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Now Trending: Trends

by Traci Nigon

How do your readers consume digital media, and how does this affect your approach of audience development?

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, are not trends, says Kyle Lacy of Exact Target. “Once millions of people use this medium every single day, it’s no longer a trend. It’s a way of life.” So what is a trend, then, and how can you utilize it to find and connect with your target audience?

Lacy looked at the broader scope of how users consume data, from being an active part in a social audience to sharing moments. Breaking it down, he explained specific ways to target an audience and how to gather data to help you personalize your message.

First, he explained, don’t reinvent the wheel.  The demise of nearly every way users consume media has at one point or another been predicted—including email, which is still the number one way people prefer to receive offers. “Everyone uses email,” he added. And frankly, if your target audience isn’t on Twitter, why should you be?

On the other hand, you can’t just assume you know where your audience is and how they consume media. “Data beats opinions,” Lacy noted. Track whether or not emails are being opened, note the participation in various online offers, and if nothing else, simply ask them.

And don’t discount a social media presence. But don’t just focus on how many “likes” or followers you have—that’s not true engagement. Using examples like Hallmark’s “Make a Vow” campaign and Toyota’s request for followers to share their stories, he explains how you can not only engage your audience but even get them to participate in co-creation of content. (And while you’re doing that, don’t forget to gather their emails.)

Switching gears, Lacy moved on to the idea of “mobile moments.” He wasn’t talking about phones in particular; he broadened it to anything that “moves with you, and you can use it whenever you want.” Whether or not you have a mobile site wasn’t the question; it’s more of what your site looks like. Does a reader have to resize the font? Is the design the same (gasp!) as the desktop version? You’d better try again, and move aggressively on the digital platforms you know are right. (Don’t be a Blockbuster).

And through all of this—the social media, the marketing, the websites and apps—your biggest priority should be to make sure the message is relevant to your audience in that medium. “If your content is bad, it doesn’t matter what channel you produce it for. It’s going to fail,” Lacy stated. Luckily, he noted, most publishers are adept at getting the content right for their audience, even over multiple platforms. The ultimate goal is for the consumer to receive or find great content (yours!) whenever and wherever they want it and to actively engage with it, because “a consumer is your best salesperson.” That’s the trend; that’s the future of successful media that we should all be focusing on.