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Forget about finding the perfect moment; engage your audience all year

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 18 May, 2018
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Consistent connection matters, regardless of the season

Communicating with your customers isn't about waiting for the right moment. It's about reaching them during times of need, times of plenty, and everywhere in between.

Take educators, for example. Although most schools make spending decisions in March and April, our "Digital Marketing Trends in the Education Market" report found that educators are actually most engaged during the month of July  when 97 percent of K-12 schools are out of session.

If marketers only spoke to educators during the spring purchase period, they'd miss a critical time when educators are ready to consume content. Not only do educators have less time to read and share content during the height of the spring semester, but they also often use the summer months to plan lessons for the coming fall. Without a year-round approach, marketers couldn't truly call themselves educators' partners.

Just like educators, other audiences have slower and busier seasons. They go in and out of purchasing cycles. Seasonal companies like ski resorts may shut down for months at a time. But great marketers don't shut down. They know that consistent connection matters, no matter the season or point in the business cycle.

Content for the slow season

Still, it can be tough to know how to connect with customers when there isn't an industrywide event or purchasing period ahead. To reach your readers at all times of the year, try these four types of content:

1. Relevant content

Timely content is inherently more relevant than evergreen content. It ties into a season or time of year — like Christmas or back-to-school season — or something in the news.

Remember, even if there aren’t any breaking news stories relevant to your audience, you can always tie your message to a certain date on the calendar. Think about holidays, annual conferences, recent surveys, and other opportunities to tailor content to the moment.

In education, the school year offers dozens of opportunities for relevant campaigns, including the beginning of the year, before breaks, and college application time. But teachers still go online during the summer. Some teach summer classes. Others tutor.

If you're marketing to them, you might offer them summer school lesson ideas or tips for professional development. Teachers enjoy the Fourth of July and Memorial Day like everyone else, so they might be interested in little-known facts or lessons involving those events.

In another WeAreTeachers campaign, we wanted to help first-year teachers hit the ground running in back-to-school season. So we threw a teacher shower for Dwayne Reed, a deserving educator who was thrilled to get some supplies in the summer to prepare for his arrival in the classroom. That event not only helped Dwayne, but it also helped us engage with other teachers at a time when they were preparing to go back to school.

2. Reactionary content

A type of user-generated content, reactionary content gives marketers a chance to start a two-way conversation with audience members. The brand asks a question, participates in a dialogue, and becomes more human to the target audience than a faceless seller of products and services.

Often, this content encourages the audience to take an action based on a question the marketer poses. That might be on social media, on the company blog, through email, or through another channel where the audience is most engaged.

People enjoy conversations year-round, so don't limit reactionary content to big holidays or special events. Ask followers to share stories or post pictures, and then offer a prize (like an Amazon gift card or free product) to the person with the best submission.

Another fun way to get your audience engaged is to encourage people to post on social media during the summer to show the fun ways they kick back. Remember to choose and promote a hashtag to tie their voices to a broader campaign.

3. Reliable content

Reliable content is all about predictability. Daily or weekly social posts, blog posts, and email newsletters remind audiences that content will arrive at a specific, recurring time. Use this type of content for quick tips and helpful information in a brief, easily digestible format.

Reliable posts lend themselves well to evergreen content, or content that is relevant at any time of the year. It's also great for quick, daily snippets to keep audiences engaged without demanding too much of their time.

For example, Sanford Health, a large nonprofit healthcare system, shares tips of the day on Facebook. Those tips link back to articles on the website, covering topics like how kids can get exercise in the winter and how to plan ahead to maintain a positive mood throughout the day. Its followers look forward to these tips, which keep them engaged with Sanford outside of when they might normally think of the brand.

4. Reoccurring content

Reoccurring content is a bit like reliable content, but while reliable content focuses on short bursts of engagement, reoccurring content occurs less often and offers deeper interactions.

Monthly webinars are a popular form of reoccurring content. By offering something new at the same time every month, you can build an audience that sees your brand as the go-to source for the topics you cover. Don't limit yourself to a single channel, though — be active on multiple platforms, wherever your audience may be.

We helped one client put together a series of virtual field trips for classrooms. With a new trip every month, kids got to explore new ecosystems from around the world without leaving the classroom. The live events were recorded, posted on YouTube, and promoted afterward, resulting in great pieces of evergreen content.

Reoccurring and reliable content keep audiences engaged with you even when the rest of the industry is in a lull. Follow up and nurture to maintain people's interest. Create a series of webinars, blog posts, videos, or contests, and use your social media channels to remind people when fresh content is coming.

Teachers don't have to be in the classroom to care about their students, and marketers don't have to wait for certain seasons to connect with their audiences. So remember your four R's: Relevant, reactionary, reliable, and reoccurring content keeps your brand atop your audience's mind and under your control throughout the year.

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