Despite the sea of information available to the 4.95 billion internet users today, fresh content is being generated by the second. Producing engaging content that can distinguish itself within this volume takes a considerable amount of time and effort. In this context, it is critical to develop strategies to keep your audience engaged and further develop your customer base.
It is ironic that social media, one of the most potent conduits of content, is also the force behind the attrition of our attention. With a profusion of content competing for short attention spans, keeping your audience engaged is an increasingly challenging endeavor. However, having a robust audience development plan can help combat this problem.
Audience development is not about volume alone. Of course, marketers like reach, but in an environment where competitors are only a click away, deeper engagement based on trust and an authentic value exchange is of premium value. The value exchange involves delivering valuable content that meets the audience’s needs — not just promotional messaging. It involves performance metrics and optimization to grow the audience and keep it coming back for more.
The key points this article will cover include:
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
What is audience development?
Broadly defined, audience development is the process of keeping your audience engaged with your business. It starts with getting new consumers to pay attention to your brand, converting them to customers, and finally, building a long-term relationship to foster loyalty amongst those customers. Think of audience development as a timeline that involves attracting customers to your brand and keeping them loyal to your business over time.
Regardless of your industry or business model, customers are essential to running a successful business and the ultimate goal of audience development is to eventually convert the audience for your content into paying customers. How you employ audience development strategies to eventually achieve that goal depends on the context of your business.
With content being produced to cater to every possible niche, it’s difficult to stand out from the competition and keep your audience engaged. You need to have a detailed understanding of your current customer base, and segments within it, to develop strategies that work. This involves putting your audience first and thinking from their perspective.
High-impact audience development strategies
While the best strategies are always context-specific, there are general guidelines that can help with most audience development initiatives. However, marketers need to be mindful of changing customer characteristics and the external environment in which their company operates. The strategies you use should be dynamic and adaptable for maximal impact on consumers.
Here are the factors to consider while developing high-impact audience development strategies:
Get to know your demographic. The first step is to figure out who your audience is. What kind of customers do you want to attract to your brand? Next, divide your customers into segments that include age, gender, and geography. Understand which segment shows the highest engagement with your brand. Do you want to develop this segment further? Perhaps it’s already too saturated, and it makes more sense to chase a new target segment.
Competitor benchmarking can help with this process. For example, what kind of content and campaigns are your competitors running? Who are they targeting? By keeping a close watch over your competitors’ audience development strategies, you can identify which segments are the most reactive and use that data to inform your strategy.
Develop a content strategy. When you know your demographic and have gained familiarity with the marketing practices in your industry, it becomes much easier to develop content that resonates with your audience. You can use a multi-channel strategy that includes producing content for your website, emailing your audience, or leveraging social media platforms to connect with them. Using emerging platforms such as Twitch or Tik-Tok can be effective if you target young consumers.
Define your content team. Figure out who is going to produce your content. The value your content delivers to your customers is crucial. Do you have a team of in-house marketers proficient in developing the kind of content you seek, or would you need to hire external resources? Are you creating a multi-part or a one-time campaign? Further, using the right content management tools to produce effective content is key.
Track metrics and optimize. You need to track the metrics of your content or campaign using content management tools. How many views, clicks, reads, or likes do you get per post? This data will help you fine-tune your future content and improve with each iteration. While your content might be good, it’s futile to use it if it doesn’t reach or engage your target audience.
Optimizing your content for search engines is vital to producing engagement. Make sure your articles have keywords and phrases that are likely to appear in a Google search for the kind of product or service your company sells. Each platform has its unique way of optimizing content for maximum traffic, so it would be worth your while to become familiar with these differences. For example, if you plan to use Twitter or Instagram, ensure you use the right hashtags and captions to reach the most people.
Use tech to optimize audience development
Data and technology can help you understand your audience and optimize your audience development strategies. Businesses that leverage data early to understand their customers are a step ahead of their competition.
