To increase customer engagement in today’s fast-paced digital ecosystem, tech giants are gradually shifting their tactics.
Technology has changed the way we live, work, and shop. Since today’s digital ecosystem is so different from yesterday’s, the tech giants have changed the way they operate and engage with users.
By studying how tech giants increase user engagement today, marketers can improve their monetization strategies and their bottom lines.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the characteristics, features, and tactics that the big companies use to increase user engagement.
How Tech Giants Increase User Engagement
Customers are always on, so services are always on.
It’s easy to create a digital product or service that stays on 24 hours a day.
But to meet these customers’ needs, brands must build products that are mobile-friendly, multi-channel, and cross-platform. If a customer wants to make a purchase on a bus or standing at a crosswalk, then they will choose a shopping outlet that meets their needs immediately.
Facebook and Google, in particular, are focusing on delivering always-on experiences via mobile channels. Facebook’s mobile app and its new Messenger app are designed to become inseparable parts of the user’s home screen. Google’s recent Mobilegeddon algorithm shift, which prioritized mobile-friendly sites in mobile search results, aims to improve the always-on user experience.
Advertising and marketing must be contextualized.
Relevance depends on context.
Search ads deliver contextualized relevance because these ads’ content is pulled directly from search terms. Geo targeting, behavioral targeting, recommendation engines, and other, more sophisticated targeting mechanisms can improve this relevance.
Time and place are more important than ever when it comes to delivering the right message at the right time.
This is why companies such as Facebook and Google are using search data, behavioral data, and social data to increase customer engagement across their service offerings. While tracking and analytics have come under fire from ad blockers and privacy advocates, the fact remains that customers prefer personalized products, marketing, and services.
To dominate the customer engagement battlefield, the tech giants are developing one-stop shop service models.
Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are all attempting to create a unified digital interface for their customers.
The personal assistant is a perfect example of a one-stop shop service model.
Facebook, for example, is attempting to create more than just a social network:
- They acquired The Find, which will help them penetrate the local shopping environment.
- Facebook introduced native video, attempting to steal attention spans away from YouTube.
- Facebook’s Instant Articles could become a highly personalized news feed.
- Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, is poised to become the world’s dominant virtual reality platform.
If successful, Facebook could become a one-stop shop for all its customers’ digital needs. People would never need to leave the site.
Tech giants are attempting to compete by offering the most personalized, valuable user experience possible.
Ultimately, customer engagement depends on the user experience.
A poor user experience – with low value, poor usability, and so on – will decrease customer engagement rates. The best way to increase those engagement rates is to craft the best user experience possible.
These are some of the most important characteristics that define the optimal user experience in today’s world:
- Immediacy – Today’s digital environment puts everything at our fingertips. Customers demand immediate gratification, which is why Amazon has pushed so hard for quick delivery. The aforementioned personal assistants and one-stop shop model also aim to deliver value immediately.
- Relevance – Yesterday’s technology was limiting: print publications were linear, direct mail wasn’t personalized, and ads couldn’t be targeted. Today, content, services, and products can all be tailored to meet the needs of the individual – so customers demand relevant experiences and information.
- Value – People only engage with products and services that deliver value. Generally, this means two things: entertainment and information. The ideal user experience will deliver both.
- Usability – Usability refers to ease of use. User interfaces that are complex or difficult to navigate will decrease engagement and customer satisfaction rates. Companies like Google and Facebook have prioritized usability by engineering interfaces and experiences that are extremely simple and easy to understand.
- Immersion – Immersive is a characteristic that is beginning to emerge in today’s omnichannel world. When apps and services can stay present across devices, customers are effectively immersed in a digital environment. Facebook and Google both recognize this, which is why we see the focus on mobile and next-generation immersive technologies.
Together, these characteristics help to define a user experience that will engage and add value to the customer.
