How Stickiness became Engagement
The concept of digital or online engagement has always been an integral part of the interactive vernacular from its very nascent days . In the early days at the run of the last century the people in the interactive business coined the phrase “stickiness” as a way describing a site or service where a consumer ( or the sites audience) would spend more time , continually revisit a site, play with more things , discover new features or actively converse with their friends. The social communications technologies were all well alive in the early adopter phase , bulletin boards, chat room , and IM. In the heady dotcom days the concept of developing media properties was all about stickiness. How else could you realistically place a value on your property and it potential for media placement if its audience didn’t return to site , stay longer , use its features , play games, watch or listen to media and go deeper than the 1st page ?
The real opener for Engagement or the liberator, so too speak, has been the uptake in the broadband connection at home , rather than having it relegated to the work place . The “always on” connection at home changed the descriptive concept of Stickiness to Engagement. The simple fact that there was a general mass market adoption of high speed internet predicated a change in the vernacular as the real marketing potential of the medium opened up. The availability of more connected , richer experience from the consumption of media ( video, audio , and animations ) and a greater depth in connectivity to services( e-commerce, search) and information opened up the medium and metaphoric description of Stickiness had to evolve to more active verb of Engagement.
The Age of the True Consumer’s Voice and Consumer Generated Content
Engagement never remains static( not that stickiness did either). The recent mass market adoption of social communication technologies, as in the last 3- 4 years, has led to today when we talk about the social media revolution, and Engagement has taken on a new face . Todays social media technologies are facilitators of conversations and dialogues not just confined to one site or group but open to any and everybody, almost anywhere, instantly. Everybody has a voice, a digital persona, a digital footprint and a devise for communicating digitally. It is the age of the “True Consumer’s Voice” . Digital Engagement is now the social communications evolution , encompassing social media, digital media and interactive services. Its not surprising that the UK government recently advertised to appoint a Director of Digital Engagement to help direct its efforts in “overseeing a move to engage more with citizens through social media and other digital technology.”
So how do we measure Engagement ? The debate is relatively new . In Eric T Peterson’s , web analytics demystified , he describes Engagement as ”an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction on the site against a clearly defined set of goals.” I think there’s room to expand upon this. Webanalytics is one sided and there are two sides to the equation.
To me a website is essentially a closed environment , although blogs and RSS has opened up content distribution. The measurement of the closed environment is Quantitative and measurable, which is the web analytics view point; the end to which we can determine the quality of a website visit . The engagement metric comes down to , the depth to which a consumer will go into your site and propensity to interact with or view “critical content” , their ” length of visit”, whether or not they come back e.g. ” frequency of return visit”.
If we were to add the consumer’s perspective and become more subjective in the classical marketer’s view, using the analogy of the “path to purchase”, we could add the propensity to which a consumer would recommend or talk about the site, its content or its services to a friend using something like the net promoters score. ( you can’t find that in the web analytics) . This, when coupled with the web analytics , gives a good view of a loyalty or advocacy co-efficient for the site.
In the Open Web or social media context its about all about Consumer Generated Media ( CGM ) and there’s another dimension which is purely Qualitative. Its the understanding of the voice and tonality of Engagement or behaviourial responses a consumer has . You can measure and analyse Buzz, Tonality and Sentiment, with the real appreciation of the true consumer’s voice. When you add your closed systems reporting , e.g. the web analytics to your Open or social measurement of consumer’s voice then you really see the whole picture.Tags: analytics, buzz, CGM, consumer generated media, consumer's voice, digital engagement, digital persona, engagement, engagement metrics, metrics, qualitative, quantitative, research, sentiment, social communication, social media, stickiness, webanalytics