Marketing analytics has considerably improved businesses’ ability to track their metrics and develop high-impact strategies. For example, marketing analytics tools measure the performance of your campaign across an array of metrics and use those insights to inform you of the best ways to optimize your content. These tools also give you the bigger picture by linking your campaigns to your website traffic. This enables you to track your multi-channel approach and understand which tactics and campaigns are creating the deepest impact on customer behavior.
Topic analysis tools show you how your target audience behaves online. These tools help you create online personas for your customers to develop the best strategies to attract their attention. Additionally, analytics software let you track the success of each campaign and identify areas for improvement. For example, Google Analytics is an effective tool that offers you data-driven insights on how visitors engage with your site. Common metrics include when customers visit your site, which page they first clicked on, and how long they spent consuming your content. It also helps you track basic demographic data such as your customers’ age, gender, and location.
Leveraging data obtained through such tools is the backbone of an effective audience development strategy. Data and analytics tools play a critical role throughout the process, from getting to know your audience to producing and tracking your content.
How does audience development add value to your business?
Engaged audiences are more likely to seek out your content actively. They are also more likely to buy your products and refer them to other potential customers through word-of-mouth marketing. This makes an engaged audience highly valuable for your business because it contributes to your sales revenue.
The most significant advantages of audience development are:
- Customer acquisition: Since expanding your customer base is a key factor determining the growth of your business, your marketing efforts should consider customer acquisition as one of the primary goals. This can be achieved through referrals and targeted advertising.
- Building relationships: Audience development is also a qualitative process centered on relationship-building. Marketers should focus on developing quality relationships with existing and new customers.
- Improving customer loyalty: Nudging your current customers to keep coming back and selecting your business over the competition is one of the most efficient ways to increase sales. Since new customer acquisition costs can be high, getting repeat business from current customers is a relatively cheaper alternative.
It’s worthwhile to invest in developing your audience and engaging it effectively through interesting, value-adding content. Engaged audiences tend to make more frequent and higher-value transactions.
Resources for learning about audience development
Here are some helpful resources to help your brand’s audience development efforts:
The Biggest Ad Fraud Cases and What We Can Learn From Them
Ad fraud is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the latest data indicates that it will cost businesses a colossal €120 billion by 2023. But even more worrying is that fraudsters’ tactics are becoming so sophisticated that even big-name companies such as Uber, Procter & Gamble, and Verizon have been victims of ad fraud in recent years.
So what does this mean for the rest of the industry? The answer is simple: every ad company, no matter their size or budget is just as at risk as the big guns – if not more.
In this article, I summarize some of the biggest and most shocking cases of ad fraud we’ve witnessed over recent years and notably, what vital lessons marketers and advertisers can learn from them to avoid wasting their own budgets.
The biggest ad fraud cases in recent years
Let’s take a look at some of the most high-profile and harmful ad fraud cases of recent years that have impacted some of the most well-known brands around the world.
Methbot: $5 million a day lost through fake video views
In 2016, Aleksandr Zhukov, the self-proclaimed “King of Fraud”, and his group of fraudsters were discovered to have been making between $3 and $5 million a day by executing fake clicks on video advertisements.
Oft-cited as the biggest digital ad fraud operation ever uncovered, “Methbot” was a sophisticated botnet scheme that involved defrauding brands by enabling countless bots to watch 300 million video ads per day on over 6000 spoofed websites.
Due to the relatively high cost-per-mille (CPM) for video ads, Aleksandr and his group were able to steal millions of dollars a day by targeting high-value marketplaces. Some of the victims of the Methbot fraud ring include The New York Times, The New York Post, Comcast, and Nestle.
In late 2021, Aleksandr Zhukov was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay over $3.8 million in restitution.
Uber: $100 million wasted in ad spend
In another high-profile case, transportation giant Uber filed a lawsuit against five ad networks in 2019 – Fetch, BidMotion, Taptica, YouAppi, and AdAction Interactive – and won.
Uber claimed that its ads were not converting, and ultimately discovered that roughly two-thirds of its ad budget ($100 million) wasn’t needed. This was on account of ad retargeting companies that were abusing the system by creating fraudulent traffic.
The extent of the ad fraud was discovered when the company cut $100 million in ad spend and saw no change in the number of rider app installs.