We’re seeing a rapid change in the way customers engage with brands and with technology. Customer engagement has become the primary focus for the world’s most profitable businesses. In the coming months and years, technology will only continue to evolve.
To stay competitive and to increase user engagement, companies will need to evolve alongside that technology.
The top user engagement strategies for 2016 follow the biggest tech and consumer trends in the industry.
In today’s omnichannel marketing world, you need to be able to follow customers from screen to screen and moment to moment. Your content must be informative, entertaining, and influential. And your user engagement strategy must be able to compete in a fragmented, complex ecosystem.
To engage users in 2016, it’s necessary to examine the top trends of today and anticipate the changes that are just around the corner.
The Top User Engagement Strategies for 2016
Here are the top tech and consumer trends that will shape the way you engage users in 2016 and beyond:
Mobiles are the go-to devices around the world.
Both B2C and B2B users navigate from a mobile-first mindset. To capture and engage these consumers, every user engagement strategy must be mobile-centric:
- Websites must be mobile-friendly and they must be small enough to load quickly.
- Content must be optimized for smaller screens.
- Apps must be designed for streamlined usability.
User engagement strategy for 2016 – Engage users with a mobile-first or device-agnostic strategy. Ensure that content is friendly, informative, entertaining, and engaging, no matter where customers are in the funnel.
Video, infographics, and images are the most engaging content formats.
Instagram exploded for a reason: people love pictures. The photo-sharing site that skyrocketed into the social media sphere has redefined the way people share with one another online.
Other trends in the social networking sphere demonstrate how and why user engagement must evolve past blogging:
- Facebook introduced its own native video service to rival YouTube. And the company’s recent experiments with immersive advertising – a complete experience that can include everything from video to interactive elements – show an unmistakable trend away from text-based interactions. Zuckerberg has even predicted that, in the future, the majority of social sharing will be video and images.
- Twitter has also introduced a native video platform.
- Pinterest, like Instagram, is almost exclusively image-based.
- Snapchat is a newcomer to the stage, but it has hit the younger crowd like a storm. Like most other social networks these days, it has become a truly multimedia platform, offering texts, photos, video, and audio.
- LinkedIn’s SlideShare has become a hugely successful complement to the professional network. Like infographics, SlideShare presentations combine images and text into compelling narratives and communiques that users find engaging and useful.
User engagement strategy for 2016 – Engage your target audience based on their content needs. Usually, this means finding the right ratio of text and visual information to communicate to your users.
Data science has made it necessary for businesses to adopt engagement solutions that are programmatic, predictive, and automated.
Personalization on a mass scale is only possible because of data science. Big data made granular gives businesses the ability to segment and understand user personas, enabling precise levels of personalization.
Content recommendation, product recommendation, and personalized advertising, for example, can offer companies a significant competitive advantage. Industry-leading analytics firms work hard to develop solutions that allow companies to develop highly detailed pictures of their customers and users.
The result is engagement optimization solutions that drive traffic, keep users on-site, and improve the bottom line.
User engagement strategy for 2016 – Stay on top of all automation solutions, such as content promotion networks, content recommendation systems, user engagement toolsets, programmatic advertising, analytics, and so on.
User behavior is becoming routine, predictable, and moment-oriented.
Twitter recently introduced its Twitter Moments, a concept that is reflected and echoed in the marketing industry’s concept of moments.
People’s online behavior is oriented to the momentary decisions being made as they make purchase decisions, realize they need a solution, share something on social media, research a product, and so forth.
These moments are becoming habitual, and they are defined by people’s daily routines and usage patterns of technology.
In 2016, the online landscape will continue to become more competitive, so brands will need to capitalize on these moments as much as possible. The multi-dimensional customer journey, which takes place across devices, platforms, and channels, may be fragmented and elusive.
But the effective marketer will learn to navigate this complex ecosystem to deliver the right content at the right moment.
To understand and make the most of these touchpoints, marketers need to utilize the right data and the right automation solutions, as mentioned above. Doing so will ensure that marketers can engage customers at these moments, delivering the right content in the right context.
