2.3.1 Social media performance potential audience usage format: basics 2

Learning objective social media performance potential audience: The following content will enable you to

  • Understand the audience as a social media usage format and
  • Assess the potential and limitations of an audience for developing a social media strategy.
  • assess the performance of social media channels for the audience usage format more competently and thus avoid bad investments.

Reading time: approx. 38 minutes

Exercises: Exercises are in the PDF of all exercises of this course. Download it from here.

This content is not intended to be an instruction manual for the construction or practical use of an Audience, although it does include guidance for its practical use. The goal of this content is to show you how an audience works to the point where you can evaluate the use of an audience in a social media strategy.

Basics social media performance potential audience

Competition

General competitive situation of the Audience

Audiences as part of a heterogeneous social media infrastructure: Audiences – like other usage formats – can be part of a social media infrastructure consisting of different usage formats, i.e. used in combination with network and community.

Individual competitive situation of an audience

Audiences are primarily in competition with other audiences. Shaping this competition in our own favor is something we can do with the quality and quantity of our content, but beyond that, there are a number of other points that can help us build advantages in the competition of audiences. This includes motivational and participatory offerings within the Audience.

Weaknesses of the usage format

Due to its sender-receiver ratio, Audience is much less designed for interactivity than the other social media usage formats Community and Social Network. Networking and exchange among social media users are not a primary goal of an Audience. This means that activity at the recipient level is significantly lower than in all other social media usage formats. The lower engagement and participation in this social media usage format leads to lower support from social media users. The activity of an audience rests largely on the shoulders of the broadcaster. By its very nature as a sender-receiver system, an audience thrives on content. The company thus enters into a media attention contest over content. By its very nature, this competition for attention is much broader, more global and more intense than competition at the level of corporate performance.

Strengths of the usage format

This usage format largely corresponds to learned methods of marketing and corporate communications. Companies like service providers (advertising agencies, social media agencies) are skilled at using content. Working with content is thus more in line with previous experience than other social media usage formats. The necessary competencies are more likely to exist within the company and its service providers. Audience is less dependent on interaction than other social media usage formats. At the same time, this usage format is the one that involves the least loss of control. The company at least has control over what content it distributes on its own channel. The content of an Audience is part of social media and can therefore more easily enter the communication flow of social media.

This has advantages in

  • Perception (such as in a newsfeed).
  • Sharing (usually easier to share / recommend)

The company builds up its own reach via an audience, which should be able to be addressed permanently and precisely, and which is active and relevant if a suitable channel is used, and if it is built up and maintained with appropriate care.

As a result, the company achieves

  • a media quality for the distribution of content – which would otherwise have to be distributed via advertising.
  • a corresponding additional economic value, provided that this range can also be used sufficiently economically.

The social media competence required to build and operate an audience is significantly lower than for a community and not as resource-intensive in terms of the user. However, the company should not underestimate the media demand (quality / resources) from its role as a broadcaster in an audience and the competition over content.

Delimitation of the usage format Audience

Also and especially because audiences can be used in combination with other usage formats, it is necessary that we clearly recognize the differences in order to be able to successfully design the individual usage formats.

Demarcation Audiences – Advertising

Advertising is not part of social media, so it takes place as an external element and is not part of the communication structure of an audience.

Audiences are a part of social media, so they take place as a component of social media (and its communication structure).

Audiences represent a social media infrastructure, so they have a permanent character. Audiences require correspondingly permanent employment and care.

Advertising takes place in campaigns and actions, so it is not designed for permanence and is not an infrastructure. Advertising can thus be used for a limited time.

Demarcation Audience – Community

Even though in practice the concept of a community on an audience is still encountered from time to time, we are dealing with two very different usage formats.

Networking

  • Audience: not required and therefore not technically possible to a limited extent.
  • Community: required, manifold possible.

Identification / sense of unity

  • Audience: very weak or non-existent.
  • Community: pronounced to strong

User engagement

  • Audience: users are significantly less engaged. The benefit of the audience is to receive and take note of content. This is a rather passive behavior. If the users of an audience are passive, the attractiveness does not necessarily suffer – as long as the user benefit (from the content) is maintained.
  • Community: Communities are based on user activity. This means that if a significant proportion of users are not active in a community, its attractiveness is reduced. The user benefit of the community is provided by the activity of the users.

