3 Ways to Use Content to Build a Loyal Audience

If you want people to gather around your content watering hole, you'll have to prove you can quench their thirst.

Unless you pay close attention in “The Lion King” or watch the “Planet Earth” series, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about watering holes. (Trust me, if it weren’t for my two young daughters, I probably wouldn’t know half as much about animals and their lives, cartoon or otherwise.)

Watering holes attract animals from all over that are looking for the things they need to survive. Even in times of drought, when it doesn’t seem like any water is attainable, elephants, for example, are able to recall where reliable sources are. They trust those sources as places to go to get what they need.

Now, I’m not calling audiences elephants, but I’m willing to bet that, like elephants, the members of your audience also know where to go to get what they need. They’re turning to the brands that consistently deliver the high-quality, engaging content and resources they’re looking for. Those brands have mastered one of the biggest content trends in 2018: the watering hole advantage.

3 Steps to Achieve the Watering Hole Advantage and Build a Loyal Audience

The watering hole advantage is the advantage you earn when your brand is where your audience routinely goes to meet its needs.

For a brand with its sights set on the long term, there’s almost nothing more valuable than becoming the go-to resource in your industry, the brand that members of your audience consistently look to for information, insights, and expertise. That top-of-mind positioning is incredibly valuable, and it’s what the watering hole advantage is all about.

Here are three ways to use your content to help you become the that resource in your space and build a loyal audience that consistently comes back for more:

1. Do everything you can to provide real value to your audience, not just try to make a sale.

Becoming a resource your audience trusts and regularly turns to for information means that you have to actually deliver that information. You can’t be so focused on promoting yourself and making a sale that you don’t give audiences what they’re seeking. That’s not going to help you earn trust with anyone, let alone transform your brand into the authority in your space.

Instead of overtly (or even subtly) pushing your audience members to buy from you or become clients, do what you can to help them educate themselves and make the decisions that are right for them. Help others and focus on meeting their needs; that’s how you’ll get people in your audience to return for more.

2. Build out your owned media assets.

The only way that visitors turn into loyal audience members and subscribers is if you give them the chance to do so. That’s what owned assets can do.

Yes, earned, owned, and paid media each play an important role in engaging an audience. I’d be one of the last people out there to argue otherwise. Still, to attain that watering hole advantage, you have to have a watering hole in the first place — and that means building out your owned assets.

If you want your brand to become the go-to for insights, then develop ways–that you control–of providing those insights. These include your website, the articles and guides on your blog, your various social channels, and the email newsletters and campaigns you deliver.

3. Make consistent content creation and distribution a priority.

Your content strategy must have consistency if it’s going to help you become top of mind with your audience. Consistency is key. No one is going to want to come back to you if the last piece of relevant content you produced is three years old. On the flip side, if you’ve been creating lots of great content consistently, you can’t just sit back and expect your audience to gather ’round.

To build a community that trusts you for insights, it’s your job to consistently create and distribute relevant, high-quality content to the members of your audience. They want fresh content, and they have to know when you’ve produced it. So, design a process for developing content and execute a distribution strategy that gets that content in front of the right people.

Being the watering hole your audience goes to isn’t an unattainable goal (and it’s not just an allegory about elephants). By focusing on providing value, ramping up your owned media, and committing to consistency, your audience will always be able to trust that it can turn to you to meet its needs.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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