The temptation is to try to build a huge audience. That’s the clearest sign of success, and it’s what we’ve been trained to aspire to for most of our professional lives. If your audience is big and everyone knows about your organization, it must be successful.
But that really isn’t true anymore.
Today, it’s about having the right audience, challenging them and raising the bar in order to engage them in a meaningful conversation. That enables your organization to build a relationship that leads prospects and customers to trust you and, ultimately, buy from you.
It begins by trusting that the audience is sophisticated enough to understand what you’re creating, and engaged enough to dive deep.
In media and marketing, we’ve been trained to appeal to the largest possible audience. “Reach and frequency” has been advertising’s mantra forever. Consequently, media created and offered content designed to appeal to the largest possible audience – TV networks created mediocre sitcoms, local news covered lots of fires, tabloids invented Page 6 – and the audience was hooked… even if its interest was shallow.
Today, content creators from the world of entertainment are still producing frivolous crap, but they’re also creating great content that has led people to call this The Golden Age of Television. Consider this – as Variety wrote earlier this summer about John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight,
It trusts the attention span of its audience, believing a viewership constantly distracted by smartphones and mobile alerts will hang in there for the duration of a story, so long as it is compelling and informative.
It works because the content is stellar, admittedly a significant challenge for content marketers. But it also works because the show runners have realized that if they do something great, it will find an audience. And the audience will trust Oliver to make it worth their time. To make this happen, Oliver and his team had to trust the audience first.
That’s the lesson for content marketers – trust the audience. Trust that they’re smart enough to understand a sophisticated message. Trust that if you dive deep on a topic, that the right people (that is, potential customers) will stay with you. Yes, you can build a significant audience with SEO tricks (well, not as much anymore) and a barrage of listicles, but those types of content assets don’t necessarily move anyone closer to the finish line of buying your product or service. Getting found is not the primary goal of content marketing. Selling something is the goal.
Of course, measuring this trust building requires new metrics. Pageviews and unique visitors really don’t tell you much. Neither do social shares. The folks at Chartbeat, a realtime analytics firm, found that social shares have virtually nothing to do with whether or not someone reads to the bottom of an article. They also point out that clicks don’t equal “reads.” To better understand whether you’re building trust with your audience, you must start to pay attention to newfangled “attention metrics” such as the one’s Chartbeat is focused on building.
If you trust the audience to consume smart content that dives deep into a subject, and don’t worry about the sheer number of people that click on the content, the audience will begin to trust you.
And then they’ll buy from you.
But you have to trust them first.