Analogous example: regulars’ table reader: Where the regulars ‘ table (community) discusses its topics more or less intensively and exchanges its experiences and opinions, the reader (audience) reads for himself more or less interested in his medium.

Audience design

The prerequisite for designing an audience is the suitability of the usage format for the intended markets and defined business objectives that are to be supported by the audience.

Social media usage formats are infrastructures

They have very specific performance potentials and are built for very specific purposes. This is similar to the infrastructure that an economy builds for transportation. You can’t turn a highway into a canal for shipping overnight and vice versa. Reassigning an audience to a different usage format is equivalent to a complete reboot in a different infrastructure. Hopes of bringing users into this reboot should not be overly high.

The infrastructural character of an audience exists not only in relation to other usage formats but also in relation to other audiences. We build audiences for specific topics, specific audiences, specific user benefits and business benefits. Repurposing these audiences is risky because they are not designed to do so, nor do users automatically accept this change in behavior.

Example: we have built a large, active audience for the nurturing of one of our most important brands. Users are used to receiving content here that is useful or at least interesting to them. If the company now uses this audience for hardselling – if possible for other product areas – this is a major misappropriation that neither benefits the audience nor serves the purpose of this misappropriation. This example is deliberately crude. Remember that the initial use of an audience is understood by the users as a constituent.

  • key learning: the way users get to know the audience is the way it should stay, because users only want to pay attention to this audience.
Recommendations
  • Design your audiences deliberately and pay attention to continuity when using them. It is wiser to build another Audience to serve an additional goal (in a different subject area) than to misuse an existing Audience.
  • Define audiences via permanent business goals. Audiences are less recommended for short and medium term goals.
  • Audiences, like infrastructures, are a task to be maintained permanently. Before you think about building an audience, see if it can be sustained over time.

Goals of an Audience

We have already covered the business objectives that are suitable for an audience in general in this chapter. When designing the goals of an audience, it is recommended not to overload the respective audience with goals. Not everything that is possible in principle fits under one hat. Let’s focus on the goal that is critical to the business. What may come up in addition should not distract too much from the core objective of the Audience. Let’s remember that different goals also require different structures, but the user generally prefers the simple, immediately recognizable offer with a clear benefit to a functionally overloaded all-rounder.

Social media goals of an audience

We define the social media goals of our audience according to the business goals we want to achieve with the audience and what an audience can do.

The social media goals of an audience can be structural, qualitative or quantitative in nature. We should define social media goals for our Audience for at least the following areas. Here are some examples from which you can see the method:

  • Reach: the active reach we want to achieve with our Audience in a given market.
  • User structure / target groups: the proportion of specific target groups that we want to address measured against our user base.
  • Subject areas: the subject areas we want to use to reach users for a specific market(s).
  • Competitive performance: the competitive position we want to achieve with our Audience for specific markets defined by topics.
  • CorporateBenefit: the concrete corporate benefit that we want to achieve through our Audience for the respective corporate goals.
  • UserBenefit: the user benefit we create for our users through the Audience. If possible, this also includes how many users actually perceive this benefit in certain periods of time.
  • UserParticipation: the participation opportunities we create for our users, the benefits to active users from participation as well as the benefits to all users from participation, the benefits to the company from participation, and the amount of participation by our users.
  • UserMotivation: the type of motivation, the motivation systems and the use of the motivation systems by the company and the user.
  • Channels: the social media channels used for the Audience, their functions / interactions and the benefits achieved for the company.

Competitive positions of an Audience

Competitive positions are positions that define our competitive position based on specific elements of our strategy. These can be complete usage formats, user benefits or strategy components, or “only” functions of individual usage formats.

