Are They Feeling It? 22 Expert Ideas for Connecting With Your Audience

So much about human interaction changed in the last 18 months. But one constant remains: People crave connections – to other people, things, and ideas.

Creating, maintaining, and growing a connection with audiences is the No. 1 goal in content marketing. What’s the best way to do that in 2021?

We asked the experts at Content Marketing World 2021 (where the theme happens to be connections) what they recommend. Here’s the advice they shared.

1. Accept questions from your audience

Take a page from TikTok and Reddit: To build community, give your audience a safe space to ask questions they’ve always wanted to ask without judgment. Livestreams, AMAs (ask me anything), and Twitter chats are just the beginning, but they’re not the only ways to build conversation while providing value. – Zontee Hou, head of strategy, Convince & Convert

Give your audience the space to ask questions without judgment (in livestreams, AMAs, Twitter chats, etc.) to build community and connection, says @ZonteeHou via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

2. Ask questions of your audience

Talk to your customers. Stop hiding behind the mandates you’re given and the deadlines you’re working toward. If you invest the time, energy, and resources to get to know your customer, what they are struggling with, and what matters to them, you will organically connect in a meaningful and authentic way through your content. – Sydni Craig-Hart, CEO and co-founder, Smart Simple Marketing

Stop hiding behind deadlines – invest time and energy into getting to know your customers’ struggles and values to connect through #Content, says @SydniCraigHart via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

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3. Double down on empathy

Start with empathy. If the pandemic taught us anything, it is the utmost importance of thinking about our audience with compassion and using emotional intelligence in our messaging and design. We must not forget this lesson, and we must invest deeper into our audience value matrix. – Jacquie Chakirelis, director of digital strategy, Great Lakes Publishing/Quest Digital

The pandemic taught us the importance of using emotional intelligence in messaging and design. We must not forget, says @JacquieChak via @CMIContent #CMWorld Click To Tweet

4. Adopt the right mindset

Building connections is all about psychology. Your content needs to exhibit the characteristics that are going to make your audience have an amenable reaction to it. Provide them something that they will find valuable in their lives. Our audiences are smart. They know when companies are being insincere. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you feel a connection with your own marketing? – Andi Robinson, global digital content leader, Corteva Agriscience

Building connections is all about psychology. Provide your audience with something that they will find valuable, says @hijinxmarketing via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

5. Use context

Omnichannel journey mapping paired with a customer jobs-to-be-done approach helps you go both wide and deep around the solutions you’re offering. Go beyond what you think you want to publish to understand the surrounding customer context and how your content can solve their most emotionally intense questions. Consider journey mapping not to be a “bucketing” process where you look at your funnel but about an exercise of looking at customer questions over time, weighted for emotion. This will tell you how and where you can add the value that will support deeper engagement in your relationships. – Noz Urbina, omnichannel content strategist, Urbina Consulting

Consider journey mapping customer questions over time. This will tell you how and where you can add value that will support deeper engagement, says @nozurbina via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

6. Talk about your values

Be authentic and talk about why you’re doing what you’re doing. We ungated our content because we felt our community truly needed the resources we were producing during the pandemic. Our downloads and email subscriptions went way up because we communicated the why of what we were doing. It allowed us to talk about our values in the open, something we had not really done before. – Ahava Leibtag, president, Aha Media Group

Be authentic and talk about why you’re doing what you’re doing, says @ahaval via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

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7. Pick the right hero

One of the best ways to build connections with audiences through content marketing is to tell stories with your client as the hero. Companies cannot copy your stories. They’re unique to your company. – Meryl Evans, digital marketing pro, meryl.net

One of the best ways to build connections with audiences through #ContentMarketing is to tell stories with your client as the hero, says @merylkevans via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

8. Work together

Co-create. Build on their ideas. This is an improvisational way of thinking. Stop pushing content on audiences and start building with them. – Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder, Keeping it Human

Stop pushing #content on audiences and start building with them, says @kathyklotzguest via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

9. Work with your audience

Never miss the chance to collaborate with a member of your audience. During the process of creating something, reach out and ask for their input. Get a quote. Include them in a roundup. Interview them.

Don’t wait for the article to go live to get value. Use the content creation process as an opportunity to build connections with key influencers. That’s called zero-waste marketing. You’re winning even before you hit publish. You’re the press. Your outreach to them is a press hit. Your blog is your best networking tool because everyone loves to be interviewed. – Andy Crestodina, co-founder and CMO, Orbit Media

Use the content creation process as an opportunity to build connections with key influencers, says @crestodina via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

10. Reply (to) all

Respond. Every day we teach our learners how to create content on LinkedIn – not to create content – but to spark engagement and conversations. But how many people are sharing content and then forgetting it’s out there, thereby missing out on so many opportunities to engage with their audience and prospects. – Viveka von Rosen, chief visibility officer, Vengreso

Respond. People are sharing #content and then forgetting it’s out there, thereby missing out on so many opportunities to engage with their audience and prospects, says @LinkedInExpert via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

