Having attended the NMA Live event last Friday entitled ‘Demystifying Engagement’ it struck me that not one person in the room could answer the question ‘What Is Engagement?’ without answering like a politician (this isn’t intended to offend it merely proves the difficulty involved in answering the question…).
Well all definitions start in the dictionary so we’ll start with a quote (courtesy of Wikipedia):
“Engagement measures the extent to which a consumer has a meaningful brand experience when exposed to commercial advertising, sponsorship”
The esteemed educational establishment of Princeton, USA defines it as:
“the act of sharing in the activities of a group”
But engagement can also be an offensive term when used in the context of war and fighting!:
“a hostile meeting of opposing military forces in the course of a war”
So when we’re talking about how engaged someone is in a brand, what on earth do we classify as ‘engaged’. Some people may offer that engagement can easily be measured in terms of clicks or dwell time for a piece of content. They would argue that if people are choosing to click on the ad or the play button on a video and then watch a large percentage of it (dwell time), then they have been engaged.
Maybe, maybe not. What I would say is that there are far too many factors (and factors within those factors) that affect engagement that it is nigh on impossible to measure, control or predict.
Factors Affecting Engagement
Engagement is impossible to measure on anything more than a personal level. What engages Mr White may not engage Mr Black. Mr Black and Mr Grey may both find a video about someone slipping on a banana skin funny, but this may have actually happened to Mr Grey so he finds it a bit less funny. So personal experience affects Mr Grey’s level of engagement. Mr Green might have heard from Mr Grey about how funny this video clip is and so clicks on it on Youtube and watches the whole thing. He doesn’t get it and is not engaged at all but when Mr Grey asks him about it he agrees how funny it was. So he acted like he was engaged…but he wasn’t. Still with me?!
Propensity to return (loyalty)
I’d go out on a limb and say that ALL brands like their customers to stay loyal. Loyalty is the product of engagement and engagement can increase loyalty. Chicken or egg anyone?
Propensity to share with others
This factor depends on three things; How shareable your content is, how easy you make it for users to share and whether individual users are ‘sharers’ (see Forrester’s Technographic Ladder for certain users that are more likely to share)
If you meant to make them laugh, did they? How much? Was it just a wry smile, a chortle or a hearty bellow.
Heart On Their Sleeves Index (HOTSI)
How much do they wear their heart on their sleeve? People who are easily excited, angered, amused are surely more likely to be engaged in a short piece of glanceable content? People who are guarded or who control their emotions may not be affected too much by your 20 second banner game and so although they click on your banner to play the game/watch the video etc they do so out of interest not excitement.
Previous exposure to a brand or having an affinity to something related to a brand will affect current levels of engagement. For example, Mrs Poodle who loves dogs is far more likely to be engaged in content or a story for the RSPCA than Jimmy the Postman who nearly gets his hand bitten off every morning by the dog at number 26!
So, in conclusion there is no conclusion. To qualify someone’s engagement by using metrics is like trying to define what makes a piece of music good or a painting a work of art. It is so subjective and personal that measurement can only really be done on a one to one basis through detailed questionnaires with open and closed question, Likert scales, interviews and other forms of qualitative data capture that you just can’t do on a large scale, only on a representative one.