Since we use competitive positions to identify and shape the situation in a competition, the competitive positions of an Audience in general as well as our Audience in direct competition within our topics deserve special attention. We basically check the competitive positions in the Audience in the following points:

  • Subject areas: the combination of subject areas can become a competitive position if we can use it to provide more attractive content or better cover heterogeneous user groups. However, this also includes the risk of being / becoming thematically less relevant for individual groups.
  • Content distribution and interest profiling: the more heterogeneous the composition of an audience and the broader the interests of the audience, the more important interest profiling and content distribution are for the benefit of the audience for its users. Content that does not meet the interests of individual users devalues the source of the content. Without sufficiently powerful interest profiling and appropriate content distribution, an audience is missing elementary components for lasting success.
  • Usage format: the usage format is per se a competitive position. Unfortunately, Audience is not the most powerful alternative here – if alternatives are possible.
  • UserBenefit: the UserBenefit of the Audience is usually the content. If additional user benefits are available / usable, this competitive position can become a competitive advantage. This can be the case, for example, in the development of own ranges for users.
  • Motivation: the motivation of users to use our Audience, like the motivation of users to engage with our Audience are possible competitive positions. Once for an active audience, the other time for the growth of the audience. If, for example, users are given the opportunity to compile and recommend content themselves, this is an added value for the user, which can be associated with recognition and other benefits and can create an additional benefit for other users.
  • Participation: what participation opportunities does our audience offer our users and what participation opportunities do our competitors offer in our topic areas. Think not only in terms of width but also in terms of top. Participation opportunities in the evaluation of content, but also in the selection of content, in the thematic focus or priorities are examples of participation opportunities with the quality to the competitive position. The retention of engaged users and their contribution to higher relevance, quality and acceptance is underestimated.
  • Information functions: the form in which our content is made visible is relevant to competition and thus a competitive position. Does our content run the risk of being lost in functionally unconvincing news feeds or can the user set priorities that prevent this? How quickly does our content get out of sight, how can the user find it again? The best content is useless if it is not seen. How is our Audience doing here in competition with thematic competitors? Equal bad is also little satisfactory here.
The practical use and application of competitive positions

We apply our competitive positions to the

  • Development of own usage formats and their contents
  • Analysis of competitor usage formats

an. In this way, we ensure competitive usage formats and strategies.

Platform decision

If we decide to use the Audience format, the question is whether to build this Audience in our own platform or in an external platform. This decision is strategically relevant if only because it has a direct influence on the benefits and success of our future social media strategy.

Requirements for the platform of an Audience

Audiences can be formed in your own platforms or in external platforms. Companies can build an audience across different platforms and other social media platforms can be used as feeders for an audience. In this case, users are directed to Audience via other platforms.

The suitability of the platforms for the operation of the audience is shown by the quality of the functions for the information of the users, the management of the audience and the management of the content. Below are some important criteria for assessing the suitability of the platform for an Audience.

  • the presentation of the content: Content should be presented in a way that is recognizable to users. If content is primarily distributed via a newsfeed, it must be ensured that the user actually sees this content. If this is not ensured, the platform is only of limited or low suitability for an audience. Restrictions in the perception of content via a newsfeed result, for example, from the displacement of content or references to content in the newsfeed by more current content from the visually perceived area. A further reduction in the perception of an audience’s content in the news feeds of external social media platforms takes place via algorithms that prioritize content. Content to which users do not react is classified as irrelevant and hidden. The effect of these algorithms is based on relevance of other content, i.e. on the evaluation of the source itself, but not on the evaluation of the content it prioritizes and is thus only of limited help for users as well as for the source.
  • targeting of content for different recipients: in heterogeneous audiences it is of high importance to offer the individual user the content that is relevant for the individual user. If this option is not available, there is a risk that users will see too much content that is of little or no interest to them. As a result, the relevance of the audience for the users dwindles. The more heterogeneous the users, the more important this functionality is. In addition, a lack of targeting of content within an audience in a newsfeed with a selective algorithm is very likely to reduce the activity of the audience because users inevitably receive content that is less relevant to them due to the lack of targeting in a heterogeneously structured audience.
  • Reliable accessibility of the audience: It should be a matter of course that the users of an audience can be reached by the operator of the audience without any problems at any time. This accessibility primarily concerns the content of the audience – i.e. the distribution of the content in the audience. For the management of the audience, it is not insignificant if users can be actively and directly addressed individually by the operators (feedback, recommendations, motivation, participation). If operators of external platforms decide which content reaches the users of an audience, this platform is inevitably less useful for the companies. They become dependent on mechanisms they cannot influence, but which defines their success in the platform. The frequently made statement that users should only receive useful content only makes sense if companies have a stable, sufficient possibility of targeting content for their users on these platforms. Which includes, not least, the creation and use of interest profiles.
  • profiling of users via content (interests): if we cannot store the interests of the users of an audience as information, this is detrimental both for the content strategy and the economic value of the audience as well as for the benefit of the users from the audience. Profiling not only gives us important clues about the relevance of users to our company and its services, it is also a prerequisite for developing and distributing relevant content for users. Without profiling, meaningful targeting is hardly possible. If the company does not have its own audience profiling, it is missing an important element for success at the content and management levels. Platforms that do not offer this option are of questionable quality for building and operating audiences.
  • Data storage and processing: In order to be able to serve the users and their interests and at the same time derive the possible benefits from the audience for the company, we must be able to store and process data for and about our users. Of course, only with the consent of our users.
  • Audience management functions: these include sufficient profiling, targeting, communication, content management and content distribution functions.
  • The connection between audiences and business processes: Audiences are not an end in themselves. Companies offer users a benefit that is usually not an end in itself and often requires a link to corporate processes. If this option is not available in an external social media platform, this significantly limits the value of this platform for building an audience.

