Audience Engagement: It’s More than a Content Marketing Buzzword

Here at Pace, I hear the word “engagement” spoken multiple times a day. I read it in content marketing newsletters and blog posts. I think about it whenever I’m creating or optimizing an asset—Will this asset engage our readers? Our analytics team has even implemented a cumulative engagement score ranking system for content.

It’s no surprise: we measure the effectiveness of our content by how engaging it is, so we use the word a lot. But engagement can take on different meanings depending on what your client or brand is and what your medium is meant to do. It’s important to define engagement for yourself, your team and your client in order to set expectations and meet goals.

Big Answer to a Small Question

I posed the question “What is engagement?” to some Pacers. Here’s what our content strategist Susan Stegemann said:

An engaged audience, to me, means visitors are consuming the content you’ve created in some way. They are reading and scrolling, they are watching a video, they are clicking on links, they are sharing your content, they are commenting on your content, and they are talking about it and/or remembering it enough to come back to the content itself or your site in general. Engagement might include making a purchase, but that’s not a sole measure of engagement by any stretch.

Let’s look at a Pace client website, Verizon Mobile Living, which is an editorial section of featuring tips, tricks and tech for the ultimate mobile life. As Susan points out, there are a variety of ways to measure engagement. On Mobile Living, the measure of engagement depends on the goal of an asset:

  • An article may be intended to drive sales of a new Verizon device.
  • A video may be intended to boost brand affinity.
  • An infographic may be intended to educate customers.
  • A listicle may be intended to inspire readers with potential new uses of their smartphones.
  • An immersive experience may be intended to draw readers into an emotional story.
  • A campaign may be intended to promote social interaction.

Once you know what the goal of an asset is, then you can measure its engagement.

It’s All About Meeting Expectations

Conversion rate. Time on page. Bounce rate. There’s no one answer. Converting your readers so that they click on a “Buy Now” link is only one type of engagement. But if an asset has a low conversion rate, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful. Drawing your reader in so that they connect with a personal story (and therefore stay on your page until they finish consuming it) is just another type of engagement.

Katie Riddle, our Director of Content Strategy for Verizon here at Pace, shares her definition of engagement and how she likes to measure it:

To me, engagement means visitors are genuinely interested in your site and content. It’s relevant to their life, and they’re emotionally in tune with your message. They’re reading articles, commenting, posting pictures, taking quizzes and sharing with others—and buying your product. Users want to help co-create with you.

Word of mouth is the best indicator of engagement in my opinion—your visitors care enough to talk about your brand to others. And you can measure that through social sentiment and site analytics. But I’m a fan of getting a group of users to tell you what they like and don’t like. Analytics can never tell you the why, only the what.

Nick Murphy, our Junior Digital Analyst, shares a similar sentiment and offers this perspective:

A highly engaged visitor is interacting with your content and finding what they need. I don’t believe a high time on site or a low bounce rate necessarily can show whether you have a highly engaged user. I believe it’s more about meeting your visitors’ expectations and letting them find what they were looking for, that’s what drives engagement.

What If You’re Not Engaging Your Visitors?

Amanda Slavin reflects on engagement in a recent Marketing Daily blog post, in which she writes that brands must recognize when they’re not being engaging and see it as an opportunity. “The step that most miss is the opportunity to bring someone who is uninspired and disinterested into the conversation.”

If you think about it, isn’t that what we as content markers are here to do? Start a conversation. Inspire brands’ customers. Interest them. Educate them.

The next time you look at analytics for your content, don’t fret if you see a low conversion rate or low average time on page. The asset might very well be doing what you intended and engaging your visitors in some way. The first step is to always nail down what engagement means to you.

Talk To Us

Share your definition of content engagement with us in the comments below! What examples have you experienced and want to share?

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