Audience Engagement


Emerging technologies and media platforms have transformed audiences’ reaction to and participation with media properties and their marketing. Technology has enabled audiences to interact organically with the storyline, characters, and promotion of entertainment projects. But with all this media noise, audiences are harder to reach than ever.

In this saturated media environment, Transmedia Marketing – the book and the practice – reaches the limbic brain, encouraging audiences to authentically engage with content and promotion on multiple media platforms. Because it creates a deep emotional connection between your audience and your property, audience engagement is the Holy Grail of marketing.


Two big changes in media and entertainment are the pass around potential of online and social, and the ability to communicate directly to the audience.

-- Rachel McCallister, Chair, MPRM

Audience Rules


Honoring your audiences—listening to what they say, following them where they go, determining what they want, and inviting them to play in the sandbox—is critical. The most arresting title sequence, sizzling teaser, or cleanest logo are all lost if they’re not targeting the right people, with the right content, at the right time.

Today, audiences truly rule. We used to live in a Michelin world where expert voices – from the top down – told us what’s best. Now, we live in a Zagat world in which audiences – from the bottom up – equally influence us. Technology has democratized the consumer landscape, placing audiences on an equal playing field with producers and industry experts. Empowered audiences rely heavily on Word of Mouth recommendations to engage with properties that reinforce affinity and community.

With their own digital creation and distribution platforms and social media voices, audiences are powerful, not only as producers, distributors, and marketers of their own content, but also as critics, funders, and ambassadors of your content.

Behavior tracking technology also reveals audiences’ true proclivities, dispelling the myth of audiences fitting into simplistic demographic boxes, like the prototypical American family of yesteryear—upwardly mobile, young, white, and suburban. Audiences don’t cleave by demographics of age, education, income, education, race, or education levels. They hew by psychographics of interest, ideology, and predisposition.

Today, audiences find affinity around their psychographic traits of pastimes, beliefs, and predilections—in digital tribes.  Social media is the public square for voicing opinion, sharing passion, and finding community. And transmedia content is the social currency of this era.  

Stefano Tinti /




As a media maker and media marketer, your content and its curation have inherent value. If you approach your media project and its marketing plan as a holistic branded storytelling device that serves passionate, defined audiences, then you’ll be harnessing a major asset.


A Content Creation Strategy

As a media maker and media marketer, your content and its curation have inherent value. If you approach your media project and its marketing plan as a holistic branded storytelling device that serves passionate, defined audiences, then you’ll be harnessing a major asset.

To shape your transmedia marketing narrative, all three kinds of media content about your project — “owned,” “paid,” and “earned” — must work together:

  • Owned Media — the content you create for your project (film, TV show, Webisode, game, plus its Web site, blog, social media platforms, video, and infographics, etc.)
  • Paid Media — the promotional messages about your project that are planned and paid for (advertising, trailers, etc.)
  • Earned Media the coverage of your project from publicity (articles, reviews) and social media (shares, “Likes,” favorites, and comments) that you earn from experts and audiences

With enough value-driven exchanges with your integrated transmedia content, audiences may join your project’s community and story as co-creators, characters, and marketers.

Transmedia success is measured by the level of engagement and by the intensity of the dialog around it.

-- Jeff Gomez, CEO Starlight Runner Entertainment

Engaging and Rewarding Audiences

The best way to serve your unique audiences is to engage them in meaningful experiences through transmedia storytelling that communicates beliefs and allows them to adopt the messages as their own. True engagement is a value exchange between your media project and its audiences based on the perceived value of your project’s content and the social experience it offers.

To engage and earn fan loyalty you must reward your audiences. The dopamine-transmitting Mesolimbic Pathway of the emotional brain is activated by the desire for pleasure and motivation for reward. Audiences’ reward motivations are getting access to new knowledge and experiences, building affiliations, and ratcheting up their status among their tribes. Rewards can range from unlocking hard-earned exclusive content to delivering satisfaction for helping a good cause.

Games offer highly immersive and rewarding content experiences because developers have a deep understanding of how to amplify audience engagement. Leveling up is when a gamer succeeds at a goal or task and is rewarded with new game assets or a brand new world to conquer. This reward propels them deeper into that game experience.

Your job as an engagement creator and marketer is to “level up” your audience’s interest in and participation with your media project. But, if you want audiences to retweet a message or share a teaser video, it must be worthwhile. So know your audiences well, because what’s worthwhile for one person is a total waste for someone else.

The thing that you do, the action that someone wants you to take, has to have reciprocal value for you to do it. And the idea of value is fluid.

—Joseph Epstein, digital content and marketing strategist; formerly 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Courtesy of Azure Media; Design: Elles Gianocostas

Transmedia Marketing’s author, Anne Zeiser has developed a proprietary and proven construct of audience engagement and reward based on the Theory of Change. The Awareness-to-Action Ripples model of media-fueled change demonstrates how audience participation in a media property creates a “Ripple Effect,” where small motivations and acts contribute to deep engagement and action. The transmedia narrative triggers outwardly-expanding ripples representing stages of change—from awareness to action—each with a deeper level of audience engagement around the media project.

Audiences’ exposure to a captivating transmedia narrative sets in motion the engagement ripple process, first raising audiences’ awareness and then amplifying their understanding of that property. Frequent interactions with strategically-designed narrative messages on multiple platforms affect audiences’ attitudes, predispositions, belief systems, and behaviors. This ongoing content offers emotional rewards, propelling audiences outward to the next ripple of deeper engagement and, ultimately, action around the project.

Your project should offer various calls-to-action on a sliding scale of engagement—from clicking on a teaser link to solving a complex mystery around your project’s story world. This allows everyone a place in the transmedia experience no matter their level of engagement or willingness to participate. All of these actions feed a few carefully-designed, measurable objectives.

Start with small “asks” like joining a group or “Liking” your project on a social network. Then bump up your calls-to-action and rewards for deeper engagement to gain a bigger, loyal following. Transmedia Marketing demonstrates how to implement techniques to shape your content and its context so it engages audiences:

  • Grant exclusive content so that superfans are part of an inner circle
  • Raise the stakes and rewards for engaging with your project in steps
  • Provide a forum for audience expression and co-creation
  • Publicly recognize audience loyalty
  • Connect your project to a worthy cause

Over time, your audiences will become your best ambassadors, spreading your message and sharing your content.