Q: Want To Create Loyal Readers?…Here Is Your Answer

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rubikscube.jpgRecent decisions by large metrics companies have made it clear that measuring the web is not about pageviews but about users. Engagement of new and veteran users has become the holy grail of the media world online or offline.

Executives at print, broadcast and interactive media companies have been looking for ways to increase the time their users engage with their newspapers, TV channels or websites, thus increasing their monetization potential.

One good example is Facebook’s decision to open its platform to third party applications. This decision has increased Facebook’s user engagement giving it an edge in the evolving but crowded social web.

The lesson to be learned from this is quite simple — If you want to gain an advantage, keep users coming back to read your content and create a hub of user participation. You must engage users each time they visit you and encourage them to participate. One of the ways to do that is to stimulate a free discussion using questions and answers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work for Yedda.com, a free Questions and Answers service. What I want to share with you today is the experience some of our media clients have had implementing our Question and Answer widget on their website in order to engage their respective communities to increase retention and participation and improve monetization. But beyond our solution, I think that the power of widgets and partnering with application makers is the wave of the future. Taking Yedda as an example, you can see how a simple widget integration can cause a dramatic effect.

When you come to think of it, the natural way for people to interact is using questions rather then keywords. When seeking information in the pre-Internet age, we used to seek trusted individuals and ask them. Utilizing Yedda’s patent pending technology, this is process is imitated over the web.

The ePals Global Community (www.ePals.com), the largest online community of K-12 learners which enables more than 120,000 classrooms across 191 countries recently implemented Yedda’s free Questions and Answers widget on the Ask ePals section of their website: www.epals.com/askepals/.

Using Yedda technology on various content pages, students are able to post questions while browsing ePals. For example, alongside an article dealing with vision impaired students a reader could post a question about teaching aides for visually impaired students. Besides the question widget, Yedda also supplies an always-fresh community generated FAQ of previous questions and answers on the same topic.

Such technology is a perfect implementation of wisdom of the crowds, allowing content sites to tap into knowledge that is not reachable by using search engines. In this way, the knowledge can be harnessed to benefit the community and supply more value to readers which is the best way to make them loyal.

While engagement metrics vary, and certain results are nearly impossible to attribute to one application or widget, some clients have reported traffic lifts of up to 30% after implementing Yedda’s Q&A widget on their website or blog. For others, important industry questions asked appear on the first page of Google and other search engines after they where asked through the Yedda platform.

Though many users don’t ask questions, from our research, we found that on average, for every question, we receive an average of 2-3 good answers but at least several hundreds more will view the question and answers. This statistic is similar to blogging, where the great majority of readers don’t post comments, yet the importance of blogging as an interactive and engaging medium is undisputed.

The reality with widgets is that this industry (if you can call it that) is too new to have a complete and reliable set of metrics (if you do have stats, I’d love to hear about them). What is clear is that widgets are a new and exciting way to aggregate and distribute content, and to engage with users as the Facebook example has taught us.

Recently, Google CEO, Eric Scmidt said that he sees the Internet evolve into a medium that lets different applications work together across many websites sharing data and allowing users to break out of the walled garden of closed sites. I think that using widgets is a one of the ways to achieve that. What do you think? Add your comments below.

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