If these conditions are only partially met, this is a more or less significant handicap for the long-term success of the audience and the company’s benefit from the audience. The less these conditions apply, the more endangered success becomes. In my opinion, a permanent compensation of structural deficits of an audience by the amount of content is rather not to be expected.

Criteria for the platform decision

Once the basic decision has been made to use the Audience as a usage format, one of the questions that arises is where this Audience should be set up and operated. This decision can have an impact on the company’s benefit from the Audience and must therefore be taken into account in strategy development.

We have the possibility to manage our Audience / Audiences in a

  • own platform
  • external platform

build up.

If we decide to build the audience in our own platform, we can align the audience technically and conceptually entirely with our company’s benefits and the needs of the users.

If we decide to build the Audience, we have to live with the possibilities that this platform offers for building and operating the Audience at the moment and in the future. The company can therefore no longer act independently in a key component of its social media strategy.

Let’s look at commonly used arguments that arise when deciding whether to use an external or in-house platform.

Audiences in external social media platforms

The use of external platforms to build and operate an audience is widespread. The advantages and disadvantages of this platform decision should be weighed very carefully, because it has a far-reaching influence on the design of the audiences, the corporate benefit from the audience and the benefit of the users from the audience and cannot be corrected in the short term.

Building an audience within the external platform is possible free of charge for the companies. There are no costs for the technology and technical operation of the Audience.

  • the company saves itself the technical development of its own platform. How high these savings actually are depends not least on the planned audience. There are also customizable free Audiences software solutions or customizable off-the-shelf solutions as an alternative to the external social media platform solution.
  • The solutions of the external platforms are not customizable and can be changed by the operator at any time.
  • Intrinsic utility in the external platforms. The extent to which the free standard solution meets the company’s requirements must be carefully examined. A free solution that does not provide the company with sufficient benefits is not a sustainable solution. Based on the platform requirements of an Audience, you can better assess the performance of external platforms and the potential benefits they can bring to the company.
  • free of charge is merely the technical basis for setting up and operating the Audience. The decisive factor is the lasting benefit that can be achieved with the audience and the effort required on the part of the company to achieve this. In order to build a user base for the audience in an external platform, paid advertising may be required, for example. Likewise, costs may be incurred to ensure that posts on the external platform reach all users. Another important factor – the benefit that an optimal audience can achieve compared to a reduced-performance audience – is usually overlooked.

The existing user potential of the external social media platforms is the most important argument for building audiences in these platforms. Companies go where the users are. Since most social media users are registered in the large external platforms, companies assume a high user potential in these platforms for their audiences. That is correct in principle. More relevant to this aspect of the decision – in addition to the question of the possible benefits from the audience – is the question of whether and how easily the user potential of the external platform can be turned into users of the corporate audience.