In 2020, Uber also won another lawsuit against Phunware Inc. when they discovered that the majority of Uber app installations that the company claimed to have delivered were produced by the act of click flooding.
Criteo: Claims sues competitor for allegedly running a damaging counterfeit click fraud scheme
In 2016, Criteo, a retargeting and display advertising network, claimed that competitor Steelhouse (now known as MNTM) ran a click fraud scheme against Criteo in a bid to damage the company’s reputation and to fraudulently take credit for user visits to retailers’ web pages.
Criteo filed a lawsuit claiming that due to Steelhouse’s alleged actions — the use of bots and other automated methods to generate fake clicks on shoe retailer TOMS’ ads — Criteo ultimately lost TOMS as a client. Criteo has accused Steelhouse of carrying out this type of ad fraud in a bid to prove that Steelhouse provided a more effective service than its own.
Twitter: Elon Musk claims that the platform hosts a high number of inauthentic accounts
In one of the biggest and most tangled tech deals in recent history, the Elon Musk and Twitter saga doesn’t end with Twitter taking Musk to court for backing out of an agreement to buy the social media giant for $44 billion.
In yet another twist, Musk has also claimed that Twitter hid the real number of bots and fake accounts on its platform. He has also accused the company of fraud by alleging that these accounts make up around 10% of Twitter’s daily active users who see ads, essentially meaning that 65 million of Twitter’s 229 million daily active users are not seeing them at all.
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6 Lessons marketers can learn from these high-profile ad fraud cases
All of these cases demonstrate that ad fraud is a pervasive and ubiquitous practice that has incredibly damaging and long-lasting effects on even the most well-known brands around the world.
The bottom line is this: Marketers and advertisers can no longer afford to ignore ad fraud if they’re serious about reaching their goals and objectives. Here are some of the most important lessons and takeaways from these high-profile cases.
- No one is safe from ad fraud
Everyone — from small businesses to large corporations like Uber — is affected by ad fraud. Plus, fraudsters have no qualms over location: no matter where in the world you operate, you are susceptible to the consequences of ad fraud.
- Ad fraud is incredibly hard to detect using manual methods
Fraudsters use a huge variety of sneaky techniques and channels to scam and defraud advertisers, which means ad fraud is incredibly difficult to detect manually. This is especially true if organizations don’t have the right suggestions and individuals dedicated to tracking and monitoring the presence of ad fraud.
Even worse, when organizations do have teams in place monitoring ad fraud, they are rarely experts, and cannot properly pore through the sheer amount of data that each campaign produces to accurately pinpoint it.
- Ad fraud wastes your budget, distorts your data, and prevents you from reaching your goals
Ad fraud drains your budget significantly, which is a huge burden for any company. However, there are also other ways it impacts your ability to deliver results.
For example, fake clicks and click bots lead to skewed analytics, which means that when you assess advertising channels and campaigns based on the traffic and engagement they receive, you’re actually relying on flawed data to make future strategic decisions.
Finally – and as a result of stolen budgets and a reliance on flawed data – your ability to reach your goals is highly compromised.
- You’re likely being affected by ad fraud already, even if you don’t know it yet
As seen in many of these cases, massive amounts of damage were caused because the brands weren’t aware that they were being targeted by fraudsters. Plus, due to the lack of awareness surrounding ad fraud in general, it’s highly likely that you’re being affected by ad fraud already.
- You have options to fight the effects of ad fraud
Luckily, as demonstrated by these cases, there are some options available to counteract the impact and losses caused by ad fraud, such as requesting a refund or even making a case to sue. In such cases, ad fraud detection solutions are extremely useful to uncover ad fraud and gather evidence.
- But the best option is to prevent ad fraud from the get-go
The best ad fraud protection is ad fraud prevention. The only surefire way to stop fraudsters from employing sophisticated fraud schemes and attacking your campaigns is by implementing equally sophisticated solutions. Anti-ad fraud software solutions that use machine learning and artificial intelligence help you keep fraud at bay, enabling you to focus on what matters: optimizing your campaigns and hitting your goals.
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