User engagement strategy for 2016 – Understand user behavior and usage patterns so you can engage at the right moment and in the right way.
These top trends have been emerging over the past few years, and they will continue to define the industry next year. Every user engagement strategy in 2016 should stay on top of these trends if they want to stay ahead of the curve.
User acquisition vs. user engagement…what’s the difference? And why does it matter?
Anyone who wants to make money online should understand the difference. Whether you’re a marketer, a website owner, an app developer, or the founder of a business, you should master both if you want to boost your bottom line.
What Is User Acquisition?
People who use any type of product, such as apps or software programs, are considered users. These users are the foundation of your business. Without users, you have no way to make money, regardless of your monetization model.
The first job of marketing, advertising, and business in general is to get more users.
This is known as user acquisition.
To acquire more users, you need a marketing strategy. Software developers, for instance, can enhance their distribution and acquire more users with display ads and other targeted marketing solutions. Website owners can increase their reach through social media, content marketing, guest blogging, and so on.
Once you acquire a user, you’ll need to keep them on board by engaging them.
User Acquisition vs. User Engagement
While user acquisition refers to gaining new users, user engagement refers to how people use a product.
If someone only uses an app once a month for a minute or two, then they aren’t very engaged with that app. Another person who uses the same app for one hour a day every day certainly has a higher engagement rate.
However, to many marketing professionals, engagement isn’t just about how often a person uses a product. It’s also about how invested they are emotionally and intellectually. Typically, the more a person uses a product or service, the more engaged they are with it.
Is there a difference between usage and engagement?
There is. Though we won’t dive too deeply into waters that can become murky with semantics, it’s worth noting that people can still use a product that they aren’t engaged with. Some have said that “using” is similar to “consuming” while “engaging” is similar to “interacting.”
So it’s possible that people can use a product frequently without being entirely engaged. If you really want to drill into your analytics to try to discern the difference, then it could help you learn more about your most engaged core of users.
However, for many, it’s enough to correlate usage frequency and duration with engagement.
User Experience vs. User Engagement
User engagement and user experience are closely interrelated.
The user’s experience will determine how invested they are in any product, service, app, or website. Fundamentally, every user should be entertained, informed, or both. Their experience while using a product should fulfill the value proposition set forth by that product, or users won’t stay engaged.
To create a great user experience, you need to focus on a product that is usable. Today’s goal-oriented users are busy, finicky, and sensitive. Irrelevant content, ads, or designs will only make a product less usable.
Focus on streamlining the user experience by helping users fulfill their goals and their needs. Develop monetization methods that add value and don’t obstruct the user’s aims.
SiteFuel, for instance, does just that. By leveraging the user’s search queries, it delivers content that is immediately relevant. Since these searches are monetized, they do double duty, by also adding a monetization method to the website.
User Engagement vs. User Retention
While user engagement is based on user interactions, frequency of use, and a user’s investment in a product, user retention is the complement to user acquisition. In commerce and retail, this is called customer retention.
Once you’ve acquired a user, it’s your job as a product creator, designer, website owner, or app developer to keep that user on board.
This is called user retention.
Retaining users can be a complex equation with many moving parts. But, in essence, user retention depends on all of the factors mentioned above: user engagement, the user experience, value, and so forth.
Unless you deliver value, you won’t retain users. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure that your advertising and marketing campaigns target the right audience and communicate the right value to that audience.
A mismatch between the product and the value proposition will result in dissatisfied customers who disengage. In other words, if you promise one thing but deliver another, your user retention will go downhill.
Since user retention depends largely on engagement and usage, many businesses rightly put their focus on developing a quality product and a great user experience. The higher your user retention rate, the bigger your return when it comes to user acquisition.
It costs much, much more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, so every business should put a significant amount of effort into keeping their customers engaged.
