You would be hard pressed to find the company that doesn’t eventually want to become a well-known brand, widely associated with their particular area of expertise. But beyond the obvious challenge of becoming a brand, it remains a serious challenge knowing when you’ve crossed the ‘brand threshold’.
At Spot.IM, we built a product to help digital publishers turn their online traffic into engaged communities. Our assumption was that every website had a group of people actively choosing to visit the site. And that all site owners needed was a chance to engage with those readers, and help those readers engage with one another.
What we found, however, was that our product wouldn’t necessarily work for every site. Publishers needed to have at least 7% of their traffic coming from direct search in order for our suite of engagement tools to work. Under 7% – shaky. Over 7% – voilà – engagement.
We found that if a site with a minimum level of traffic had over 7% of their visits coming from direct search, they could consider themselves a brand, in the sense that their user base strongly connected them with a given product or service, and that those users were willing to engage with and around the publisher on matters relating to this specific niche.
Whether it be Brazilian Futbol, fashion ecommerce or fantasy card games – 7% meant you had reached the next level.
So, how do you get to 7%? And equally important, what do you do to continue growing your brand once you do? Below are some of the insights and tips we’ve learned to help your brand do both.
The first step towards getting to 7% is visibility – if your potential users are not coming to you, you need to go to them. Become a familiar presence and establish a consistent voice that people recognize as yours and relate to your brand. This visibility will build your legitimacy in your given arena and will provide an edge in a content-saturated world.
Your brand’s success hinges on your ubiquity, so tap into as many relevant social networks as possible to promote yourself and your content. The content you create to boosts your site’s visibility, make sure it also needs to be distributed, promoted and shared.
You may be able to produce great content, but if it isn’t picked up by search engines and found by your target audience, then what’s the point? Develop relationships with key influencers and blogs and leverage their presence to get the word out.
It is equally critical to emphasize your SEO strategy. If your company doesn’t appear in the top result or within the first page of search results, then your visibility and brand potential is going to suffer. Pay attention to keywords, headlines, page titles, and ‘meta-descriptions’ to ensure that you’ll come up in relevant searches.
Once you’ve reached 7% of direct search traffic – congratulations – you’ve reached the point at which on-site engagement becomes a viable and effective strategy. Many brands are so focused on getting traffic to their website that they neglect the very crucial next step – fostering the level of user engagement that will turn first-time visitors into regulars.
There are a few ways you can go about increasing engagement and strengthening the relationship that visitors build with your brand and all of them center on enabling conversation. Your site should be a space for people with shared interests to not just consume content, but connect over it. Consider enabling a live chat feature, or encourage users to join the content creation process by inviting them to contribute.
You can also use live events as a way of sparking conversation. Live engagement during major events – like the Oscar’s or the Super Bowl – represents an opportunity. Digital publishers can leverage to have conversations with their readers who are more engaged with the content that refers to something going on ‘right now’.
Finally, find a way of join the conversation on your site and around your brand yourself. A key plank to strengthening brand loyalty is getting personal and engaging your users directly. It’s not just about asking for feedback or prompting visitors to fill out surveys; it’s about making fans feel as though there is a person behind an impersonal brand. More importantly, that the person is interested in interacting with them on an individual level.
As a brand, you’re selling something unique to a specific target market that has a preexisting appreciation for this topic. Find a way to connect those like-minded people, and you’ve enabled the development of a community on your site.
We’ve seen that once you’ve built a real community your fans can be a part of, you’ve created the channel for the type of interactions that convert fans into die-hard followers. And it’s a virtuous cycle.
A committed community will not only return to your site regularly but will often go out of their way to evangelize and share your content.