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Insight/ Strategic Planning

Demystifying Engagement

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by Hamilton Jones
Managing Director
TheFARM Digital

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We need deeper engagement with our consumers.” Ever heard that before? Engagement is such a misunderstood word. It is often used in an excessively broad manner as the KPI for all digital activity, but understanding what it means to your consumers within the context of your brand is typically unclear. This leads to vague outcomes and metrics that don’t tell you if you’re actually heading in the right direction.

Engagement as a concept in digital isn’t new. Previous incarnations include: interaction rates, talkability, dwell time, open rates, and participation in UGC initiatives. It can still be any of these, but engagement is now more commonly gauged by a combination of various metrics, actions and desired outcomes. It’s not surprising that this causes confusion.

Digital effectiveness is now measured less in terms of click-throughs and paid media impressions, as brands seek to lay the foundation for a dialogue and connection with consumers that ultimately translates to earned reach and sales. There is, of course, always a case for direct response and acquisition initiatives if you can join the dots directly to sales.  As for “engagement,” the biggest challenge is getting the subjectivity out of the word to turn it into meaningful metrics that can help drive your brand forward.

Social platforms have helped clients better understand the role of engagement. The data and metrics that flow from strong social initiatives show the multiplier effect that consumer conversations can have, extending a brand’s reach beyond what can be achieved via paid media alone.

Even with this greater understanding, however, many clients and agencies still rely on generic, product-focused insights when it comes to kicking off new initiatives. All too often, it still seems they think people will connect with the message or brand for the mere sake of it.

The best way to determine if an idea will engage people starts with asking the right questions. Your unique, driving insight needs to highlight why the consumer will connect with the brand, and why they would want to share that connection. You will be able to generate stronger value for all involved by better understanding what is valued by different cross-sections of your consumer base, how your idea fits into their use of digital, and where it intersects with the brand.

Putting this into a brief helps fuel ideas that have engagement at their core. It lays down the foundation for clear metrics that will draw on the right data, while letting you know if you’re achieving your goals and how to optimize the campaign throughout its lifecycle.

At a recent Facebook Showcase in Sydney, Namita Moolani (Facebook) challenged a room full of clients and agencies to include an engagement insight “Why do I care?” and a social insight “Why would I share?” in every brief.  We agree. It’s a simple thing, but challenging your team to really dig deep for the engagement insight will give you a greater platform to drive brand engagement and generate earned media—and the metrics to know it’s working. Try it.

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