11. Change your view

Build a community, not an audience. – Drew McLellan, CEO, Agency Management Institute

Build a community, not an audience, says @drewmclellan via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

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12. Talk with real people

Make it your mission to understand what your audience really cares about by talking directly with customers and strategizing your content based on real conversations. When you prioritize understanding what it’s like to be them, and you speak personally with the people you write to, you’ll create content that genuinely reflects their interests and concerns. – Ashley Guttuso, director of marketing, Simple Focus Software | Curated.co

Strategize your #content based on real conversations with customers, says @GuttusoAshley via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

13. Gather together

Community is queen. Start a meetup group. Host regular virtual events. Publish natively on LinkedIn and engage in the comments. We’ve built strong connections with the thousands of marketers who attend our ContentlyU webinar series each month and the hundreds that comment each week on our LinkedIn newsletters. I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been to have that kind of direct feedback and connection with our audience. – Joe Lazauskas, head of marketing, Contently

Start a meetup group. Host regular virtual events. Publish natively on LinkedIn and engage in the comments, says @joelazauskas via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

 14. Meet IRL

A bit biased here since I run a Bay Area marketing meetup: “Upgrade” from online to in-person interactions. Keep creating that fabulous content marketing (online) but find ways to meet and connect with your audience in person. Something magical happens when you move from digital to face-to-face. – Dennis Shiao, founder, Attention Retention LLC

Keep creating that fabulous #ContentMarketing (online) but find ways to meet and connect with your audience in person, says @dshiao via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

15. Be of service

If you’re a brand looking to make an impact in your space, serve the community you sell to. You’ll earn relevance and trust, and referral pathways back to the conversion points that matter most to your organization. – Andrew Hanelly, chief creative officer and partner, Revmade

If you’re a brand looking to make an impact in your space, serve the community you sell to, says @Hanelly via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

16. Be real

Be unique. Show your mess. Practice transparency. Show people that things aren’t perfect and buttoned up. That is the reality for everyone, and they appreciate and relate to it when it’s reflected back at them. – Inbar Yagur, vice president of marketing, GrowthSpace

Show your mess. Things aren’t perfect and buttoned up. That’s reality, and people appreciate and relate when it’s reflected back at them, says @content_fairy via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

17. Focus on believability

To build connections with an audience, content must be believable. It must make an emotional connection. Quantifiable metrics are great up to a point. To build a loyal audience, people must have an emotional connection to the brand and/or the person representing the brand. – Bernie Borges, vice president global content marketing, iQor

To build a loyal audience, people must have an emotional connection to the brand and/or the person representing the brand, says @bernieborges via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

18. Prioritize quality and engagement

I refer to omnichannel marketing as a content vampire – there’s a real tendency to push out volume to feed all platforms and this can quickly erode into poor quality content, lower engagement, and a poor customer experience. If you want to build strong connections with audiences, you need to think like a publisher and focus on quality content that is designed to drive engagement metrics like time spent, scroll depth, actions taken. The focus needs to shift from mass exposure to engagement. – Jacqueline Loch, executive vice president, customer innovation, SJC Content

If you want to build strong connections with audiences, you need to think like a publisher and focus on quality content that is designed to drive engagement metrics, says @jacquelineloch via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

19. Follow these 4 steps

1. Focus on an area where you can be the leading expert in the world on a particular topic. 2. Deliver consistently on one platform over a long period. 3. Set up listening posts wherever you can so you understand your audience better than anyone else. 4. Ask questions to your audience every day possible. – Joe Pulizzi, founder, The Tilt

Ask questions to your audience every day possible, says @JoePulizzi via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

20. Do it again and again

Consistency is the key. Showing up for your audience every day is the best way to build connections. Just follow Ann Handley on any channel she uses and you can see this in action. She shows up. She engages. Every. Day. That’s why she has raving fans. – Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group

Showing up for your audience every day is the best way to build connections, says @BrennerMichael via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

21. Reel ’em in

Add hooks for why people should connect with you for more info. Give out an email address or social media handle and invite people to reach out for anything. – Eli Schwartz, growth advisor, 5le; author of Product-Led SEO

Give out an email address or social media handle and invite people to reach out for anything, says @5le via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

22. Look inside

Dig deeper to find what is truly interesting about what you do – your employees are your best source of insights here. Figure out how they talk about their work to their friends and family, and you’ll find tons of great ideas for telling more personal, compelling stories that connect with audiences. – Jenny Magic, strategist, Convince & Convert

Figure out how your employees talk about their work to their friends, and you’ll find tons of great ideas for telling stories that connect with audiences, says @JennyLMagic via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Though each expert has their unique spin on how to create connections as a content marketer, it boils down to one central theme – deliberately building a community that always puts your audience front and center.

How do you make connections? Share in the comments.

Connect with the expert speakers and fellow marketers at Content Marketing World 2021. Join us in person or online – the choice is yours. Register today. Use code CMIBLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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