Engagement - I think it's time we broke up...

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 12 Aug, 2015
View comments Marketing
The word engagement is used so many times in a typical day, it’s beginning to lose all meaning. We talk about engagement in social media, engagement of a blog, engagement with our digital strategy and engagement with our audience.

We’re asked to decide if the engagement with our adverts is worth the spend and if our website is engaging enough without anything been spent on it. We question if we’re engaging the right people. And wonder how our engagement measures up with the brand next door. My fear is that we’ve gotten away from what engagement actually means and that we’re now using it in lieu of other metrics because that’s what’s expected of us, or because it’s easier not to rock the boat. It’s become a blanket term and the real meaning has fizzled out somewhere along the way.

So let me be the first to say, engagement I think it’s time we broke up.

It's not you it's me

Digital analyst, Brian Solis defines engagement as the touches that happen at moments of truth. This can be an interaction, an experience or even a smell. For me, an engagement should be much more concrete and more informed than the blanket way it is currently used. Having worked across digital in client facing roles, running campaigns large and small, I’ve come to the conclusion that when we talk about engagement, we should really be talking about an experience.

Engagement is such a general term, I don’t think it really tells me anything when I’m analysing how a campaign is working. It doesn’t tell me how my audience is reacting to my content, if their behaviour is desirable, what the audience impression of my brand is, and more importantly what value I’m obtaining from that effort. It doesn’t tell me anything about the user experience and if there are things I could be doing even better.

We've grown apart

If we go right back to the start, when all was rosey in the engagement sense, we were more focused on the customer journey and their experiences and interactions with the brand. In its infancy, we questioned what that social media like actually meant – how did it translate to business acquisition? If we had a high bounce rate on our website did that mean we were attracting too much of the wrong kind of traffic? Did we need to refine our keyword strategy or should we tweak the landing page? Today I think we’re more caught up in the competition of it and engagement has become a caricature of its former self. It’s about vanity – we can say our Facebook post had great engagement because it had 2000 likes. But what does that really tell me in business and digital terms?

The cold hard truth is that loosely using the term engagement doesn’t tell me anything. And that’s why in future, I’ll be asking more specific questions instead.

If I’m told that my Facebook posts have strong engagement, I’ll be asking about the experience. I’ll want to know if the sentiment is positive or negative. Did users just like or did they leave a comment? What stage of the user journey or purchase lifecycle did that comment or like come in at? Did we help move them through the funnel to the next stage?

I want to know if a like on a Vine link I posted last week translated into a website click or a phone call this week. It might have had 300 shares but are those people likely customers? Are they the segment I even want to be liking my posts? What value have I received from that interaction?

I’m interested to learn if a retweet actually got my brand in front of more of the right kind of people. Or did I just get a tonne of favourites from those who don’t know or have no use for my product or service?  Were they just jumping on a trending hash tag bandwagon?

I want figures and numbers and I want the experience blanks filling in. If I’ve paid for 10 display ads on 10 different websites, and had 20,000 impressions and a 10% CTR, what was the final outcome of that behaviour? Did the person clicking order a brochure or complete a form?

That leads me to my final point - how do all of these separate interactions link together? How can I use these actions and touch points to perfect my user journey and create a seamless user experience? That’s what I want from my definition of engagement.

If you’re considering breaking up with engagement too, it’s worth asking those same questions. Let us know how you get on.

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