  • Do I have to advertise the audience in the external social media platform in the same way as on the Internet as a whole, or can I target users of this platform directly to my audience without advertising? The more the building of audiences in the external platforms relies on advertising, the less the importance of an existing user potential of the external platform for the decision where the audience is ultimately operated. In this case, the external platform is attractive as a source for the users of our Audience, but not necessarily as the location of the Audience itself.

User social networks more easily accessible. Social media users maintain their personal social networks – their circles of friends and acquaintances – on the major social network platforms because most of their friends can be found there. The operators of the social network platforms supplement their offerings with audiences and communities because this

  • serves the attractiveness of the platforms.
  • increases the dwell time of the users.
  • enables profiling of social media users (for building interest profiles for advertising).
  • offers companies the opportunity to be present themselves.
  • the results of the advertising are increased through better profiling and thus more advertising is placed.

We only reach the social networks of the users of an audience in an external platform if these users share content from our audience with their social network. If the content in an audience on the company’s own platform can be shared with the user’s networks in the external social network platforms, this argument is no longer valid.

The technical basis of Audience is available immediately. Audience building can be started in the external platforms at any time. However, this temptation to simply get started also has its downsides. An audience needs to be well thought out – in terms of topics, benefits to the business, building the user base, content production and other components of the audience. The technical basis is not necessarily the decisive component of an audience, but rather the consequence of the conception of the audience. If we forego a clean conception at the beginning of the construction, this rarely remains without consequences.

Audience content in an external social media platform more easily becomes part of the news feed of users of the external platforms. The newsfeed is the central information tool for users in many social media platforms. The more connected the user, the more content flows into their newsfeed. This can result in a user with a large network getting a large amount of content flushed into their newsfeed. Content that he sees when he is active in the platform and this content becomes visible to him. If it comes to the social network platform a little later, the content of our audience may have long since been displaced by others in the newsfeed.

As a result of the flooding of news feeds, the operators of social network platforms use algorithms to influence what content the user sees. This can lead to the fact that content of our audience can no longer be perceived by users. Facebook, for example, takes user reaction to content as a criterion for user interest in that content. Failure to respond is detrimental to the source of the content – our audience – in the long run. The more heterogeneous our user base, the more heterogeneous our content, the higher the risk that users are not interested in all our content. We can only provide our audience’s content with better targeting through paid distribution. The free use of the platform thus quickly becomes a platform in which we have to pay for the distribution of any really important content.

Users are reluctant to leave their social media platforms. Socia media users are on their social networks to maintain relationships with other users – their circle of friends and acquaintances – and to pursue their interests – in audiences and communities. Whether they do so in a single platform depends primarily on,

  • whether their entire circle of friends can be reached in this single platform.
  • whether all their interests are sufficiently covered in this platform.

The utility of the external platform defines which social media applications are used, how much of the social media time is spent there. Hardly any users use just one of the larger social media platforms for all their social media activities.

If you succeed in offering users a convincing, attractive benefit with an audience, the user will use this platform. If we do not succeed in providing our audience with a convincing user benefit, our audience will not be successful – regardless of whether it is part of an external platform or takes place on our own technical platform. However, the technical basis of an audience has an influence on the benefits we can offer users in an audience.

The decisive factor for whether a user uses a social media offer or not is the benefit of this offer for the user. Every offer on the Internet is always just a click away – both within the major platforms and outside them. The “perceived proximity” of the Audience to all users of the external platform is no substitute for attractive benefits from the Audience.

Audiences in external social media platforms “only” require the know how for building and operating the audience. The know-how for the conceptual and technical development of social media platforms and social media usage formats often goes beyond the social media know-how available in the companies.

  • In most training courses for social media managers, the focus is on the operation of external platforms and the application of standard solutions.
  • The conceptual development of usage formats and platforms takes place only marginally or not at all in the training of social media professionals.

In practice, this means that the technical basis for developing individual solutions that are more efficient and useful for the company is usually lacking.

Audience functions

Below are some notes on the functions of an Audience and their importance to the success of the Audience, and thus the importance of the function as a competitive position.

Interest profiles

Interest profiles tend to be assigned to social network / social network platforms and communities. In Audiences, they may seem a bit surprising at first glance.

The benefit of interest profiles lies in their importance for the use of topics and content.

