Using Digital Signage to Increase Audience Engagement

Audience engagement is crucial to every organization today – not just connecting with the general public or customers, but the people who work there as well. Employees who are engaged are less likely to look for another job, more likely to be more innovative, work harder and longer hours, and feel satisfied and happy. It used to be that you just threw money or a corner office at people to keep them happy, but these no longer suffice. In fact, most workers today say they’d rather have recognition, feel like what they do matters, and have more flexibility at work than receive a 10% salary raise.

A lot of this change to organizational culture is due to the expectations of millennials – now the largest segment of the workforce and primed to be over 75% of all employees in all sectors by 2025. And let’s not forget that Generation Z, their children, are right behind them. And employee engagement is important to more seasoned workers as well – who doesn’t want to be able to say that they like, even love, their job?

One of the things that’s changed is the acknowledgement that quality of work is directly tied to quality of life. When people are spending over half their waking hours either at work or commuting, work is an integral part of life – not a separate thing – and how people spend those hours matter. If they aren’t engaged, they aren’t motivated or happy.

The same goes for non-employees. Whether you’re trying to reach students, staff or visitors at your organization, they now expect a more consumer-like experience in their interactions with your brand and your facility. So, they also need to be engaged with dynamic, modern communications.

That sure sounds good, but how does an organization go about engaging their audiences? One of the most comprehensive tools available for delivering engaging communications is digital signage. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to keep your audience engaged with digital signs, along with links for more information on each topic:

Know Your Audience

You can’t tailor your messages to your audience if you don’t know who they are. So find out. First, you need to identify your target audience(s) and collect some basic demographic information – age, race, gender, marital status, education level, occupation and interests are some of the most common. This will inform every message and design you create – you have to speak to a person’s environment and interests in order to engage them.

A great way to learn someone’s interests is to simply ask. Conducting periodic surveys is a good idea – don’t just do it once because people’s interests change over time. These should be short – no more than five questions. Promote these on your digital signs with a short URL to the online survey, or have nearby tables with pens, printed questionnaires and a box to put them in. And make them anonymous, so no one feels undue pressure. Gamify the survey process to get more people to participate by offer a reward of some kind to the team that fills in the most, or the person who has the most interesting suggestion, or something similar.

Target Strategically

Now that you know more about your audience, you’ll certainly see that not every communication will engage every viewer. Be strategic by crafting messages for each group that appeals to them. Then, publish those messages only where and when they make sense.

Don’t send every message to every screen all day long. Instead, choose the best place to attract a certain audience, and schedule messages for peak time periods for them. (For example, don’t show factory safety reminders to your office workers, and don’t publish important announcements when everyone is at lunch.)

You can shift your messages by using day-part scheduling, and changing your layouts on screens frequently – just moving a message from the left to the right of a screen makes it look new. And don’t overload your audience. You’re better off showing a playlist of just 10 messages over and over than trying to show 100 messages to a busy audience.

Be Beautiful

If your digital signage content doesn’t look good, no one will look at it. And if no one looks at it, how can it engage them? Learn and use design best practices specific to digital media – things like color, contrast, sizing and juxtaposition. If you’re not sure what these are, there are lots of resources and tips on the web. Any your design practices need to filter through every aspect of your digital signs – the entire screen design, individual messages, text and images, feeds like weather and news, even the environment where the screens are placed.

Images attract more than text, and motion captures even more attention. Short video clips and slick message transitions are sure to make people at least glance at the screens. Try to get the design and imagery to help support the content of the message, and not be a distraction.

Include Attractors

Get people used to relying on your digital signs for the everyday information they want by adding in attractors to your screen designs. These are things like the current day, date and time, current weather and forecasts, news headlines and tickers, stock fluctuations, real-time traffic info with projected commute times, and social media updates.

As people glance at your screens for this information, they’re also being exposed to your other communications. Your digital signs quickly become something they rely on, so they’re more engaged with your communications on a regular basis.

Tell a Story

Having at least one long-term campaign in play on your digital signage system is a great way to keep interest peaked. Having a story that unfolds episodically, over several messages (and maybe even days or weeks) will have people paying attention for the next installment. This can even create buzz and conversation away from the screens, as people compare their theories and impressions.

Even individual messages can be grouped into “stories” by type using common design elements – similar background colors and fonts, similar images (like a mascot), similar layouts. An example would be using green for messages about sustainability efforts, blue for sales updates, and red for important deadlines. This creates consistency that helps people immediately identify the overall topic, so they can tune in and engage with what interests them most.

Be Transparent

Let people know what’s going on with your organization. Millennials very much want and even expect at least a certain level of transparency. Organizations that play things too close to the chest are seen as untrustworthy.

