The Business Case For Engagement: Converting Content Viewers into Subscribers
Convert site visitors into paying customers by prompting visitors to gradually increase their engagement through the “ladder of participation.”
There is a definitive correlation between user engagement and conversion. As a user becomes increasingly engaged, they are more willing to pay for a digital publishers content or services. More importantly, users who are more active in the publisher’s online community make the subscription decision sooner compared with users who are less active (or not active at all).
A recent MIT Sloan Management Review study report, titled “Turning Content Viewers Into Subscribers,” asserts that engagement is the key to turning casual readers into paying subscribers, and provides the ladder model as an effective framework to boost engagement over time. Using what the research dubs the “ladder of participation,” publishers can prompt site users to progressively accelerate their onsite engagement to become paying subscribers.
“The concept of a ‘ladder’ demonstrates a user’s decision-making process, which is affected by his or her past experience with the website, and which expresses the user’s wishes and free will. The notion of the ladder is based on the idea that, as users become increasingly engaged with a website, they become more willing to pay for its services — and the website must take an active approach to engage and interact with its users, guiding them ‘up the ladder,’” says the report, authored by academics Lior Zalmanson and Gal Oestreicher-Singer.
Through each stage, this report demonstrates the correlation between a user’s placement on the proverbial ladder and their likelihood of converting into loyal, paying subscribers.
But not all engagement is created equal. “Liking” a video may not be as valuable to a publisher as a user who actively comments on content. The report provides a framework for engagement levels with three categories with varying degrees of value:
- Content organization requires little effort from the user and helps fellow users receive useful information about the content. These features include the “like” button and options such as ratings (star ratings or a numerical scale), or tagging content with user-suggested keywords.
- Community participation includes all features that have the potential to create interactions among users on the website. These include chats, forums, internal blogs, comment options, sharing options, social or interest groups etc. These features form the basis of a website’s community and require low to moderate efforts from the user.
- Community leadership refers to features and options that put users in the drivers seat. These include options to initiate conversation, create new social groups on site, moderate the site’s discussions, and create content channels. It’s rare for traditional commercial websites to install such features, but they are common on websites that encourage vast community input, as these websites tend to delegate some, if not all, moderating tasks to users.
Three steps to guide users to increased engagement:
- Discover: Know your audience. That means achieving an in-depth understanding of your audience, as well as what they’re reading, sharing, responding to, and who is actively involved in your community.
- Engage: Set goals for engagement. Identify how you need your current community to grow and evolve. Establish engagement KPIs you want to monitor, including attention time, time spent on site, social interactions.
- Grow: Establish your engagement ladder. Select participatory features (and order of introduction) based on your community and goals. Connect your KPIs and points of engagement (social interactions, comments, etc.) to the rungs of your ladder. And build a strategy to grow your audience, one that gradually encourages and motivates users to climb your newly built ladder of participation.
Download the full MIT Sloan report
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