Own Your Audience: Why Your Website Should Be the Home Base for All of Your Brand Content
January 29, 2021
Brands and audiences go hand in hand. To be a strong brand, you need the support of a loyal audience who finds value in what you have to offer. This audience will go out of their way to consume your content, read your emails, and share their love for your brand with the people they know.
If your brand is invested in creating video and audio content to grow an audience, hosting your content on your website will be better for your brand in the long run.
Why is that? Well, it all boils down to owning your audience.
In this post, we’ll dig into why it’s so important for brands to start owning their audience, the problems with building audiences on third-party platforms, and why today’s advertising is becoming less effective for growing your brand. Plus, we’ll explain how easy it is to start owning your audience by hosting video and audio content on your brand’s website.
What does it mean to “own” your audience
First, let’s discuss what it means to own your audience. The phrases “rented land” and “walled garden” are often thrown around in conversations around this topic as well, so let’s break it down.
You can think of audiences in three different categories:
- Owned: You have a direct connection with these audiences through data, including info like email address, name, company, title, etc.
- Non-owned: These audiences have expressed interest in your brand through a third-party, like a follower or subscriber on social media. Your goal with non-owned audiences is to convert them into an owned audience.
- Short-term: These audiences are collected via a pixel or cookie and only last for a specified window (ex: 30 days); your goal is to convert these cold audiences into one of the other buckets.
What we’re really talking about here is data. Ownership means setting up a direct communication line with your audience and not relying solely on third-parties to establish connections and nurture relationships.
“Ownership means setting up a direct communication line with your audience and not relying solely on third-parties to establish connections and nurture relationships.”
If you build a following on Facebook, Facebook owns that data. You have no direct way of reaching that audience outside of the platform. And as some of us have learned the hard way, algorithms and terms of service can change overnight, severely impacting performance on these channels.
The Economist even went so far as to declare “the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” When you directly engage your audience on your site, you’re able to look behind the scenes at your own data and determine how to communicate with them further in a way that builds a positive brand experience.
“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.”
The monetization of data
Next, let’s take a brief look at how audience development evolved over time, starting with the rise of social media.
As social media platforms grew, they opened the door for businesses to communicate with people in new and meaningful ways. The platforms actively encouraged companies to set up dedicated pages and invite folks to “like” or “follow” the page to keep up with news and announcements. Amassing these likes and follows was often a marketing KPI and teams would set goals around growth (without, perhaps, considering the quality of these signals).
“Amassing these likes and follows was often a marketing KPI and teams would set goals around growth without, perhaps, considering the quality of these signals.”
However, this has changed. Over time, the organic reach of professional and business pages has plummeted. For example, the average reach of an organic page on Facebook is only about 5.20%. Remember the good old days when organic reach was over 10%? Le sigh.
Platforms now use all of the data they’ve acquired (data they own) to build out robust advertising networks and charge publishers to reach the audiences they worked so hard to build. Here lies the problem of rented land and walled gardens.
Now, marketers are focused on what they can control — driving traffic from these platforms back to owned assets — but this is easier said than done.
“Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — these platforms aren’t designed to help businesses. They are designed to make money.”
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — these platforms aren’t designed to help businesses. They are designed to make money. They’re engineered to keep people engaged and on the platform for as long as possible, and they’re actively designed to discourage folks from leaving. These systems actively work against marketing goals around building communities and audiences for brands.
Advertising is becoming harder and less effective
In the past, we’ve written about why advertising alone can’t make people love your brand and even speculated on whether or not advertising actually works.
That’s not to say advertising doesn’t play a role in a well-rounded marketing strategy, but the fact is: advertising is becoming harder and less effective.
But why the shift? Here are some variables that make it increasingly difficult for brands to reach their target audiences with advertising.
Third-party cookies are starting to disappear
To learn more about website visitors, marketers have been using cookies for years. Third-party cookies, in particular, have helped marketers take a peek at their website visitors’ overall online behaviors even after they’ve left their site. As HubSpot explains, data such as frequently visited websites, purchases, and interests people have shown across the web can help marketers build robust visitor profiles for retargeting purposes.
However, Safari and Firefox have already effectively eliminated third-party cookies, and Google Chrome has promised to phase them out of their browser by 2022. If your brand’s advertising strategy is data-driven by third-party cookies, you should rethink how you can get the right eyes on your ads without relying on this type of technology.
