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Countable Series: Engaging Authentic Communities at Scale

This is the second episode in the Countable Podcast Series. Here, Countable Founder and CEO Bart Myers talks with Countable VP of Product Emily Bell. The main theme is engaging authentic communities at scale. For Countable, one challenge is offering a B2B product that must satisfy clients as well as end users. Another complicating factor is decreasing trust in institutions generally, especially in the US. And because Countable works with clients globally, they need to consider various contexts and cultures. Identities are multidimensional, unique on an individual level. Considering these factors, what are best practices for scaling authentic connections? 

On engaging audiences in an era of low trust

In the post-covid era, confidence in institutions appears to be at an all-time low. In this climate, how can brands engage audiences? For Countable, that involved looking at what consumers were most interested in, and helping brands tap into that.

Emily says, “There's a trend of people not trusting the government, and wanting to look to CEOs of companies to make those decisions. Or thinking that they can have the power to make decisions more quickly than the government might be able to. And so more and more CEOs of companies are making stances on social issues. So with that, we saw the rise of cause marketing and then purpose marketing. We saw each company wanting to do more, do good. Not just make money, but also do good in the world. And that is a trend on the consumer side, too. Consumers are much more likely to want to engage with a brand if they're doing good for the world. 

“All of that kind of led to the evolution of our product. We were initially engaging with consumers around causes that they cared about. But then we shifted to engaging with brands, so that they can own that purpose that they want to create in the world, and be able to engage their audiences with it. So we took our expertise in engaging audiences and were able to bring that to brands, at a time when brands really needed it.”

On meeting the needs of two types of customers

One challenge of many B2B companies is meeting the needs of two types of customers. In the case of Countable, one is the customer using the platform to achieve a purpose. Namely, they want to bring together their customers, their partners, or their employees around particular outcomes. But there is also the end user, and the ultimate success of the client user is very much tied to the satisfaction of the end customer. How does a B2B company balance the needs of these two customers?

According to Emily, “They each have their own distinct set of challenges. With the client, those challenges can be things like how to create engaging content. We have a services team that can help our clients with that. Because some of our clients just aren't as savvy when it comes to a content marketing strategy, or just content strategy in general. 

“On the end user side, they're coming to a brand new platform and thinking, Why should I join this site? What benefit am I going to get? That's an important perspective. Because ultimately, if that audience member is not joining the site, then the client is not getting the benefit of using the platform. And there's a lot of things out there vying for audience members’ attention. We have all these social media platforms. Why should they join a new site?

“It's also important to remember that quality is better than quantity. It's okay to maybe not reach a million people right at once. Instead, who are those initial customer advocates, or audience advocates, that are going to take those first actions? How can you engage them to move them up the ladder of engagement, as we call it, and start to invite their communities and get more people rallied around your brand's cause?”

On building authentic communities at scale

Countable helps its clients create authentic communities. Bart says this is about “moving beyond total strangers into actions that have real value, that are more than just clicktivism. Creating that sense of connection, of shared ownership within a community and platform.” Considering the reality of clients dispersed around the world, in many different contexts and cultures, what are best practices for building these authentic communities at scale? 

Emily says, “It's all about relevance. How does this relate to my identity as a person? Our identities, as we know, are vast. We can have lots of different identities, both online or in person. Whether that's where I live, my interests, my passions, things that have happened to me that affect my views on the world. Any type of identity, and diversity comes into play. 

“And so when you come to a site or a platform like ours as an end user, the ideal goal is to be able to find where you fit in. There's so much vying for our attention online right now. If I know, Oh, this relates to my interest in this cause, or this is relevant to me, that's where I can make that connection. There's value in me engaging in this. 

“That can be a challenge, depending on who the client is, who their audience is, and how they want to engage them. I wish that localized, super relevant knowledge was easy to scale. It's just not. And so you have to figure out, Who are the people that you want to engage? What are their main identities that you want to connect with? And kind of think about it in that way. Which is a really fun way to try to cut through the noise of the Internet right now.”