Our Showteam has been reflecting on what we’ve learned over the past two years, and we keep circling back to the same idea: our community is our superpower, and if our community has been the engine that helped us reach where we are today, they are certainly going to be our way forward as well. That’s where community content and continuous connection come in as your superpower.
The way we see it, the nature of events has evolved away from being a one-time, finite experience for attendees, and towards becoming frequent touchpoints between an organization and their audience as part of an overarching strategy throughout the year. Think about it this way: events are just one of the ingredients in a much longer recipe with the ultimate goal of fostering an engaged and ongoing community.
Now, if you’re asking yourself, “What are the other ingredients in the recipe?” you’re in the right place!
In this article, we will be sharing our key strategies for cultivating strong and engaged communities within the current context, and what we envision to be the future of the event industry landscape.
Let’s explore how we can use community content and continuous connection to set our organizations and communities up for peak success in 2022!
Your community is your superpower
When an association has a community supporting it, it is more self-sustaining, in-the-know, visionary, and resilient, thanks to the network of individual members, employees, and partners, and their willingness to support and participate in its vision.
The true value of events has always been found in the experience of the communities they serve. Taking the time to better understand your audience, finding out the ways they prefer to interact with your brand and creating content that marries your goals and theirs are key to staying relevant in this ever-evolving digital world.
For the sake of this article, we define content as the plethora of avenues through which your organization can engage its members, including written content like blogs and newsletters, audiovisual content like webinars and podcasts, live interactions at virtual, in-person, or hybrid events, and everything in between!
Your audience has changed, and they want you to change with them
With over 92% of marketers saying their customers and prospects expected a personalized experience in 2021, a dramatic 85% jump from pre-pandemic reports, it’s time to embrace the fact that the game of cultivating audience connection has a whole new set of rules (Hubspot).
The dynamic between associations and their members has been irreversibly changed. With virtual events and on-demand content now being more mainstream, people have complete control over when, where, and how they choose to engage with your organization. This new standard demands facilitating conversations that are hyper-relevant and tailored to your audience, otherwise, they may choose to allocate their time, energy, and perhaps money, elsewhere.
You may not naturally think of your organization as a brand, but it is. Why? Because “brand” is simply another term for an organization’s perceived identity to the world. With 72% of consumers claiming they’ll only engage with personalized messaging from brands, it’s crucial to be mindful of your audience’s interests and values, as well as their preferred formats and ways of receiving your content (Forbes).
While it may seem as though the audience having free reign over the way they interact with brands is a challenge to overcome, we suggest looking at it as an excellent opportunity! New data from SproutSocial shows that 51% of consumers said their relationship with a brand starts when they feel that the brand understands them and their desires, so by simply paying attention to your audience’s preferences and engaging with them accordingly, you’ll be in a great position to cultivate a community of highly engaged individuals who genuinely care about what’s going on in your organization.
And luckily enough, there is no better time than right now to be trying to tap in and cater to an audience’s unique preferences!
Content is king when cultivating community
Organizations now have access to more data and audience insights than they could possibly know what to do with, thanks to the digitization of events and the wealth of knowledge virtual event platforms can hold! By leveraging this, as well as intel from social media and other metrics, organizations are in the best position they’ve ever been to produce content that is highly tailored to their audience’s preferences. And what does highly tailored content lead to? A robust and engaged community!
When it comes to producing successful community building content, remember that your audience cares about what you care about, so make sure that your content reflects and clarifies your values and beliefs.
Now more than ever, audiences are looking to connect with brands and organizations on a more human-to-human, emotional level, and according to this Forbes report shared by Jill Grozalsky, Product Marketing Director at Sitecore, customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value.
This means that organizations need to cultivate a sense of trust and authenticity with their audiences in order to develop that emotional connection. One of the best ways of doing this is by having ongoing conversations and exchanges with the audience through genuine and relevant content that provides them with value.
Director of Marketing at SmartBug Media and Content Marketing speaker, Ali Wert, puts it best:
“It isn’t about meeting our audience’s needs so we can be successful, it’s about meeting our audience’s needs so they can be successful.”
By developing your content strategy with this sentiment in mind, your audience will feel your dedication to their success in your content, and in turn, feel far more inspired to invest themselves back into your success as well.
If your audience is your community, your platform is their community center
If community building is all about fostering an ongoing connection with your audience, the virtual event platforms that have become popular over the past two years are one of the best tools an association has at its disposal to help its community blossom.
When brands are engaging with audiences with community building in mind, the focus needs to be on extending the connection between the audience and organization as far into the future as possible.
Gone are the days of stand-alone, 3-day-long, hyper-scheduled events that end just as abruptly as they started. Now, organizations have access to online platforms that can be designed around the specific values, interests, and expertise of the organization and their audience, and who’s to say that these platforms need to be shut down after the closing session?
Hubspot reported that 74% of consumers say they would find a sort of “living profile” valuable if it allowed them to curate the experiences, content, and offers they receive. Event organizers should be leveraging the inherent value of their virtual event platforms to fulfill their audience’s desire for ongoing personalized content and continue to facilitate connection well-beyond an event’s start and end dates.
With the ability to stay in touch and on the minds of your attendees beyond your main events via virtual platforms, organizers will be able to invest their energy where it counts: producing and curating a steady stream of content that converts audience members into community members and builds the organization’s network of cheerleaders and supporters.
Keep in mind the bigger picture
As you gear up to make 2022 the best year it can be, we suggest taking a second to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Now’s the perfect time to do an audit of last year’s content and see how well it’s aligning with your organizational goals and audience’s preferences. Take the time to check in with your team, key stakeholders, and members to gauge their level of interest in the content you’ve been supplying them with. Has it been worthwhile for them? Be sure to review all your contents’ metrics and see what story it’s telling you. From there, you’ll be able to craft an overarching content strategy that will set your entire community up for success in the new year.
Because the true value of your association is the people who are supporting it, investing in strengthening your community is one of the safest, smartest, and most advantageous investments you can make. And luckily enough, the number of opportunities for how you can do this have expanded exponentially in the past two years.
“The greatest myth in marketing is that your growth will come from advertising. Sure, some of it will. But your greatest source of growth are your existing customers, and that’s why investing in your community is the best thing you can do, and authentic, timely, helpful content is what your community needs from you right now.” –Sourabh Kothari, Co-Founder and CEO of Mindcurrent
Remember that the content you produce will be the most direct channel you have to connect with your audience, so focus on creating a constant and reliable stream of content that is in tune with their preferences and aimed at generating authentic, value-driven, and human connections. And once you have your content strategy locked down, it’s time to start exploring how you can leverage your virtual platform to sustain those conversations, keep the connection going, and extend your event’s lifecycle into a year-round community connection.
We’re excited to continue to nurture our incredible greater community of Showcarians in 2022 so that we can keep exploring, discovering, and growing together!
Cheers to the power of community content and continuous connection!