Thursday, December 06, 2012

Engagement Marketing, Revisited

It's all about data and testing

As you saw in my last post, I have spent some time recently discussing engagement marketing. At Burns, we defined engagement marketing as brands engaging customers and prospects when, where, and how those customers and prospects want to engage. It is an aspect of marketing that has been enabled and shaped by the rise and evolution of social media.

There is now some evidence that we may be missing the mark a bit on what it means for marketers to truly engage, or how customers interpret engagement.

First, Steve Olenski at Social Media Today wrote about a recent report from Forbes Insights and Turn called “The New Rules of engagement: Measuring the Power of Social Currency." His main conclusion is that this new report shows that what marketers interpret as customer engagement, and the metrics they use to evaluate it, is significantly different from how customers themselves define engagement with brands. He has written about this issue before, and now states that this "disconnect is alive and well and may even be widening."

You can read his well-written post in detail, but the report data below will quickly illustrate his point.

If you examine the first line of data, only 15% of consumers said they feel engaged with a brand when they share an ad, but ad or other content forwarding is a relatively strong influence on marketers' engagement measurement. This is an example of the data driving Steve's conclusion that there's a big disconnect between consumers' and marketers' views of engagement.

If you read all of Steve's post and the original report, you might simplistically conclude that consumers really just want two things: deals or promotions and funny ads. I'm being a bit facetious here, but you could certainly conclude that, as a marketer, you need to completely rethink what engagement really means and how you should measure it.

Not So Fast, Here's a Deeper Look at the Data

Courtney Livingston writes a great response to Steve's post, questioning the type of conclusion I illustrated above. Courtney states that if you look at all the data, including the chart I show above, there's actually a significant amount of correlation between the consumers' and marketers' responses. In the case of this chart, there a 0.5 to 0.75 correlation between the two response sets. That's a reasonable good correlation, and other data in the report correlates even better.

In other words, Courtney states that "marketers are headed in the right direction (maybe not on the right track, but not completely lost, either)." She goes on to reasonably state that, "As an action has more significance to a consumer, it should also hold more weight in a brand’s engagement measurement model." The question then becomes, how do marketers act on this data?

What's a Marketer to Do?

As I said before, engagement is an aspect of marketing constantly being shaped by the evolving usage models of social media, so as marketers we're only left with data and testing. In this case, the Forbes Insights report has provided a rich set of data from which we can form testable hypotheses. 

For instance, the report clearly highlights the relative importance of humor in ads, as compared to thought-provoking characteristics. (I have long been a proponent of using humor in digital marketing channels, even some that don't typically use it, like pay-per-click advertising. For example, I gave a webinar last year on Creative PPC techniques in which I highlight using humor to improve clickthrough rates.) This is an easily testable characteristic. You could run two separate ads, one thought-provoking and one humorous, in a variety of channels and measure their relative success using metrics appropriate to those channels. The aggregation of all of those metrics should provide some excellent insight to support or refute the report hypothesized importance of humor.

I'm a big believer in letting the data speak and testing, testing, testing. I'll be interested to see if anyone provides real consumer data to support or refute any of the report's conclusions.

(Image courtesy of adamr at
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