Four Burnout-Proof Ideas for Keeping Your Audience Engaged

How can you stand out at a time when many members are having trouble focusing? Try these tactics.

By Melissa Bouma

It’s understandable if the past two years have tapped out your association’s audience engagement strategies.

After all, when your members have only been able to experience your organization digitally over the past couple of years, it’s inevitable that engagement might sag.

There’s a famous theory in marketing called the “goldfish attention span,” which says that people have the attention span of a goldfish—mere seconds—when engaging with content.

Many have discounted it as a myth. In truth, as anyone who has binged a season of Ozark or Severance can tell you, our attention spans can handle much more—as long as what we’re consuming fits in with our lives and interests.

So that raises the question: How can associations ensure that their content remains vital at a time when their members are more likely than ever to tune out? Read on for a few ideas.

Play Up the “Wow Factor”

Even with people being flooded with content from all corners, there’s still room to build something amazing that gets people talking.

That’s how more traditional creators break through. For example, recent Rolling Stone cover star MrBeast, who has more than 95 million YouTube followers, generally makes content that thrives on the power of one-upmanship, whether it’s creating his own version of Squid Game (257 million views and counting) or giving random people hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Your association probably isn’t doing anything quite like that, but it can borrow a few cues, creating immersive content that can become an event in its own right and get people engaged.

Of course, you don’t want your association to get stuck in an unsustainable cycle of one-upmanship, continually needing to top itself. If you want to wow people, make it count.

Focus on Performance Content

It can be easy to fall into the trap of making content that lives only for the moment, that catches onto a fleeting trend, or that meets some internal need but ultimately doesn’t capture the audience’s interest.

The truth is, every association will have content that doesn’t fit neatly into a broader strategy. But building with strategic needs in mind, through a concept called performance marketing, can help ensure that your content is built narrowly, for just the target you hope to reach. With more traditional engagement on the decline, now could be the perfect opportunity to build for engagement via search or paid social. In short, performance marketing can be an effective way to engage with a desired audience because your content will reflect a topic or action they’ve already expressed interest in.

Lean Into Changing Consumption Habits

If your more traditional content is losing steam with your audience, ask yourself where they are going instead—and why.

Are they moving to podcasts, or watching Netflix or YouTube? Is the issue that your content isn’t convenient to access?

For associations, it’s important to build a content strategy that satisfies members’ evolving consumption habits. If you find that your audience has moved away from Facebook in favor of TikTok, for example, you might need to consider doing the same.

Likewise, if your members are less likely to spend time with the written word, you’ll need to try a new avenue. (Of course, quality trumps all.)

Emphasize Your Unique Value

When your association is trying to reach its member base, what matters more than anything is creating something they can’t get anywhere else, such as proprietary data or an expert voice that others can’t replicate.

Associations have the inside track on this kind of value play. Many already specialize in narrow niches, which often benefit from the rhythm of routine. So, elevating your association’s unique content by making it available only to members or those willing to pay for it is a great way to build demand where there wasn’t any before.

Some of the world’s biggest brands use this scarcity tactic in clever ways—and while you might not be marketing a buzzy item like Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino, what you do have to offer are resources and information that people in your field need to do their work more effectively. Perhaps all the ingredients were right in front of you this whole time, but you didn’t know how to put them together.

Your content strategy, if done well, won’t look like anyone else’s. By building something your audience can’t find elsewhere, you ensure engagement—because you’re meeting a need.

Melissa Bouma, CEO of Manifest, has more than 15 years of experience building insight-driven branding and content strategy, with a client base representing large companies, major universities, and prominent associations.

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