From the title of this piece you may think I’m going to discuss romantic relationships and food – not the case. But then again, those ideas are more closely aligned to your website’s success than you might think. For your site to be successful, you must engage with your readers. You want readers to engage, and ultimately fall in love with what you have to offer. The more they love you, the more likely they are to consume you, er, your content that is. But the crux here, what truly measures your success, is the kiss-and-tell factor: how much your betrothed gushes about your greatness and serves up your content on a platter to others.
What is Engagement?
What does it mean to “engage” with your visitors? A recent post on Digiday surveyed agency and brand executives, asking them for their definition of engagement. The most broad definition was offered by Linda Boff, Global Executive Director of Digital, Advertising and Design for General Electric. “Engagement is the discovery and exchange of shared values and interests.” At its base level, this is true. You are engaged with someone or something when you realize there is something shared, whether it be something as complicated as political views or as simple as whether the toilet paper should roll from the top or bottom.
What struck me about the definitions given in the Digiday piece was the refrain by almost every respondent that not only does there have to be commonality in interest and values, there must also be action in the form of sharing on the consumer’s part. Jay Henderson, Director of Strategy at IBM summed it up best. I think of engagement as representing two-way communication between a brand and consumers. Encourage customers to share their purchases, their experiences, and their likes — making a good customer not just those who transact, but also those who share.”
Sharing used to mean talking over the fence or at a block party – i.e. traditional word-of-mouth marketing. These days, social media machines make sharing easier and faster, and allow you to measure word-of-mouth sharing more specifically in terms of likes, actual forwards or shares on related sites, and content mining.
There’s no one set way of measuring engagement though; what you measure and what it means depends on the program. Scott Gulbransen, Director of Social Business Strategy at H&R Block summarized, “For our marketing campaigns, engagement may mean likes, or shares or comments. But then for our educational series, views may be the engagement. The metrics continue to solidify over time, and there is no one answer to all programs.”
The key to heightened engagement is recognizing how your content is consumed, then capitalizing on it.
In a separate but related post on Digiday, author John LoGioco points out that many sites leave a lot of engagement on the table by not looking more closely at how their content is being consumed. LoGioco offers the following tips for monitoring how what you serve up does or does not get devoured:
- Think about what time of day the content may be consumed, on what device it may be consumed, and what the best format for the content is. Example: you’re more likely to read a short piece on a smartphone on an early morning commute.
- Use an analytics app to determine how traffic patterns differ by platform, day and time. Dig even deeper and determine what specific types of content perform best during specific days and times.
- Map content format to device types – i.e. responsive design based on the length, size and the “front door” or text link or image. Warning: Use this information to guide placement of content, not to determine your content strategy. That’s a whole different thing.
Of course, having great content is the fundamental building block of all this. If you have that, and you recognize the patterns that govern its consumption, engagement should naturally follow. Before you know it, you’ll have admirers consuming your content in gluttonous fashion. Who wants seconds?
Do you find this information helpful? How do you measure engagement with your audience? Tell us your story in the comments section below.