It's a big word. It gets used A LOT in social media related conversations; maybe too much. But what does it mean, why should you care and how in the world do you measure it? Let's jump in shall we?
So What Is It?
I'm sure the dictionary would define it as the act of engaging, where engaging is an interaction or otherwise capturing attention or behavior.
In online marketing the definition isn't nearly as succinct or clear. (Whas that definition really either of those things?)
If I were to lay out my personal philosophy on engagement it would state that any purposeful, active (rather than passive) interaction a user has with your content, site, profile or other online element is an engagement.
So, is a view then an engagement? No. A page view is not active or purposeful. It's a passive state. That's not to say the click that brought them to that page is not an engagement. That click is in fact an engagement, but not with the page. It is an engagement with the object in which the link was placed. Make sense?
If we use the display ad terminology an impression is not engagement, however click-through would be.
Each channel will have its own glossary of 'engagement' opportunities and measurement tactics. Below, I've broken down three of the most commonly measured by marketers to give you an idea of how to approach engagement measurement. These metrics should help you identify the same types of behavior on other platforms.
Engagement on Facebook
Content Like: When a user 'Likes' a piece of your content whether it is a status update, a link, video etc that has shown up in their newsfeed or they've discovered on your wall.
Page Like: This is when a user has 'Liked' your brand or product page on Facebook. They can do this from your website as well if you have installed a Like button there.
Comment: Users can comment on individual posts/updates you push from your brand page, or on your page's wall if you have that feature enabled.
Share: Whenever someone (brand or individual) posts a piece of content a user has the option to share that with his/her audience.
Engagement on Twitter
Follow: While the act of a follow can arguably fall into categories other than engagement, you can, depending on what your goals are, measure a follow as an engagement.
New-RT: Twitter has a feature called 'Retweet'. There are two ways to Retweet someone. The first is by using the RT button (or what many users refer to as the New-RT). Twitter will show you on an individual post how many times it has been RT'd using this function. Most analytics tools also calculate this for you.
Old-RT: When a user wishes to RT you, but does not use the new button they will often copy and paste the tweet and prepend it with RT @yourusername. Or, some Twitter clients come with a "quote tweet" feature. Many analytics suites pull this behavior in as a mention so it's important to know exactly what behavior is being measured and how it's being presented to ensure clarity.
Favorite: Different users will use the Favorite feature in different ways. Personally, I use it to bookmark tweets with content I'd like to remember or be able to reference at a later date. While others may use the Favorite feature more like a Facebook 'Like'. Regardless of how your users are interacting with this feature it's something worth measuring in regards to your engagement on Twitter. You can see an example here:
Mention: Any time another Twitter user inserts your Twitter handle in to a tweet. Such as:
@ Reply: This is different than a mention only in that, it is a reply to your content.
Embed: The last two tweets were placed using this feature. Unfortunately Twitter does not include this information in their API so this is not something that we can currently measure. However, if you are listening Twitter It would be really great if you could help us out on this one.
Engagement On Your Blog
Social Share: You may have plug-ins that manage this, or you may have something more home grown. However you're doing it (hopefully you're doing it) your users are sharing your posts on social channels. The act of sharing a blog post, just as on Facebook with the share feature, or a RT on Twitter, this is an engagement.
Comment: Perhaps a bloggers favorite reward is a lively comment thread on a post. This is the mark of a properly ignited conversation. Each comment can be seen as type of engagement on the post.
Vote: This is a somewhat rare feature that mostly more community centered blogs will have. Many readers here are likely familiar with the SEOmoz blog. They have the 'thumbs' feature. Others may use stars or other ratings systems, but the concept is all essentially the same.
Why Should You Care About Engagement?
Engaging with your audience on social channels can net impactful business insights, increased customer retention, and even help you to activate your most loyal influencers to amplify your marketing efforts. But you won't know what is working, or where to go without measuring engagement. You won't know what your customers are responding to without measuring engagement. You'll be building out your social strategies essentially blind without any engagement metrics.
How Do You Measure Engagement?
There are endless ways to slice the engagement data we've talked about. The key thing is to measure these items in a way that makes sense to your company based on your individual goals and objectives. For example, the engagement metrics you will want to pay attention to for measuring customer advocacy will be different than if you're focussed on increasing brand awareness. Match up the customer behavior to measure that aligns with the organizational and campaign goals you've set. Baseline your efforts and then target growth. Beyond this you can even do some competitive analysis and benchmark your efforts against others. Consider not only direct competitors, but also those in adjacent verticals that are performing well in social.
Luckily for marketers everywhere there are tons of tools that will help you measure many of these metrics easily. Facebook Insights provides you with much of this data. You can export the information and include in any other reports you're using, or keep is as a stand alone. Twitter itself does not offer up it's own analytics, but there are plenty of providers who can help. If you're already using a SEO tools suite like Raven or SEOmoz they offer some of that. Alternatively SimplyMeasured offers a whole host of pretty robust social media measurement reports that will help you get at the core of your engagement efforts and much more. For Google Analytics users, you also have some reports/tools available to you that I would recommend checking out.
So there you go. Go forth, engage and more importantly: measure. After all - what gets measured gets managed right? Would love to hear from the community ways in which you measure engagement and how it contributes to your overall measurement activities and what impact it has on your marketing across the board!
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Kristy Bolsinger is a Senior Associate at PwC in Seattle, WA. She has previously worked at Ant's Eye View (acquired by PwC in 2012), and RealNetworks (GameHouse). Prior to her time at RealNetworks, and Ant's Eye View - Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing her MBA at Willamette University. She maintains a social media blog and can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.