Why it’s important to own your audience (and your data)

When we talk about the importance of branding, what’s that all for? It’s not just so your business looks professional and high-quality. It’s to DEEPLY connect with your audience, because brands and audiences go hand-in-hand. To build a strong brand, you need a loyal audience base who engage with your product and content, as well as tell their friends about it. Then, from the brand’s side — you want to learn as much as you can from that engagement, so you can continue to serve your audience with content and product that nourishes their needs and adds value to their lives. 

This (in a nutshell) outlines why great content creation is important. But what’s also important is WHERE they’re engaging. As third-party networking platforms become more unpredictable in the way they serve content, it becomes more necessary to know their place in the chain of engagement. Use them as an extension of communication, PURELY to move those followers or subscribers on their platform — to one that you own, like a website or email database…

WHAT IS AN ‘OWNED’ AUDIENCE? 

‘Owning’ your audience means you have a direct connection with them, either through an email address, company name or any form of contactable communication. So to give it some context, your ‘audience’ on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok or any of those social media platforms is NOT owned. You do not get to keep or gather any behavioural data that those networks may house, we can access them but we don’t own it. You also have absolutely no say in how that data collected about your audience is used, and we can’t predict the way these platforms will deliver content over time. 

To put it simply, third-party platforms give us the opportunity to reach an audience, but we will never be able to have autonomous control over how those platforms work. Which means we won’t always have control over what kind of content that audience can view, and that can eventually start to affect the messaging we want to get out to the world. 

WHY WE WANT TO OWN YOU

It does sound a bit aggressive out of context…but there are many reasons that building your owned audience is HUGELY beneficial and necessary for the longevity of your business. To truly understand these reasons, we must first understand the way the social platforms work. 

For a really long time, business owners have placed a lot of faith and even monetary value on these networks as the prime space for their loyal customers to connect with their brand. Take the wave of highly paid influencers as a great example of this — their entire business is literally built on the idea that they have influence over a huge pool of people. And though that may be true, what they have no power over is the way the platform itself works. As we now know, these platforms are constantly undergoing updates and algorithm changes that alter the way your audience receives content. They decide what your customers want to see more of, and guess what? They don’t care if it’s your competitor brand instead of you. They only care about keeping the wheels turning within their own ecosystem. The aim of the game for them is to keep people on their platform, and not necessarily on YOUR feed. 

They have their own financial interests too — a robust advertising model. This is what powers them to gather such important data about your audience. So they can use it to offer effective advertising mechanisms to businesses. It’s always safest to own your own data, and that is (in essence) why we want to monitor audience behaviour within our owned networks. 

When we own that information, we can use it to nurture our audience relationships in meaningful ways and we aren’t at risk of losing people through changing algorithms and updates. Facebook for example used to garner 10% organic engagement and practically overnight that decreased to 5%…so only 5% of your audience will see the content you’ve laboured over so thoughtfully, unless you put spend behind it. Why? Because the platform moved to a monetised advertising model and the incentive was to get businesses to engage with that. Their aims and outcomes are not aligned with your personal business goals — so why rely on them to take care of your most precious asset…your audience? 

BUILDING YOUR OWNED AUDIENCE

Creating a customised platform specifically for your audience, where all your content is housed all in one place, is the best way to create lasting connections. 

So, firstly — where do we do this? Well, your website. A website is SO important (in case you didn’t already know). You want people to land on your site and just soak up all the incredible content on offer there. Every minute a customer spends on your site, is a minute they’re engaging with JUST your brand and that sort of connection is invaluable. 

Secondly, how do we get them there? This is where third-party platforms can be really useful. It’s a great way to entice an audience over to your world. With engaging content that is offered maybe in a ‘sneak-peak’ style on the third-party platform, but in plentiful amounts on your website. 

Another really important player in this game is your email database. That is a DIRECT connection with your customer, that you KNOW they will receive. So how do we grow and nurture this group? There are a few things to think about: 

Create incredible content 

It seems obvious, but are you doing it? Really think about your audience when you’re planning your email content. Will it add value to their day? Will they be intrigued enough by the title to click through to the feature (which is OBVIOUSLY going to be on your website)? Just because it’s great content doesn’t always mean it’s relevant for your audience. So use that precious owned data you’ve gathered through your website, to make sure you’re servicing their interests and solving problems for them. 

Pay it forward

Encourage your existing subscribers to share the content with a friend. Maybe incentivise it with a competition? 

Audit your list

People move around a lot and their contact information changes frequently. Check your bouncebacks and if you have a sizable number, it’s probably time to reinvigorate your existing list. Remove any un-usable addresses and consider an ‘opt-in’ campaign. Send out a newsletter that prompts users to opt-in or out of the list. You may lose a few subscribers but you’ll retain the ones who are really engaged and they will be your ticket to finding MORE like minded subscribers. Even better here is ‘set and forget’ — setup email automations that run in the background and manage the list, changing actions based on people’s engagement level.

Cross promote

If you’re running competitions on your socials, then promote them in your newsletter too! Or, even use your social competition to encourage email signups by making it part of your entry mechanic. 

Host events

Online or offline. Offer up some free advice through a webinar or an in-person gathering. When people see value like this, they’re very likely to share that with friends or colleagues and you may gain yourself a few more precious subscribers! 

Leverage all your efforts

Think about the content you are creating and how to get the absolute maximum value out of it. When you do receive someone’s email address are they receiving a welcome email? Is that followed by a nurture series of key ‘evergreen’ content? Are you telling them more about you, and what you offer? Also remember to reuse key content in social media, we worry about people seeing the same thing again but the truth of it is very few see your posts, and we hate to break it to you, they aren’t going to remember even if they did!

BE PATIENT 

The most important thing to remember with all of this, is to put the time into really growing this owned audience. And it will take time… 

Moving people across from social media, to your own personal website is a difficult feat. Though it’s well worth the time and effort. So keep at it, try and test different things and if you’re interested in really getting a little deeper with finding and connecting with the right audience — then reach out to us!

Phoebe Carden

Written by: Phoebe Carden
Published: April 9, 2021

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