As you can see, user acquisition is just the first step in the sales cycle. While many businesses few marketing as a funnel that ends with a sale, the acquisition of a new customer is just the beginning. With the right user engagement strategy, you can retain more users and make more profits from your products and services.
A marketing calendar offers the structure you need to turn a strategy into a plan, which you can then turn into action.
No marketer should be without one, but what should you include in that calendar and how should you implement it?
Here are 3 big tips for making the most of your marketing calendar:
1. Keeping Track of Your Marketing Calendar
Every business is different and every marketer has different needs.
The first rule of thumb is that your calendar should be something you use. If you work frequently with Microsoft Office, then an Outlook calendar may do the trick. If you are a Google aficionado, then Google Calendar may be the best bet.
Some marketers keep it simple, using spreadsheets to lay out their goals, their timelines, and their results.
More complicated marketing programs should use project management software. These often include calendars as well as a variety of team-oriented features to help you keep track of who’s handling what task. Milestones, goals, task lists, groups, and projects can all help you stay organized and on task.
Regardless of which software you use, every marketing calendar should include a few essential ingredients.
2. What to Include in Your Marketing Calendar
Here are a few of the biggest items to include in your marketing calendar:
A goal is the purpose of a given campaign, marketing program, or strategy. Including goals in your calendar gives your entire calendar purpose and meaning. Adding deadlines to those goals helps you structure your marketing plan.
It’s not uncommon for deadlines to change, especially when you’re entering new territory. As you progress towards your goals, reevaluate periodically and adjust timelines or the goals themselves if they turn out to be unrealistic.
A milestone, such as “Get 5,000 Twitter followers,” is stepping stone towards a goal, such as “Get 10,000 Twitter followers.” These can be included on a timeline or not.
As with goals, however, deadlines can help you structure your tasks.
An Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar should be part of your marketing calendar. This calendar keeps track of your content marketing and social media schedule, so you know ahead of time what’s being posted and when.
Like everything else on your marketing calendar, your editorial calendar should be tied to marketing objectives – that is, your goals and milestones.
An editorial calendar is one of the most important components of your marketing calendar.
Here are a few of the major items that you should include on that calendar:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Press releases
- Video content
- Article publication dates
Tracking all of your communication, publication, and content is essential for the success of any marketing program.
While your marketing calendar should fit with your own workflow and your business’s work style, it can be helpful to include a high level of detail in your calendar, including:
- Referral programs
- Production dates for creatives
- Events, such as conferences and trade shows
- Advertising schedules
- Marketing meetings
Regularly occurring events, such as holidays and their associated promotions, should also be included.
3. How to Structure Your Marketing Calendar
Structure and organization are two major benefits of your marketing calendar. They allow you to tie your marketing activity to your business objectives and stay on task.
To make a marketing calendar work well, you should structure it appropriately:
- Your calendar should include an annual “layer”, which consists of holidays, annual promotions, seasonal campaigns, and so forth. Many businesses create annual plans in January, so this is the ideal time to create your annual marketing agenda.
- Include evaluation periods. Every 3 to 6 months, sit down and evaluate your goals, your milestones, and your marketing campaigns. Go over everything from campaign results to analytics to SEO. Collaborate with other departments to stay up to date with any other business functions that could impact your department. Hold meetings that will help you evaluate and adjust your marketing goals, and then adjust the calendar accordingly.
- Ensure there are no gaps or “bunches”. Calendars give you the big-picture view you need to see what’s going on in your marketing world. So if you notice too much activity in one place or a gap without much activity, smooth things out. Use your calendar to maintain a consistent level of communication with your audience.
- Set priorities. Not all plans go according to plan. If your resources become stretched, your staff becomes overworked, or your budget gets cut, set priorities. Assign priority levels to your calendar activities and focus on your priorities in order of importance. If necessary, lose or cut down on some activities.