Ad blockers are on the rise
Regardless of the technology you’re using for ad targeting, 27% of internet users in 2021 are using ad blockers to avoid unwanted messages and prevent tracking of their online behavior. This means over a quarter of paid advertising messages will never reach their intended audiences. Still, the amount of money spent on digital advertising continues to increase year after year.
Banner blindness, which is people’s unconscious or conscious efforts to ignore banner-like information displayed on webpages, also plays a role in decreasing advertising’s effectiveness. Smart Insights reports the average CTR for ads on Google Search have fallen 44% year over year since Q1 of 2019. Additionally, the average CTR for ads on Google Display Network decreased 41% year over year since Q1 of 2019.
With all that being said, don’t you think your advertising budget would be better spent elsewhere if you’re trying to grow an owned audience?
Data protection regulation
CASL, GDPR, CCPA — there’s no shortage of acronyms in the data regulation world.
While each regulation is specific to a different region, each regulation has had a ripple effect on businesses worldwide. These regulations have forced companies to provide greater transparency and implement more strict customer data policies and processes.
To be clear — you shouldn’t be emailing anyone you don’t have explicit consent to communicate with in the first place. But these regulations have steep penalties for non-compliance and have muddied the waters in the marketing world. This drives home the importance of owning your audience’s data and having implicit content to communicate with them.
Why you should host brand content on your website
Many brands have used their website to host written assets, like blogs and long-form guides. But what about video and audio content? It’s easy enough to host videos on YouTube, and most people listen to podcasts on iTunes or Spotify anyway, right? So what’s the benefit of adding these assets to your company website? Let’s break it down.
Create stronger brand associations
When you’ve created video and audio content you’re proud to share, you might think hosting your videos on YouTube or uploading your podcast to Spotify is the most logical route to take.
While it’s true that YouTube and Spotify give you access to a wider audience for discoverability, you don’t actually own that audience. Folks will watch or listen to your content on these platforms, and then — POOF! — they’re gone, unless they subscribe for more.
“While it’s true that YouTube and Spotify give you access to a wider audience for discoverability, you don’t actually own that audience.”
For brands trying to grow their audience, hosting video and audio content on your website can help you create stronger brand connections with your visitors. Many services offer customizations for the video and audio player itself, control over which videos and content appear next, and advanced analytics to help you understand your audience.
Use owned data to engage your audience
Professional video hosting solutions can provide you with advanced analytics that shows you how people engage with your content. And, you can use your videos to generate and nurture leads through features like email collectors.
G2 explains, “Platforms that integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) system or marketing automation platform (MAP) may also be able to score leads based on view time or automate your marketing activities.”
Using your owned data, you can engage with your audience by serving them relevant and valuable content that could nurture them into prospects and customers.
Less risk of losing your audience overnight
If you’ve built a loyal audience of brand fans who consistently return to your website because they love your content, you can sleep peacefully knowing that audience isn’t going anywhere. You don’t have to worry about a social platform’s algorithms or terms of services changing overnight. Third-parties impacting your performance is completely out of the picture.
By building out your video and audio content on your site, you can guarantee that the people who keep coming back for more are the folks who care most about your brand and your unique offering.
It’s easy to host these assets
As we mentioned, you can use professional hosting solutions to showcase content right on your website — gone are the days of complicated code! Video and audio are easier than ever to host on your own website without needing to rope in a developer or designer. More often than not, all you need to do is embed a link for it to show up seamlessly on your landing page.
Better overall experience
If you choose to host all of your content on third-parties, you’re ultimately doing your viewers and your brand a disservice. Native and YouTube videos offer very little control over the viewing experience; these feeds are flooded with ads and distractions. And the same applies to podcasts on other apps — these companies make money off ads that interrupt your precious content.
Think of it like going to a movie theater versus watching a movie at home. The movie theater is often crowded, full of other sounds and noises that distract you throughout the movie, and you have to watch twenty minutes of ads to get to the good stuff. Or, you could put on your comfy pants, open a bottle of wine, and watch your favorite flick distraction-free from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Your audiences deserve this Netflix-like experience, and it’s never been easier to give it to them.
“Your audiences deserve this Netflix-like experience, and it’s never been easier to give it to them.”
With professional video and audio hosting, you can guarantee that unwanted distractions won’t pester your viewers. Keep people’s attention on your content and your content only. This will make for a more enjoyable and memorable brand experience overall.