  • Interest profiles and their contents make it clear to us which topics and contents which users are specifically interested in.
  • Interest profiles allow us to safely cover the interests of our users.
  • At the same time, we can see from the interest profiles how many users in our audience are actually interested in the core topics of our audience.

In order for us to be able to use this tool, interest profiles in our Audience must be technically possible and also conceptually integrated into the operation of the Audience. Users should not only know that these profiles exist, they should also be regularly asked to optimize their own profile on the basis of their evaluation of content and their wishes regarding content and topics in order to obtain the best possible benefit.

If the technical platform does not enable interest profiles for our audience, we are dealing with a strategic deficit of the platform that permanently reduces the success of the audience.

Selective content distribution

The benefit of selective content distribution lies in the relevance of the content for the individual user.

The more homogeneous an audience and its interests are, the less important selective distribution is. The more we can be sure that all users in our audience are interested in all our content, the less need there is for selective content distribution.

Whether our audience is homogeneous or heterogeneous depends on the topics we work on within this audience and also on how we have built up our audience – for this topic or these topics.

  • If our audience is strictly and exclusively built for and about one topic area, a relatively higher interest in that topic is likely.
  • If our audience has been built up via ads, gimmicks, via competitors, via the broad number of topics or via other measures that are not directly based on a topic, we are dealing with a heterogeneous audience at best, in which an interest of the audience in all content is rather unlikely.

If we cannot assume a permanent interest of all users of our audience in all content, at best some user groups, at worst the overwhelming number of users of our audience will not be interested in some or many contents. We will then – step by step and permanently – lose users because they no longer understand and use our audience as a relevant source of interesting content. Our users become inactive – step by step – with each irrelevant content. They no longer respond to our content, whether it shows up in a feed or users are otherwise directed to that content. If the platform operator then also works with an algorithm in the user’s feed that sorts content according to the user’s behavior, we sink one step further towards invisibility in terms of perception.

In summary: the more heterogeneous our topics and our audiences are, the more indispensable and existential is the possibility of selective content distribution.

User feedback and participation

Social media thrives on the fact that more than one side is active. It’s not for nothing that social media is also known as the participatory web. Does this also apply to Audiences, which per se, due to its predominantly media structure, is geared more to the distribution of content than to interaction and participation?

Audiences per se are not as consistently focused on interaction and participation as communities, but without the participation of their users, the impact of audiences suffers.

The most valuable form of social media user participation in Audiences to date is the active recommendation of content to other – networked – social media users. The value of this activity is actually self-explanatory – our content reaches more people, we become better known as a resource, and we get active support from our social media users (i.e. social media resources).

Participation and feedback in the form of own contributions and comments of the users enrich our content, ensure a higher and more relevant attractiveness, from which further users of our audience can benefit. We usually don’t reach users outside our own audience, but these contributions help to maintain the audience.

The famous Likes as an expression of approval and recognition are not only a gauge of perception and impact for us. If these Likes are also visible beyond the Audience boundary, this acts as a – weaker – recommendation. However, the inflationary use of Likes led to a decrease in their impact. The value of Likes has diminished accordingly, even though Likes for content are still better than no response at all. If we can design the functions of Likes ourselves, we should – as with comments – make sure that they can also reach the personal social networks of the users.

Findability of content

If we rely on content with our audience, and therefore rely on their use, it is recommended that we also make this content as easily and comprehensively usable as we can. This also means, among other things,

  • that older content must also be easy to find.
  • we should actively point out relevant content that users have not seen.

Both services require corresponding functions, of course, which are not available automatically or by default. In external platforms, we have to live and work with the range of functions that this platform offers us. In our own platforms, we have to make sure that we integrate and maintain the appropriate functions ourselves. If we forego this, we forego a success factor that is particularly important for an audience. The integration of a good search alone does not help us here. Once many search functions also require appropriate tagging of content. More importantly, users are unlikely to search for content of which they are unaware. Which in turn brings us to the need for interest and usage profiling.

  • only if we really know the users’ interests can we point them specifically to relevant content.
  • only if we know what content the user already knows, we can point him to content that is unknown to him but relevant.

As an alternative for these – undoubtedly demanding – functions, we can supplement any content with references to other – similar or related – content. This is much easier, but still requires a corresponding function with the appropriate tagging of the content.