Employees will want to have visibility into your mission and values, financials, progress toward goals, future projects and plans, etc. Basically, anything you’d put on your intranet can go on digital signs.

And even if all of these aren’t appropriate for public consumption, you can still share your values and plans with visitors to let them know what you stand for and where you’re headed in the future.

Having visibility into your organization will make viewers feel like they are part of it, which creates a sense of inclusion, investment and engagement.

Communicate Consistently

Make sure that everyone is on the same page and has the correct information at all times. A lot of morale problems come from gossip and crosstalk – nip all that in the bud by reinforcing accurate information across multiple channels.

Use your digital signs, social media, intranets and other collaboration tools to make sure your audiences always have the most up-to-date news, deadlines and event schedules in front of them. If your intranet says one thing, and your digital signs say another, it will cause confusion and erode the trust that people have built around your communications.

Timeliness and accuracy are essential to engagement. If people can’t rely on what you tell them, they’ll stop paying attention. Because digital signs can be updated instantly, or even draw from data sources that are auto-updating, it’s an easy medium to keep current.

Motivate with Goals

Showing metrics and KPIs in dynamic, easy-to-read visuals can convey a lot of information very quickly. Let people see just where relevant projects and goals stand, and if they’re on track or behind schedule. If you’re making great progress it will lift morale. If not, it can motivate your audience to work toward the goal.

If your organization is pushing sustainability, show energy dashboards on screen to encourage recycling and power reductions. If you want more followers on Facebook, show progress to your goal on digital signs. The list of things you can show is almost endless, so make sure you choose things that are specifically relevant to your audience.

Gamification can also be used to not only convey progress, but encourage changes in behavior. If two teams are working on a project, create a little friendly rivalry by offering a reward to the team that competes the goal first. Reward the department that recycles the most. Offer a food truck day if you reach that Facebook goal. Whatever the goal – showing the goal, progress toward that goal, and the rewards of reaching it on your digital signs is sure to engage viewers.

Recognize Achievement

When a person or team does well, give them a shout out on your digital signs. This makes people feel good, and costs the organization virtually nothing. Recognition is especially important to millennials (and will certainly be even more important to Generation Z when they enter the workforce) – they’ve grown up with the internet and social media, and are used to getting “likes” and comments on things they post almost immediately in their normal lives.

Instead of waiting for the end-of-year review, start using your digital signs make recognition a commonplace part of the work environment. Recognize birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones inside and outside the workplace, give kudos for hitting a target, or just say thank you for a job well done – as long as the recognition is sincere, you can’t go wrong.

Whether you’re recognizing an individual, a team or a whole division, those people will feel singled-out and special when they see their names on your digital signs – which means they’re engaged.

Instigate Action

How do you know your digital signage is engaging audiences? You’ll need to incorporate a way to measure engagement for every message on your screens – a call to action. This can be something as simple as a coupon code for the café, a QR tag for a webpage, a URL for a survey, or an interactive quiz on a touchscreen.

If people take the action you ask them to, then you know for certain a) they saw the message, b) they read and understood it during the time it was displayed for, and c) found it interesting enough to take the action. Plus, you get built in ROI right there – simply count how many people took the action, and you can measure how effective your message is.

Consider Interactive

Communication, by design, is an interactive medium. Your communications should already invite your audience to engage with you and participate in your brand and your dialogue. Static digital signs can do a lot to support those efforts, and that’s doubly true for interactive digital signs.

With touchscreens, you can present huge amounts of information in progressively deeper layers, and interactivity lets your audience choose their own path to what their looking for, which provides a more customized experience. You can also have the means for people to take your call-to-action right there on the screen (touch a button, fill out a form), so you get instant feedback on engagement.

Continuous Improvement

With well-crafted and engaging digital signage, you can create an atmosphere of constant communication and engagement throughout your facility, your organization and your community. But constant engagement requires constant adjustment. Your audiences and their interests will change over time, new people may drive your communications strategies, and technology will continue to evolve.

You should be constantly measuring your successes, examining the failures, and adjusting your digital signage offering. Looking at ROI and responses to calls-to-action can help you determine which messages are engaging and which ones aren’t. Conducting some A/B testing can help shed light on which formats get better response, and you can then adjust all your messages for maximum impact and audience engagement.

All this might seem like a lot to keep in mind, but the team that runs your digital signage system will quickly find most of this becomes second nature. Just remember that communication is a two-way street – don’t “push” your messages, but “pull” from your audience. If you know your audience and their interests, and always keep them in mind when crafting your communications, you’ll keep them engaged.

Here’s a handy infographics with 12 easy steps for audience engagement with digital signs:

Download our infographic for digital signage tips

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