What 9 years of jigs and reels taught me about online behaviour

The appearance of the Riverdance banners around Dublin’s quays is an annual event for a number of years and always signals the start of summer for me.

Having spent the best part of a decade working for the dance show in the ‘noughties’ I hold it in great affection. Not just for the music, dance and friends for life, but also for the fact it was the start of my digital career.

It’s where I learnt some fundamental truths about online audiences, which hold true a decade later.

Quality connects – so deliver it in spades

People crave wonderful, immersive experiences. Experiences so good they want to repeat it, again, and again. That’s what Riverdance has delivered for years. As digital content creators it’s up to us to figure out what will transport our audiences, amuse them, inform them, get the tears flowing or heartbeat going.

In an era where content has become relatively cheap to produce, it’s important to remember that quality, creativity, and freshness will help you stand out from the crowd. That means extracting the best ideas to give your content the edge over competitors and keeping the energy high.

Tap into your audience’s Zeitgeist

This means not putting pen to paper without a strategy based on research into your audience’s needs. If we want to tap into the Zeitgeist like Riverdance did in the mid 1990s then we need to understand what people are thinking and feeling, and what they desire. We have many ways of doing research and trying to understand what will make your audience tick using online and offline tools. Ultimately, for most of us the way we learn is through testing, learning, and testing again.

Find, then embrace your fans

Riverdance’s early social community was pre-social media and based around busy message boards both on and off the show’s website. If we hadn’t set up communities, someone else would have.

There’s the next insight – even before the arrival of today’s social media behemoths you still needed to go where the fans were, and it wasn’t always in space you could control. So be flexible in your approach as to where you place your content. As Gary Vaynerchuk says

“If you’re not putting out relevant content in relevant places, you don’t exist.”

Building fan bases can be hard work but swag helps

Of course, Riverdance delivered fans in spades, which made our lives easier, but what if you are trying to develop a community from scratch? It can be hard work, but people still love the same things now as they did then: behind the scenes glimpses, exclusives, real and personable content, with a healthy dose of swag. What’s easier now is testing and measurement – we have fantastic tools to help us understand the types of content, and swag, which resonate.

In turn, if you are lucky, fans reward you with creative content, enthusiasm, and good will.

Influencers have always mattered

Influencers were key in developing goodwill and word of mouth, which was fun and rewarding. Hooking up with Riverdance super fans from around the world generated positive feedback, and reams of additional content to be shared online. What’s great about good influencers is they will always have their take on the subject in hand and so you get more granular with your content and messaging. One might love the techie stuff, while another is training themselves to dance at home. These people create new stories and content so help them in any way you can.

Don’t do it for technology’s sake

Technology is a very exciting place to work, and everyone likes to test limits and stretch possibilities. However, don’t get too hung up on certain ideas or formats unless you are certain your audience want it. For example, we had a brief foray into some simple online games way back in the early days. The result was cute but in the end their value was questionable. What was the KPI, what did fans or the business gain from it? In hindsight I would have put all that budget into getting more video onto the website. But getting video online was nowhere near as simple as it is today.

In summary I think the moral of my story is that while we live in an increasingly fast paced world, that many truths remain the same. People haven’t fundamentally changed in their need to communicate and consume content around the things they love. Technology has just made it easier and more fun to do so. It’s up to us to keep pace with those trends and remember these core truths.

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Sinead Clandillon

Head of Content

The author

Sinead is Webfactory’s content strategist and she also manages the online visibility team, comprising search, analytics and social.

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