Solutions POV: How to Dramatically Increase Engagement
Engage: to occupy the attention or efforts of (a person or persons), to attract and hold fast
Engagement is one of the greatest measurements of how well a brand is connecting with consumers and the loyalty that is created through those connections. Marketers are obsessed with engagement for very good reasons. Advertising is great for attracting attention, but creating connections is the hard part. This is one of the main reasons that television and print ad spending is now finding it's way into digital and mobile channels. The power of engagement comes from repeated interactions, resulting in participation and advocacy. As engagement becomes much more about marketing versus advertising, and digital and mobile channels become the preferred medium, new approaches to driving engagement must be considered.
The first thing to address is how the role of Engagement in the customer journey or sales funnel has changed. In the traditional marketing model where Advertising is the attraction mechanic and Engagement is the response to the ad message, the process is very linear. A consumer sees an advertisement containing a call to action or direct response and they either engage or they don't. The funnel is filled with as many potential customers as possible through reach advertising and the marketer tries to optimize the engagement resulting in positive ROI.
The biggest change to this traditional model and one of the reasons that tracking Engagement is more important than ever is the ubiquity of Search, both search engines and social search. More and more consumers are using search to inform their purchase or brand preference before they even speak to a salesperson or step into a retail or online store. This means that your best marketing tool could be an algorithm and the journey that the customer takes to a purchase decision is paved with content coming from a web site or social network. The objective now becomes how to get your consumer to engage with your brand's content and how to ensure they take action based on that engagement. Suddenly the customer journey is about a series of engagements centered around content and the linear process no longer applies.
Another growth area for marketers is the opportunity to drive re-engagement, where the connection with the content and the brand drive repeated visits, interactions and shares. This is where brands can learn a lot from how consumers use social networks and apply the behavior to their content strategy. Consumers love that there's always something new to see, comment on and share when they visit Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat. They are never bored, and often come back again and again to see what's what's been added or updated. How many brand websites can you say this about?
A major component to re-engagement is how much of a reason you give for your consumers to return. Obviously brands are not going to update their content at the speed of a social network. However, a loyal and connected brand community can be the greatest contributor to re-engagement. The same way social networks create opportunities for consumers to discover and share content, brand sites can also leverage the social graph of their brand community to drive visits and views. Cultivating likes and follows through an owned brand community will connect your fans to your brand and to each other, creating a network effect that makes your site just as addicting as Facebook or Twitter. Content discovery is a still a critical component and your community should be able to contribute and share relevant content alongside brand content to increase their participation. Allowing your brand fans the ability to follow other community members and influencers will also increase the network effect and growth of high value audiences for your site and content.
In this new model where Content drives Connections we see two types of Engagement emerging:
Passive Engagement: low commitment engagement where there is action taken by the user which can be interpreted to be positive interaction with the content. Example: Like, Favorite, Hover, Scroll, Tap, Swipe, Touch
Active Engagement: high commitment engagement where the action taken requires additional effort from the user indicating connection, loyalty and advocacy. Example: Comment, Share, Join, Contribute
In this new scenario where content is driving the most valuable engagements, we should address the difference between engagement on third-party or social networks and the engagement that happens on owned platforms like the brand.com and branded mobile apps. The importance of brands building out teams to support massive efforts on social networks seems to have shifted, mostly due to the drop in Engagement on those platforms. As social networks become better traffic drivers and sources of referrals for brand websites and page views, the owned platform or brand.com becomes an increasingly valuable property. We believe that a focus on driving owned platform engagement will lead to greater ROI from content marketing efforts and that an entirely new community model can be established leveraging your customers social graph and the network effects of viral content.
Andrea Harrison heads up platform strategy at RebelMouse. She was previously the Digital Brand Director for PepsiCo Beverages, where she focused on digital brand marketing including paid, owned and social media across all the beverage brands and several tent pole initiatives such as The X FACTOR, Super Bowl, Grammy's and VMA's. She also led the digital sponsorship integration for the NFL, MLB, Sofia Vergara/Diet Pepsi and Beyonce/Pepsi.
Several programs that Andrea led achieved milestone status including the first social share contest to receive over 100,000 photo entries, numerous 1M plus organic brand YouTube video views, and the first Twitter campaign to achieve more than 10% organic engagement (Beyonce +Pepsi Halftime Show).
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