Journalists can use community feedback to learn what their readers’ interests are, what content readers prefer, and then use that information to inform their future content strategy. 

For example, if a journalist produces an article on the Olympics Games, the audience can ask questions about related subtopics and sporting events that might make good subjects for future articles.  

As journalists engage with the community to better understand their interests, they can enhance their coverage so that their content becomes more pertinent to readers and more compelling for both subscribed and unsubscribed users. And compelling content leads to higher reader interest and drives audience growth.

Using first-party data to provide more relevant content

Building a user community on your site also provides you with direct access to valuable first-party data that you can use to analyze your audience’s profiles and break down the topics they’re most interested in. Like the comments, this also provides you with valuable insights you can use to produce more relevant content. Leveraging this information should be a priority to build and retain your audience.

For instance, if a user is interested in sports like football or boxing, you can use an AI-driven community engagement solution to recommend articles written by experts on these topics to encourage them to spend more time consuming content on your site. 

Using a community engagement solution to offer registered users personalized feeds and content recommendations is the perfect way to entice them to subscribe, so they automatically keep up-to-date with the content they find most compelling.

Live Q&As

Having an active user community provides you with a resource you can use to participate in engaging real-time content like live Q&As, where a journalist or expert in a particular field can host live Q&A sessions with the community, allowing users to ask questions and actively influence the conversation taking place.

One example of this approach is highlighted by The Independent, who recently started running live Q&As and Ask Me Anything sessions (AMAs) to give users an opportunity to ask questions to experts, journalists, and public figures. In one Q&A with a travel correspondent, users could ask questions about Omicron travel restrictions.

It’s also important to note that live Q&As also function as a connection-builder, giving your audience a chance to have a deeper connection with experts and journalists who tend to be guarded from the audience. This opportunity to connect can help you grow your audience naturally while encouraging many users to subscribe.

Building an active user community pays dividends

Giving your audience a place to come together to share their thoughts pays dividends, not just because it helps attract users to register to your site, but also because it helps you create more high-quality audience segments, which you can share with advertisers to encourage them to place ads on your site.

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