I’m at the Alterian “Engaging Times” conference in Chicago which is full of interesting conversations and people. One of the things that struck me at the conference is that nobody defined or explained what “engagement” means. If someone “likes” your facebook page is that engagement? What if they leave a comment on your blog? What if they tweet with your brand? Are all of these things engagement? Does one of the above make you more engaged than another? Engagement also really needs to be put into context depending on what is being done; for example direct marketing vs social media marketing. A direct marketer’s definition of engagement might be the open rate of emails whereas the social media marketing person might look at engagement in terms of facebook page comments.
Engagement is a pretty serious thing right? Traditionally engagement has really been used in two very important historical contexts:
- A promise to marry, and also the period of time between proposal and marriage – which may be lengthy or trivial. During this period, a couple is said to be affianced, betrothed, engaged to be married, or simply engaged.”
- When Captain Jean Luc Picard from Star Trek was about to blast off into warp speed he would always say, “engage!”
So have we really gone from marriage proposals and intergalactic battles for world peace to now simply clicking a button?
I’m not saying there is a right or wrong way here to define engagement but I think that this all comes back to defining the objectives and success metrics for a brand/company looking to get involved in social anything. It’s meaningless for a brand to say it wants to be more engaged unless it defines engagement and says, “we want more comments, links, conversations, or whatever.” Personally, I always viewed true engagement as a type of collaborative relationship where a conversation or flow of information takes place between a customer and a brand/company – something that hopefully turns into a long term relationship. This means that instead of “liking” a facebook fan page that I would have some sort of conversation or interaction with the brand on the page. Otherwise what we are talking about is participation aren’t we?
It really doesn’t matter what I or anyone else says about engagement, what matters it that your organization defines engagement so that it knows what it is trying to do and how it is trying to do it. It’s also important to keep in mind that various departments and employees at your organization are going to define and understand engagement differently. Understand this form the very beginning.
How do you define engagement?