Everyone in social media is connected, commenting, creating and sharing. In this expansive digital space—where a million messages transmit by the minute—how does one seek to grab a user’s attention? Do you turn your content into GIFs, memes, open letters, 30-seconder videos? We are on a fascinating data trail, and the shortest of hyperlinks are now leading us to an information labyrinth. But can our audiences stay on a topic and engage?
The Asia and the Pacific is now home to more than half the world’s internet users, with 54% of the world’s social media users. Content creators are scampering for that prime digital real estate—pitching and packaging for viral value, engagement and reach. In this data-eat-data world, to remain relevant is a hard task.
Social media audiences absorb information differently. To ask them to stay around requires consistent effort and convincing, sometimes out-of-the-box thinking.
Being in the development sector as communication professionals, we are often tasked to advocate on an issue in a manner that isn’t cut and dried, has retentive power, and is either enabling a behavioural change or pushing for some policy revisions, or quite simply advocating for the larger good. But one has to do all this while remaining neutral.
But social media audiences absorb information differently. To ask them to stay around requires consistent effort and convincing, sometimes even out-of-the-box thinking. It requires a frontline engagement. Not only are the loyalists few and far between, campaigners and champions stick around only when the information we provide has a usage that is profound, impactful and evidence-based.
So what do we miss when we put out our messages?
We miss the fact that research-backed and credible information are still goldmines in the big bad virtual world. Furnishing data in an intelligent manner, with creative tools, linking them to a library of resources and a list of people behind those resources is a sure-shot way to create relevance and recall. Storytelling too humanises the information. It’s the secret sauce that helps your content—which may look like a bland poster on a sidewalk—beam like a million-dollar script. Narrating a story, and then unpacking its varied dimensions—quantitative or qualitative—helps users engage, empathise and associate with the content. Chances are you will get less traction online if the story only talks broadly on an issue. But someone will read a personalised narrative if it gets the human interest element right, creating a long-lasting impression.
Storytelling is the secret sauce that helps your content—which may look like a bland poster on a sidewalk—beam like a million-dollar script.
Data-storytelling is also a trend worth dissecting. It has for long been getting all the nerds in the room. Data-visualisation is like stardust. It helps you suddenly see those numbers in an interdisciplinary and interconnected way. Visualising numbers in stunning graphs, embedding them in case-studies or even spotlighting the patterns tells a user that this number is more than just a statistic. Data then becomes a living thing that when engaged with through visualizations helps users take note of a trend, a topic and establish relationship between the variables.
Engagement.Everything today is either bot-operated, or outsourced. What the digital user is left craving is a human-interaction—a response wherein s/he feels valued, heard and recognised. But with a million logins a day on social media sites, trolling, and tampering of information—how much can one keep up with the traffic by way of personalized engagement?
Engagement necessarily doesn’t mean answering every comment coming your way. It means being attuned to what the user community wants. Developing trust with the online world is not as easy as it may seem. It takes consistency, and action. So, while leaving a simple “we will get back” seems at first mundane, it surprisingly does the trick to cement the trust between you (the content-creator) and the user. Soon enough, an emoticon (appearing happy or in love) appears on your comment/response affirming that one has successfully managed to make the user feel valued.
Don’t just leave a tweet and forget, or broadcast a message and exit. Be generous and altruistic with information. A little giving—even if online—never hurts.
Equally important is to monitor this engagement. We often fall through the cracks when it comes to digging a bit deeper into the minds of our followers. We take their fidelity for granted. Much of engagement depends on our nurturance. A poll, a call to action – these are tips that can help you collect valuable insights into the complex needs of your followers. Have you noticed even the analytics on Twitter or Facebook has a deck that gives you a visualized experience of those numbers. Numbers are no longer just numbers – there is a picture emerging of your audience. Age group, location, top tweets/posts, number of comments, likes, and shares, and at what time the page has been most active—these help create the user profile with staggering accuracy.
So don’t just leave a tweet and forget, or broadcast a message and exit.
Be generous and altruistic with information. A little giving—even if online—never hurts.