Bustle Digital Group's Trend Group team are experts in engaging Millennial and Gen Z women. The BDG Hive is an extension of their brand, so ensuring an exceptional experience through all interactions is paramount. Whether that be considering how to communicate, ask questions, share back, or give personal recognition, they walk a mile in their customers' shoes to decide the best approach. Being considerate and authentic in their approach means young women are motivated to join and stay engaged with the insight community over time. Jessica Tarlov and Dani Thibodeau from BDG’s Trends Group share their best practices and lessons learned from managing their BDG Hive insight community.
Engage people where they are
For BDG, this was initially on Facebook (now it’s Instagram). In a matter of weeks they had reached 3000 women who consented to give feedback on an ongoing basis in exchange for being recognized and respected as a trusted advisor to BDG. Keeping the profiling questionnaire short, focused, and fun helps to entice more people to join.
Close the feedback loop
Letting people know how their feedback influences decisions and what you're doing with their input is critical for continued engagement. This process does not need to be complicated. BDG has done things as simple as sending a link to the article or content their members have influenced on the site. This gives people the assurance their voices are being heard and their feedback is reflected in the content read by millions of millennial women across the globe.
Ask people what they want
BDG learned from the Hive that people wanted to interact more with other readers. So they created an open forum in the Hive and post new questions weekly about a variety of topics from the latest big weather event to their dream vacation. BDG found this ongoing forum so useful for both engagement and insight that they created additional forums to focus on beauty, books, and movies. The team spends a couple of hours a week reading and replying to posts. If someone in editorial, pre-sales, or sales is looking for category specific information, the team can quickly provide an overview of conversations from the forums.
Meet up in person
Meeting BDG Hive members in person adds dimension to the insights and brings her “to life” even more. BDG invites Hive members regularly to free or reduced cost screenings in LA, parties with retail brands, women and whiskey events, rule breaker events, and more. Having Hive members at events are a win-win. Members love the perk, richly profiled members are invited to fill up the events, and additional insights are gathered for editorial and brand partners.
Members of the Trends Group are millennials, too, so they think about their own personal preferences, what would motivate them to share, and what activities would be fun. BDG gives recognition by seeing who has participated the most, or started new threads in a forum, then they reach out personally to thank them with a card, something cool, animated gifs, or a feature of them in the Member Hub or a newsletter.
People love getting freebies to test
BDG has started sending out product samples and books to people for direct feedback. People love receiving stuff and are happy to give feedback. After sending out 500 books, BDG asked people to write a review on Goodreads, and 30 people wrote one. The publisher was very happy with the result.
Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes
When you treat your members as friends, not research subjects, they will be more engaged, open, and candid in their responses. As an example, BDG met with a retailer with a focus on plus-size clothing. They wanted to know if media groups like Bustle had the type of audience that would be responsive to an upcoming campaign, but they couldn’t get a straight answer from the other companies they had connected with. So BDG launched an activity about body positivity. BDG started their brand on body positivity and inclusivity so it is very important for them to foster a safe sharing environment. They had already “walked a mile” in their customer’s shoes so they were well equipped to ask questions that would reveal the insights they needed while remaining respectful, inclusive, and non-judgemental. The activity included questions like: “What kind of adjectives would you use to describe your body?”, “What size range do you fall in?”, “What clothes do you feel comfortable in?” It was a positive experience for everyone because the audience felt like their feedback really mattered, advertisers uncovered insights that could inform their campaign, and BDG demonstrated their ability to not only build an audience within specific parameters, but also engage them in a meaningful way.
“Having worked in research upwards of a decade, I can attest to how rare the level of engagement we see from our readers is. We have made it our business to reach out to them in the voice and tone of their peer group – and it helps that we are actually part of that group! – and they have rewarded us with brutally honest insights. These insights and the relationship we have with our readers through the BDG Hive has fueled successful campaigns across all verticals and grown our business in ways we hadn’t imagined just a couple of years ago.”
— Jessica Tarlov, Sr. Director, Research + Insights
When you engage with people in an authentic and transparent way, you earn the right to continue to ask for ongoing feedback. Interested in hearing about how BDG leverages consent-based insight for differentiated advertising sales and editorial development? Read their story here.