Management of an Audience

The nature and structure of an audience means that this usage format requires relatively intensive management. This requirement is obvious when looking at the performance of the audiences externally – the content / the content of the audience and the associated content management.

Strategic requirements content management

For an Audience to become and remain successful in the long term, a suitable platform with the necessary structures and functions is indispensable. At least as important is a consistently and permanently implemented content strategy with the necessary resources.

The user benefit of the audience is created through relevant, useful content. If the user benefit dwindles, the audience suffers by becoming inactive and also dwindling. The audience decides whether the user benefit of the content meets the requirements / wishes of the audience. You will recognize this problem at the latest when using Audience. By then, however, the damage has already been done.

By opting for an audience, the company has stepped into a media role that requires sustained yet relevant content production and delivery to build and sustain an audience.

  • Audience requires permanent content production in a media approach with appropriate organization and editing.

An important, not always unproblematic task of the editorial staff of the Audience is to ensure the user benefit. Content that does not provide users with a recognizable and noteworthy benefit should be avoided as far as possible, but should in no case constitute the majority of content overall. This can and does easily lead to conflicts with other functional areas of the company.

Important: It makes little sense for companies to decide on an audience as a usage format if it is not clear / ensured that the associated resources can be provided by the company in the long term.

Audience Management

Just as an automobile is not just an engine, managing an audience is not just content management.

The tasks of audience management that are relevant from a strategic point of view are briefly addressed below. These notes describe the contents only to the extent that their significance in the strategic context is recognizable.

The growth of an audience should be based on the quality and quantity, not to mention the relevance, of its content. This ensures that the audience and our content are a good match. If we choose the shortcut over advertising to the audience, we should pay attention to the fit of the advertising with the content structure. If we forego qualitative criteria when growing our audience, we end up with an audience that can contribute less to the company’s success.

Keeping an audience active is another challenge for managing an audience. This is realized through relevant and up-to-date content – tailored to the target groups – and constantly reviewed. If necessary, editorial priorities must be adjusted as a result. Measuring activity requires access to behavior (content being read) and responses by content.

Heterogeneous audiences pose a much greater challenge for media processing and audience management. In the absence of suitable methods of targeting and selective production and distribution of content, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the audience active and growing in the long run. The higher the heterogeneity of the audience, the higher the probability that users will receive content that is increasingly irrelevant to them and that their benefit from the audience will dwindle.

Churn management – the reactivation of inactive users – should therefore be possible and practiced in sufficient quality in an audience as a task of audience management and as a functional area in the platform. In the absence of appropriate management activities and or appropriate functions, this is a serious disadvantage of the platform or a serious failure of management.

Audience and UserBenefit: the UserBenefit of an audience is the content, i.e. the information that the user receives in the audience. The user decides how useful the content is for the user.

  • The benefit generally depends on how relevant the content is to the user. The relevance of the content is primarily based on the user’s interests – i.e. whether the topic interests him.
  • In the second step, the user benefit naturally also depends on the quality of the content. Content whose topic generally interests the user, but which does not create any benefit for the user, is not very effective. So whether a content on a relevant topic is useful depends not least on the user’s knowledge and aspirations.
  • In the third step, the user benefit from the information also depends on the timeliness of the content for the user. Topicality has two dimensions. Once the timeliness of the content. It should not be yesterday’s news. However, being able to offer up-to-the-minute content is also significantly more costly for the company. The second dimension of timeliness is based on the individual situation of the user. A topic that is generally of interest, but just doesn’t “fit in” at the moment – be it for time reasons or because I don’t have a need at the moment – also generates less attention and interest.

The consequence of these findings is simple: the less we know about our – individual – users and the less we can address them individually, the more difficult it is to keep an audience active and economically successful for the company. If specific profiling and targeting is not possible in the platform we use for our audience, this makes daily work with the audience more difficult and reduces the potential success from the audience.

Goal management: the audience / audiences have been established to contribute to specific business goals and must meet corresponding social media goals. Audience management must meet these goals. This happens extremely rarely by itself.

The alignment and monitoring of the content strategy with regard to its performance for the respective goals, the interests of the target groups and, last but not least, the user benefits of the audience is a permanent task that requires correspondingly permanent processes.

