Digital doctor: how to turn online visitors into audiences

IAM’s digital advice columnist, Cat Leaver, answers your questions

Dear Cat,
We’re a small chamber orchestra, currently very active across social media in an attempt to connect with our audiences and promote our recordings and shows. All this activity has increased visitors to our website, but they don’t hang around. How do we get them to stay there for longer and engage with our content? And how do we convert online traffic into actual sales? I think a big issue is that we struggle to measure the effect our online activity is having on our business. What’s the best approach to this and how should I justify spending on digital media to our board of directors?
Yours, a busy marketing manager

The beauty of digital is that all activity is measurable in real time, allowing you to easily attribute value and maximise your return on investment, whilst simultaneously adapting methods in order to optimise your future performance. The key to online success lies in intelligence. This intelligence is gained by a thorough understanding of your organisation, audiences and strategic goals, which can only be achieved through consistent measurement, review and adaptation.

Driving traffic to your site through referral sites such as your social media accounts is a fantastic way to engage new and existing customers with relevant content and to encourage conversions (ie purchase of your products and/or tickets). Once you’ve got the visitors where you want them online – on your website – then it’s all about moving them along the funnel so that they become customers, attendees and/or fans. This is achieved via conversion optimisation. The first step you need to take is to establish your key performance indicators (KPIs).

These should be based on your organisational objectives and analysis of your current performance. For example, your analytics account will tell you which content and social channels are directing traffic to your site – and what visitors are doing once they’ve arrived. When you’ve analysed your existing online and competitor activity, you can benchmark current your performance and outline measurable KPIs.

Next, you must make sure you have an acute understanding of your audiences, both online and off. Your online audiences are not always the same as those who actually end up attending your performances and you may be missing out on opportunities to make new connections with new types of audience by not paying attention to the data available to you through digital channels. Try to build personal profiles that help you to identify key traits of your audience groups so that you can tailor communications on a much more individual level. With this as your basis you can now begin the conversion optimisation process – looking at ways to improve your digital media to increase sales.

Central to your success online will be your ability to listen to your audiences and act on what they’re saying. You want to actively encourage and participate in online conversations and translate what your audiences are saying about your orchestra’s brand into meaningful data (ie sentiment analysis, feedback, reviews, etc) this will influence the way you communicate and approach marketing. Once you’ve evaluated the above factors, it’s all about testing – making small changes to measure their impact and experimenting with landing pages, content, user journeys, etc. It’s critical to assess your digital channels from a number of perspectives, so try to get stakeholders involved in user testing projects to gain a wider overview of how you can enhance the user experience.

Fundamentally, you want to assess how easy it is for your users to complete their objectives, identify any issues, and then simplify these processes if necessary. Translating the energy you put into digital media into sales is all about knowing the most effective approach, so that the time spent, for example pushing content through Twitter, is done in a relevant, timely and targeted fashion. Each activity should fulfil a predetermined objective, meaning you will be able to evaluate the success of this and, thus, justify the spend to your senior managers.

Key points to watch on your website’s analytics

  • Study all visitors and pay particular attention to those who aren’t converting, try to unearth why this is happening
  • Identify the type of content that successfully engages your audiences and drives traffic around the site
  • Note the sources of your site’s visitors – and pay attention to how that source relates to those visitors who then convert to customers
  • Pay attention to the search terms that are bringing visitors and customers to your site from search engines
  • Anlayse your internal site search data and try to understand what content users are struggling to locate. Certain items within your site may need to be more prominent
  • Be aware of all customer touch points, evaluate which elements effectively combine to drive visitors through the conversion funnel
  • Recognise landing pages that are poor performers – especially those with large volumes of visitors but which have a high bounce rate and poor dwell time
  • Track user journeys: this will highlight user behaviour and provide you with ample opportunities to improve your channel selection and website architecture.


Cat Leaver is marketing manager at Alienation Digital, which recently won Best Digital Agency 2013 at the ScotlandIs Digital Technology Awards. AD has offices in London and Glasgow, and a presence in Vancouver. 

Got a question for Cat? Email her direct or contact the IAM team and we’ll pass it on.