Do you ever wish you could see more engagement with your brand online?
You’re not alone. Right after driving awareness, engagement is the second biggest, and perhaps most elusive, concern for online marketers.
Today, we’re going to look at different types of engagement and define three areas your brand can focus on to generate greater engagement online.
What it is
When we think of online engagement, we often think about people commenting on blog posts. But, as you know, engagement comes in a lot of flavors. Here are a few examples of the ways that people can engage on different types of sites.
To keep things simple, we’ve broken these down into the top ten ways people engage with us. Each type of engagement has value, but that value is not the same. Let’s go through them:
- Visits – That’s basically people just showing up, which increases your web traffic.
- Consideration – That means they hung around and consumed your content. This increases time on page, which is good for SEO.
- Acknowledgement – These are likes, rating, favorite-ing, basically pushing a button. They’re low engagement activities, but they provide a public receipt that the content was consumed.
- Contribute – This is actually taking the time to leave a comment.
- Follow – This is when people subscribe to your channel or your feed, which provides a passive channel of contact to these people.
- Information – This is submitting personal data, like filling out a survey, which provides us with marketing intel.
- Permission – This happens when people submit an email or a phone number, which enables further one-on-one contact.
- Create – This is when people add things like posts or pictures that enrich your brand’s content.
- Amplify – This is when people share your content with their proprietary audience and, in the process, promote brand awareness.
- Advocate – This means actively endorsing your brand to their proprietary audience, which, in addition to promoting awareness, also fuels understanding, interest, and trust in the brand.
Of course, the ultimate form is monetary engagement, when the individual actually purchases the brand’s product. But, just because people don’t buy something doesn’t mean your brand is left empty-handed. Your visitors can pay with engagement. This type of social media currency has already been formalized by brands like Kellogg’s and Marc Jacobs, who allow customers to pay for products with tweets in their pop-up shops.
How to use it
Okay, so if we define engagement in these terms, how can we encourage it? Well, I can think of three areas you might want to focus on right away.
The first is traffic. Forrester research segmented all the people online into these seven categories. The largest group is the spectators, accounting for about three out of every four web users. Aside from visiting, they engage very little. So, if you really want high engagement, you’re going to need high traffic levels to ensure you get enough of that active minority to make a difference.
There are other reasons you’ll need lots of traffic to drive engagement. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg conundrum. The amount of engagement on your site tends to attract more traffic, which drives more engagement, and so on.
For instance, in the case of commenting on a blog, you’ll find that lots of traffic almost guarantees that someone will leave a comment. And, once the seal is broken, that one comment begets many more comments, in part because someone was brave enough to go first, but also because the comments take on a life of their own, fueling their own growth. And, if you’re going to take the time to comment, wouldn’t you be more inclined to do it on a site that you felt had a lot of visitors? That way, your brilliant remark gets more exposure.
The next area to focus on is consistency. We have a lot to learn from the publishing and broadcast world here. Magazines, radio, and TV stations learned long ago that, to build an engaged audience, you need consistency. Think back to a decade ago and imagine if you never really knew when or if the nightly news was going to be on TV. With regard to content, strive for constancy in when you post, what you talk about, and how you present it.
To help, you may find this content matrix handy. In broad strokes, these are the four types of content on the web. And, your audience will rapidly deduce which of these four boxes your content falls into. It’s important to match the type of content you use with your objectives.
Now, of course, good content will incorporate a little of each. But, it will be primarily known for delivering on one of these four categories, or perhaps a stable combination like The Daily Show in the US, which combines news and humor.
Take the BBC, for example, they have content that spans all these categories. But, the reason I go there is because I see them as a source of news. I go to The Oatmeal or The Onion to be amused. If these expectations are not met, consumers get confused and tend to move on.
And, there’s one more area you can focus on to boost engagement and that’s ideas. People may feel one way or another about products, but they engage around ideas. Many brands have realized this and have elevated their messaging to a higher level to drive their engagement.
Dove is one of the clearest examples of this with their campaign for real beauty. Based on insights from consumer research, they discovered that most of their prospects have a poor body image and that this topic was a very emotional one for them. It didn’t hurt that it also fits with a broader social undercurrent today. So, in 2004, Dove changed its brand messaging to focus on this issue. It’s been a great success, but, of course, it has also drawn some criticism. That happens whenever you stand for something. As Bill Bernbach famously said, “If you stand for something, there will be some people for you and some people against you. But, if you stand for nothing, there’ll be no one for you or against you.”
If a brand doesn’t have a strong budget, it had better have a strong cause if it wants to engage its audience. In the case of Dove, they happen to have both. You can imagine how much more engaging this brand became when they stopped talking about soap and started talking about something people actually cared about.
Okay, so the main takeaway here is that you have many different types of engagement and some will be more valuable to your brand than others. And, if you want to encourage that engagement, try focusing on traffic, consistency, and adopt a big idea that your brand can make its own.
And, remember: Use it or lose it. If you don’t put this to work within 48 hours, it will self-destruct.