This involves an intensive exchange with the stakeholders of the audience in the company – i.e. the functional areas that are to be supported by the audiences, as well as with those responsible for the business model that is to be supported by the audiences.

Audience and motivation: The motivation to share the content of an audience with one’s own personal network is the lever that can scale the success of the audience for the company. The technical function to share a content with friends on social media is common. A motivational / reward system that supports this behavior is comparatively rare. If this success factor is not technically present or is present but its importance is not recognized, the potential success of an audience will be significantly lower than it would be with a well thought-out motivation and reward system.

Most audiences use Likes or similar formats as a motivational system. This form of recognition made visible has a remarkable effect on behavior. In the case of existing motivational systems, it is recommended to combine the function of sharing with a form of public recognition. Especially in a combination with the reactions to shared content, this can create an effective lever for the distribution of useful content.

Audience and participation: Participation or involvement is an essential element in social media. It is not for nothing that people talk about the “participation network”. Participation enables and scales the impact of social media; lack of participation prevents the particular success that is generally possible in social media. However, the success factor of participation requires technical and conceptual prerequisites that are not present to the same extent in all external platforms. In an audience, the possibilities for participation are essentially limited to reactions to content (sharing, liking, and commenting on content) and to posting one’s own content (in the form of user generated content). The latter is rather the exception in Audiences. Companies thus forgo resources from social media and success with social media. However, expanded participation – beyond the classic functions of responding to content – requires more functions and, not least, more competence and management.

Existing audiences and social media strategy development

When developing a social media strategy, we don’t necessarily start from scratch. More often than not, the company has already established social media structures. So if we are confronted with an existing audience at the time of a strategy development for a company, this can significantly influence the strategy development.

If the existing audience is based on an external platform and still contains activity, it may be difficult to write off this audience, even if the performance potential of the external platform is too poor for long-term central use. Admitting to a bad investment is not always pleasant – regardless of whether one advocated the bad investment oneself or whether one helped to take it over. The decision to stick with an external platform that is inadequate in terms of its performance potential should be well justified. But even in this case, it is necessary to compensate for the performance weaknesses of the platform in order to be able to successfully use one’s own audience in the future according to its potential.

Compensation for structural performance weaknesses of external social media platforms is either via

  • Plugins – that is, extending the functionality and or bridging weaknesses of the platform – possible. This presupposes that plug-ins are possible as integration of functions and databases in the external platform, i.e. that interfaces and design options are available accordingly. If this is the case, plugins can be a solution to the problem of lack of performance quality from external platforms. However, this does not solve the dependency problem, which, moreover, in the form of changes to interfaces and integration options, can reduce or minimize the performance potential of one’s own audience at any time. This solution is therefore not a permanently safe approach and can only be recommended to a very limited extent.
  • about another task for the platform is conceivable. Here we try to bridge the deficits of the external platform by reducing its tasks to a pure hint platform. In this case, the content is only linked to in the external platform. The actual content with the user benefits is held in a separate platform. This results in the problem of a media break, which is irritating for users. They must leave the platform on which they are moving. This requires a very strong user benefit. The reason for this outsourcing is difficult for users to understand. In addition, this approach requires strict discipline on the part of the companies. Inconsistency is not advisable here, which in turn leads to the conflict of short-term success and long-term benefits. It can be more successful in the short term to post content directly to the insufficient platform rather than reserving it for your own platform because it increases the number of users reached. In the long term, this torpedoes the success of the company’s own platform and that of the audience as a whole. FC Bayern, for example, has attempted this balancing act between a fan page built on Facebook and its own community with mixed success and just as much consistency. If only short information is offered, the inclination to lead the user to the own platform is low. For greater user benefits then the acceptance for leaving the platform Facebook is not practiced.

Conclusion: there are no really recommendable solutions for audiences on external platforms with poor performance potential. The longer we maintain these audiences on inadequate platforms, the more resources we invest in an audience with a very questionable future.

As part of a new development of the social media strategy, it is therefore advisable to part with structures that are not sustainable and to transfer the existing audiences – as far as this is still possible, i.e. the users can still be reached there – into a more sustainable structure.