I was hypothesizing about engagement recently, reminiscing on one of my previous titles as Engagement Architect, and came up with a simple way of looking at how to define the term (at least I think I did).
The fact is there is no standard for how you define engagement because engagement depends on the objectives of the marketer, but I do think there are three unifying themes behind the ways you define engagement and they are Recency, Resonance and Relevance.
Recency refers to how recently your audience was exposed to a message and whether it was still top of mind when it came time to make a purchase decision. If your messaging was noticed recently, then you have a higher propensity for engagement, assuming that it resonated with the consumer. This can be measured through frequency metrics.
Resonance is that second theme; understanding whether your messaging was thought out well and whether it resonated with the target audience. If you resonated with them, they will likely interact either immediately or in a delayed fashion. When they interact immediately, that translates to clicks, visits and time spent. All of these are very common ways that marketers measure engagement but they’re all tied together.
That brings us to the final R; Relevance. If your message was shown recently, if it resonated with the consumer and if it is relevant, then you will likely affect behavior and drive sales or acquisitions. You can generate customers because of these three factors and you can measure each of them by evaluating different metrics as proxies for understanding.
Recency is a media metric based on delivery. In television you view delivery reports to determine when and where your spot ran. In online you evaluate performance reports to determine how your campaign delivered and against what target audience. Recency can also be measured specifically by understanding click through and view through. If you examine these metrics, they will lead you to an understanding of how recently the audience was exposed to your message.
Resonance is easier, as mentioned before. You can measure whether the message resonated by evaluating click through, visit rate, time spent and other interaction rates in rich media. If it resonates, they react. If they do not react, then you can only rely on exposure and possibly awareness as a metric, without measuring consideration and/or intent.
Relevance can be measured through proxy by looking at standard measures of intent and consideration via surveys or focus groups. If you see an appreciable lift in any of these metrics, then you can hypothesize that the message was indeed relevant because it influenced behavior. The difficult part, and what makes it hard for marketers to come up with their own standard measure of engagement, is that it is not easy to merge all of these data-points together with actual sales data to create a true, holistic picture of what’s going on with your marketing! There are many companies that will crunch this data for you and evaluate historical data to create media mix models for usage in forecasting but it is very difficult to create a dashboard that does all of this for the present campaigns. When you evaluate a weekly or bi-weekly report, you would love to have access to this wealth of information and have it output an engagement index, but it’s not easy!
Of course, our business is filled with very smart people so I predict that someone is going to crack this nut. It might take a couple of years, but it’s going to happen and then Pandora’s box will be opened once again as we uncover the truth about what does and doesn’t work and all the guesswork will be removed from advertising.
I can’t wait to see what happens, can you?