How to set and manage your audiences’ expectations

I’ve just returned from my first overseas business trip. The work itself was digital marketing, but what I want to write about is another incident that reminded me of the importance of managing expectations in digital marketing.

We stayed a really nice hotel. When we arrived on the first night, there was a face mask sachet on the bedside table, with a note: “Been a long day…?” It had. And this little extra gesture immediately made me feel better.

The next afternoon when I returned to my room, there were a couple of postcards on the bedside table, with a note: “Let me replace the boarding pass in your book”. Cute.

On the following afternoon there was an intricate wooden bookmark, with the note: “Let me replace the boarding pass in your book”. A little lazy (being exactly the same note as the previous day), but still a lovely gesture and bookmark.

The next day there was nothing.

Nor the next day.

Nor any other day for the rest of our 8 day stay.

I was disappointed. And I acknowledge this is irrational. We had paid for our rooms only, the bedside gifts were just little (thoughtful) extras. But they had created an expectation, and each afternoon I returned to my room excited to see what I would find, and was disappointed when I found nothing.

I realise it would be difficult to source and supply an additional gift for each day of someone’s stay. However as the hotel was aware of just how long we would be there for, they could have shared the gifts across that period, surprising us with one gift every three days rather than for the first three days only.

This experience – and my reaction to it – reminded me just how important it is to manage the expectations of your audience, so as not to disappoint them.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Any digital marketing initiative should be part of an overall digital marketing strategy, which should cover the nature and frequency of your communications with your audience. It always helps to have a few reminders tho…

These tips can apply to any kind of repeat marketing initiative, however are focussed more so on popular digital platforms such as: email marketing, Facebook fan pages, Twitter and blogs. Please note however that the ideal frequency, size and type of content updates varies between platforms.

Be sustainable

Before you start, consider what’s achievable and be realistic. What information do you want to create and share? How long will it take to prepare? What resources do you have available? Can other people help you?

Also factor in the time required to review and respond to feedback and comments, as ideally, you should be embarking on this type of communication to create a conversation with your audience.

If you’re only interested in pushing content however, stop reading this, as you’ll just be disappointed (I’m just trying to manage your expectations).

Start small

Don’t create stress for yourself by trying to post every day or even once a week if it’s going to be difficult for you. You’re better off aiming for one good blog post a fortnight than putting yourself under pressure to deliver weekly, and potentially disappointing your audience by publishing something of low quality.

Again, frequency should vary depending on your platform.

Warn your audience

Advise your followers of what they should expect from you, both in terms of content type and frequency.

If they’re signing up for an enewsletter, advise how often they can expect to receive it. If you want them to like your Facebook page, let them know if you provide “daily industry updates”.

And if you really don’t know how often you will be able to publish content, warn them of that too! If you’ve told them what to expect, they are less likely to be disappointed.

Do your homework

Don’t wait until the day before your update is due to prepare it. Research and prepare content in advance, whenever you have time or an idea strikes you. You’re much better off having a number of updates prepared and scheduled to be published rather than rushing around trying to pull something together.

Keep a notebook or use a digital note-taking app and add to it as you go. Develop your awareness for news items or situations that could be adapted for your audience. Develop the habit of noticing great content opportunities. The more we become aware of something the more we notice it.

Like when I was studying for my drivers license. All of a sudden I saw more L plates in cars. Were there actually more learner drivers on the road? No, I was just more aware of them.

There are also a lot of great content ideas on this wonderful internet of ours, such as Copyblogger’s 50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for Finding Great Blog Topics.

Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter lend themselves to shorter updates, so consider relevant tips, advice and quotes, or photos and videos.

It’s a date!

If creating quality content is important to you and your business, make it a priority. Book in time with yourself to research or write. Making regular time will also help develop the habit.

If it’s not working, change it

Just because you set your plan originally, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right. Give it time to see how it goes, but also allow give yourself permission to review and reassess your plan.

Need help from others to help meet your targets? Need to change your targets? That’s okay, just keep your audience in mind and if the frequency is going to change dramatically, let them know.

If it’s an enewsletter, you may be able to give them a choice on how frequently they receive it. If you’re not going to be able to post content for a while due to other commitments, let your audience know.

Remember, it’s all about good communication.

Enjoy it!

Creating and sharing content should be fun, or at least be beneficial to you in some way. If you’re not enjoying it, perhaps you need to reconsider your original strategy and plan.

If you’re not enjoying writing it, there’s a chance your audience may not be enjoying reading it…

Put yourself in their shoes

This list isn’t exhaustive, but like I said at the beginning, it’s about managing expectations. So put yourself in your audiences shoes. You already know what you want to achieve; as a follower, what would you expect?

So… to set my own expectations upfront: I won’t be able to post here regularly. I’m going to try to post every fortnight. For now. I’ll see how I go. And if that’s not achievable, I’ll reassess it.

But I’m gonna make damn sure that whatever I do, I enjoy it!