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Audience Data: The New Currency of Community
Audience Data

In a world where filling your gas tank costs more than your car, the concept of inflation is easily (and painfully) relatable. In the digital world, the value of another currency is also rapidly inflating. No, I'm not talking about crypto, it's audience data. 

This year—led by Google and Apple—much of the digital universe will be moving away from the mercenary, cookie-based tracking world in which we currently and unhappily live. And that has many digital media companies and publishers scrambling for new ways to understand audience and community behavior.  In this new world, the collection of first-party audience data will be center stage and will be the foundation for how we interact, understand, and engage with our audiences and communities in the very near future. With that in mind, it's crucial for community managers and audience development professionals to start placing audience data at the center of your engagement strategy.

Start with a plan.

Like any financial instrument, it's important to have a plan to grow the value of your investment. Audience data is no different. You'd be surprised how many organizations collect data from their audiences with absolutely no idea about what to do with it. Capturing the attention of an audience is hard work. Asking them to share information with you is harder still. It's vital that you be strategic by identifying the key data that you need; understand how you're going to collect it, store it and access it; and have a clear understanding of how you will leverage that data to grow your business; engage your audience more effectively; enhance your relationships with sponsors; and surface insights to better inform decision making.

Crucial. Vital. Essential. Mandatory. We can't stress it enough. After reading this article, immediately start developing an Audience Data Strategy.

Provide value in return.

Currency is a unit of exchange. It's important to think of audience data in the same way. Data is valuable and audiences know it. They want—and deserve—something valuable in return for it. We're past the point where you can just throw up a form and cross your fingers. At CredSpark, we advise and help clients create compelling interactive experiences, combining content and data generating opportunities while providing tangible value for audiences. These experiences can collect contact info, lead qualification factors, customer intent signals, market research data, audience knowledge, and much more. Incredibly value stuff, right? So it's equally important that you place the value you're providing to your audience in return at the center of your Audience Data Strategy. Interactive content experiences are a great and cost-effective way to achieve that.

Experimentation & flawless execution are not mutually exclusive.

Effective audience and community engagement is like a great conversation. It's back-and-forth; it's improvisational. When developing compelling, data-generating experiences, don't be afraid to experiment. Surface audience opinions with a poll. Let the audience test their knowledge with a quiz on a topic and see how they compare with the rest of the community. Take evergreen content and create a gamified experience around it. Create an adventure-like experience where the audience gets recommendations based on their needs and interests that you collect in the process. The opportunities are endless. And if you get stuck, ask your audience for their ideas and make them a direct part of the creative process. They have a stake in the health and vibrancy of your community, too.

Don't forget: Use the data you get.

If you're going to ask your audience for their valuable data, it's your responsibility to use it in a way that enhances the value and appeal of your community. At CredSpark, we suggest using the following framework.

1.) Identify the problem you're trying to solve (ex: I need to qualify leads for a sponsor or I need to understand our audience's knowledge of a key topic).

2.) Identify the specific data you need to solve that problem. And be brutal: ask only for what you need.

3.) What compelling experience can I create to generate that data?

4.) What value is the audience getting in return and how can I best convey that value to them at the outset?

5.) What's my plan for using that data after I collect it?

With anything of value comes a sense of stewardship. Your organization should feel that way with your audience data.

Cash may still be King, but your Audience Data is the Ace.

If you want to position your community for the future, start thinking about your audience data strategy now. Because the cost of not knowing your audience is a lot more than filling up at the gas station. (well, almost...)