A marketing calendar may be a simple spreadsheet or it may be a complex, multi-layer affair that includes many variables. Regardless of your tools, your goals, or your calendar’s complexity, you should always have a marketing calendar to help you stay focused and earn more from your campaigns.
Anyone with any ambition will need to know how to become an influencer in his or her industry.
You could have the greatest product, the greatest ideas, and the most cutting-edge research studies, but without influence, no one will hear about them.
This recipe for influencer success will keep you on top of your industry so that people turn to you for advice.
1. Build Respect and Rapport
Your industry and your circles consist of your target audience, your peers in business, and your competitors. The first step towards influencing them is building respect and rapport.
- Be personable and likeable. People trust those they like and vice versa. Cultivate positive relationships with everyone in your industry, from co-workers to industry partners.
- Get involved and prove yourself socially. The more people you can build relationships with, the better. There is safety in numbers and the bigger your following, online and off, the more people will trust you and respect you.
- Stay true to your word. Transparency, honesty, and consistency are key. Sticking with commitments shows people that you are reliable, which conveys solidity and trustworthiness.
2. Create Content
Influencers make themselves heard and the best way to do that online is with content. But there are countless others trying to do the same, so you need to do it right in order to stand out.
- Blog. Yes, blogging is critical, but 9 out of 10 people stop there. Frequent blogging is fundamental to your success, but it’s just the beginning.
- Guest blog. The next step to influencing with content is to guest blog. By blogging on others’ sites, you can gain access to their audience and increase your reach.
- Distribute on social. Social media is the biggest online time sink, taking up more time than email. Stay present and engaged, since that’s where your audience is. Pick the right networks for your audience, create an editorial calendar, and stay consistent.
The content that you do create should be focused, quality content that meets the informational needs of your target audience. With substantial ideas and valuable research to fuel your content, you’ll earn the authority you need to become an influencer.
3. Engage Your Following
Spend time finding and focusing on the needs of your target audience. Ask yourself what they want from influencers in your field, then find out the answers to that question by performing market research.
First, use keyword research tools and content research tools to discover what people are searching for and what they are talking about. This will help you create the right content that helps to solve your audience’s problems, which is the first step towards engaging them.
Second, make your content interesting. Tell stories and write in a style that’s informative, personal, and engaging. Go beyond blog articles and test other media formats, such as infographics, video, and slideshows.
Third, interact with people online. Use social networks, professional networks, and forums to grow and engage your base of followers.
It’s important to remember that influencers depend on those they influence. Without an audience of followers, you will have no one to influence, so it’s vital to grow an audience who will listen to you. Over time, they will cement your authority and your influence.
4. Become an Expert
It’s very difficult to become an influencer if you aren’t an expert. To stay ahead of competitors and become an intellectual authority, you need to cultivate expertise in your field.
Here are a few ways to stay on top of your game:
- Keep up with your field. Stay up to date with news, blogs, and the latest developments that will affect you. Today’s world moves fast, so if you become outdated you’ll lose clout.
- Stay educated. Don’t just read industry blogs, attend seminars, workshops, and obtain certifications if applicable. The more educated you are, the more people will trust the knowledge you dispense.
- Target your expertise. If your field changes constantly, as many tech industries do, then you should change with it. Look at how it will develop in the future, then tailor your education to meet the needs of tomorrow’s industry.
5. Teach Others
With an engaged following and expert knowledge under your belt, it’s time to offer your insight to others. This is the “influence” part of “influencer,” where you establish yourself as an expert by educating people.
Through webinars, seminars, speaking engagements, classes, online courses, informational products, and other educational outlets, you can begin to build your power as an influencer.
Naturally, you will need to promote your presentations or products. Effective use of PR can help you in this regard. From podcasts to interviews to written press releases, you should spread the word as much as you can.
When you’re successful, educating others can be one of the best ways to build your authority. You can add any engagements, products, or presentations to your portfolio. And, as these add up, you’ll become widely known as an expert and an influencer.