HBR Offers Their Proven Path to Engagement

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Jim Fowler, who started Jigsaw in 2004 and sold it to Salesforce in 2010 for $175 million, once told us that what creates value in a company is an active and engaged user base. "Once you have that, you can leverage it in ways you can't even think of at the beginning," said Fowler, now CEO of Owler, a crowd-sourced information platform.

Engagement will be a popular word at the upcoming SIPA Annual 2018 Conference where sessions include:

  • Maximum Engagement: Re-Inventing The Aging Conference Model;
  • Attracting, Retaining and Engaging Top Talent; and
  • Optimizing Your Social Media Marketing Efforts.

Maureen Hoch, editor of hbr.org at Harvard Business Review, wrote an article last week for Digital Content Next where she offered four lessons they've learned from their experiments with audience engagement.

Here they are with some SIPA-fication.

1. When doing something brand new, get (at least a few) true believers in the mix. In 2016, HBR started doing whiteboard sessions on Facebook Live. These were videos that put experts in front of a camera to talk about their idea or concept for up to 40 minutes. Some worked, some didn't. The biggest common denominator for success they found was presenter enthusiasm. "The audience can feel it when you're not enthusiastic about a medium (especially when it comes to video and audio), which will be reflected in popularity and engagement."

SIPA Annual 2018 has a pre-conference workshop titled, A Stream Come True: Using Facebook Live, YouTube and Streaming Tech to Gain Greater Exposure with Brian Malone, CEO of Malone Media.

2. Text interactions can be tricky. I remember when Twitter Chats were all the rage—SIPA even tried them—but engagement was always tough. HBR found the same problem with their text-based chats, so they may try to pair them with video or audio in the future.

The push for getting comments from readers always seems to be trending one way or the other. At times, they've been a huge publisher goal for the engagement and feedback. But at other times, the person power it requires to ensure that the comments are sensible can overwhelm, leading to putting comments on the shelf.

3. Constantly test your assumptions. "For our recent Women at Work pop-up podcast, we documented the assumption that people wanted to engage with HBR about this topic in an audio experience," Hoch wrote. "... It seems basic, but doing these things helps your build up a store of observations that can inform your future experiment plans and pitches."

4. Be clear on asks to your audience. Here Hoch addressed the subscriber-only Facebook group that they've run for a year. Different from the SIPA Discussion Forum, they initiate much of the conversation. "The editor who runs it... is clear that when editors post to that group, there's a purpose and a plan," Hoch wrote. "We're not just throwing out a 'What do you think?' to that community and walking away. Instead, we're asking that community to join us in testing advice or sharing ideas on how they've solved tough work problems."

Most valuable was that they're using new channels to gather and answer audience feedback. Their Dear HBR: podcast responds to questions from the audience about tough workplace dilemmas and is seeing growth in questions posed." An internal HBR report suggested that a successful comments initiative is a two-way street, and rewards should be offered on both ends.

"Developing use cases for comments, promoting good comments, and sharing engagement results internally and externally are all key to maintaining the relationships."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…