If you want marketing success (and really, who doesn’t?) you need engagement to get it. It’s that simple.
Unfortunately, moving audiences to engage with brands and their content has proven to be difficult. That shouldn’t really be a surprise, given that the topic of engagement, or lack thereof, is everywhere. Whether it’s employee engagement, student engagement, or audience engagement, it seems that almost everyone is disengaged.
This is only more relevant when it comes to marketing, which relies on brands managing to get total strangers to care enough about what it is and what it does to invest in it in some way.
Granted, as marketers, we’re pretty immersed in the idea of engagement at this point. I mean, there’s a whole subset of marketing dedicated to it (engagement marketing). It appears that the practice of actually engaging with an audience remains elusive, though. Maybe it’s because we’re still pushing our products and services under the guise of engaging content. Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to be engaging, interesting brands. Maybe it’s because audience engagement is just not possible.
Luckily, there are plenty of brands out there that have managed to create engaging content that we can learn from. Before we explore ways to increase engagement, though, let’s take a step back and look at why it’s so important.
Why is Engagement So Important?
Engagement is the core of content marketing. The entire concept of content marketing relies on the idea that people actually like what a brand has to say so much that they actively choose to hear more, learn more, and eventually—or hopefully—choose to purchase that brand’s product or service.
This is a very different model of marketing than one that relies on passive, or forced, consumption of an advertisement. The consumer is in charge and you need them to like you.
As such, engagement has become the ultimate metric of success—and the most important aspect to consider in your marketing efforts. The value of focusing on and measuring engagement is that it indicates a two-way relationship, showing that your audience is interested enough in your brand to willingly interact with it. In this way, it also ties into the idea of relationship marketing.
Great engagement is also so coveted because it’s really, really hard to get. More and more content is being produced by marketing teams, and people are caring less and less. According to Track Maven, the output of content per brand increased 35% per channel, but content engagement decreased by 17% in 2015. I know, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
It’s still essential to strive for audience engagement, though, because it is the key to these three marketing pieces;
- Acting as a differentiator and helping you stand out against competitors when consumers are down to their final purchase decisions.
- Solidifying customer loyalty and repeat business.
- Driving the most trusted form of marketing: testimonials and referrals.
As if that isn’t enough, search engines and social platforms are increasingly bringing engagement into their algorithms when determining relevance and importance.
The role of engagement in social media performance and search engine rankings
On social platforms, engagement is basically a requirement for success. It’s either that or money—and even if you’re paying to promote your content, your campaigns will be greatly rewarded in terms of effectiveness and cost the more your audience engages with them.
Larry Kim demonstrates this so effectively in his blog The Top 10 Paid Social Media Hack of All Time. Kim writes that the higher the post engagement, the higher the post’s relevance score. Accordingly, the higher a post’s relevance score, the higher the impressions and the lower the cost per engagement. On Twitter posts with extremely high engagement, a one point increase in engagement rate translates to a 5% decrease in Cost per Engagement. Kim found that Twitter posts that were considered extremely relevant (i.e., had great engagement rates) had Cost per Engagement rates as low as one penny per retweet. It quite literally does not get much cheaper than that.
The average engagement rate on Facebook decreased 25% for the biggest pages throughout 2015, though. (WebProNews). As engagement decreases on social platforms, your options are to either find new ways to engage with audiences or to start shelling out more money.
The same goes for search engine rankings, which are also being affected by social engagement rates, thanks to the advances of the semantic web. As search engines place more influence on 3rd party content and recommendations and the semantic web becomes increasingly able to integrate this into algorithms, marketers will begin to see a similar effect to the one we’re currently seeing on social. If your content does not elicit a reaction from your audience and result in a relationship, your overall digital presence will suffer.
What Does It Mean to Engage My Audience and How Do I Measure It?
When thinking about marketing effectiveness, engagement metrics are truly the only ones you should be paying attention to—not page views, not likes, not even sales. I’m not discrediting the value of tying sales to marketing efforts, but when you’re trying to examine the resonance of your marketing efforts with your target audience, engagement metrics are the best indication of performance.
This isn’t to say they’re the only important metrics, but instead that they are the foundational elements of marketing success and should be setting you up for sales success down the road.
Metrics that measure audience engagement vary depending on the medium. They typically they require looking one layer deeper than your standard metrics, though. In a blog I wrote a few weeks ago titled “Why Lead Quotas (and Other Vanity Metrics) Are Hindering Your Long Term Growth“, I define engagement metrics as the following:
- Repeat visitors and page views
- Pages per visit and time on page
- Bounce rate
- Comments on blogs/related content
- Shares of blogs/related content
- Conversion rate
- Retweets, especially those with comments added
- Social mentions (that are genuinely trying to engage in conversation)
- Engagement rate per social follower
Tips for increasing your content engagement
- Know that less is more and put quality above all else. When deciding how often to publish blogs or post status updates, consider what each post’s worth is to your audience.
- Be strategic with your communications and the channels you utilize to amplify them – don’t just spray and pray.
- Start, encourage, and follow up on conversations. Take note of themes in these conversations and how you can incorporate them into future marketing efforts.
- Cultivate a consistent brand personality. Don’t be afraid to let that personality be controversial sometimes.
- Give your audience content that is truly relevant and interesting to them. Ask for nothing in return.
- Practice active listening, both in terms of utilizing social listening tools as well as genuinely listening to conversations your audience is trying to have with you on social or on your blog.
- Be personal—or personalized, if you can manage it. If you don’t have the resources for full-fledged personalized marketing, take the time to research your audience segments and craft messages that resonate with them.
- Bring various employees into your marketing campaigns as internal brand ambassadors. Not only are your employees closer to your products or services than your marketing team, but putting a face to your brand can bring the personal edge necessary for impactful relationships.
Bringing It All Together
When crafting a strategy and creating marketing assets, focus on driving engagement above all else. When measuring success, similarly focus on engagement metrics above all else. If you can take your ego—or your brand’s ego, more accurately—out of the equation and focus entirely on serving your audience, driving engagement will become much less of a struggle.
While the drive to focus on metrics such as page views or sales is natural, recognize that putting the magnifying glass on your engagement performance will provide a more well-rounded view of your ability to make powerful, profitable connections with your audience.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog The Mobile First Revolution: Why No One is Waiting for You to Catch Up and find out why adoption of the mobile-first mentality is the first step toward driving audience engagement.