Consumer brand interactions have come a long way in the past couple years. The social web has turned into a consumer's playground to talk about or interact with brands. People search for the best deals, assess product reviews, share the positive or negative insights with their social spheres of influence, and find locations -- whether online or brick and mortar -- to purchase a product. And, for better or worse, technology has provided ways to measure consumer engagement at each of these touch points. Sure, there are mountains of data to sift through, but you can't ignore it. Interpreting it correctly to understand how consumers are interacting with your brand is the Holy Grail for marketers.
Certain brands or sites probably think they have it easy. They can optimize their sites for certain, tangible goals (i.e., leads, sales, and money). Brand sites that have a direct tie to purchase or lead generation through their online channel do have an easier time linking online activity to goals and objectives. But every brand can benefit from understanding online engagement, in addition to -- or in lieu of-- traditional conversions like sales and leads.
What is engagement?
In short, engagement is how a consumer is interacting with your brand. This can be on social assets, partner websites, or on your own site. While most brands are already using and optimizing social interactions on Twitter and Facebook, there's a lot to be learned and measured regarding user engagement on your brand's website. According to industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang, "Engagement indicates the level of authentic involvement, intensity, contribution and ownership." This can be summarized as "apparent interest," or how people are discovering your brand online.
How do I measure engagement?
While easy to define, engagement is much more difficult to measure, since it's related to many metrics, without being directly tied to one. Engagement isn't just average time spent on site, non-bounced traffic, or pages viewed per visit. These metrics each give us a better understanding of how a user is engaging with our website -- yet none of them hold the key. In order to use data to measure engagement, you have to get creative with what you're measuring.
In the past, engagement has been a tough metric to crack. Recent enhancements in measurement tools in addition to the content itself have provided marketers with the ability to get a deeper understanding of how users are engaging online. From integrated social sharing buttons, in-page print and email links, product downloads and rich media content, websites now offer such rich experiences that understanding engagement is becoming an easier task for marketers.