There has been a lot of talk recently about ‘engagement marketing’, particularly in relation to Web 2.0 and social media.

But what are the success metrics of engagement marketing online? How does one measure engagement?

I saw a presentation recently from an advertising agency (AMV) where the natty title was ‘Adds not Ads’ which referred to the growing importance of brands engaging with their target markets: much better to be ‘added’ (MySpace friend style) than keep creating interruption-style ‘ads’.

But can we really use the number of MySpace friends a brand has as a useful metric for success in engaging customers? How should be measuring ‘engagement’?

My own feeling is that the usual Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should still apply, be they ‘hard metrics’ like sales, clicks, conversion rates, or ‘softer metrics’ like brand favourability, purchase intent. Engagement metrics need to be understood in terms of how well they contribute to delivering these KPIs, rather than be seen as the KPIs themselves.

But what how can we measure “engagement”? A few thoughts:

– Number of friends, connections etc. on social media sites
– Volume and quality of mentions in the blogosphere
– Network analysis of the above, as well as inbound link mapping and analysis
– Dwell time on site / Depth of visit / Page views per session / % repeat visits
– Customer satisfaction (e.g. how likely are your customers to recommend your brand to a friend of theirs?)

What others are there that you are using or seeing being used?

Arguably you could use Search Engine Marketing (SEM), both paid search and organic search engine optimisation, as a proxy to measure the commercial impact of many of the above engagement metrics.

For example, increased linking activity due to increased engagement should lead to better natural search rankings. Changes can thus be monitored and tied back to site visits, sales and so on.

As paid search becomes an opaque marketplace (with all search engines introducing notions of ‘quality’) then even here you could look at your clickthrough rates and bid positions as a proxy to measure how ‘engagement’ may be improving your paid search results?

So perhaps “engagement” improves “search equity” – which we know drives lots of hard and measurable metrics.

Case studies anyone? Other ways to translate ‘engagement’ to harder metrics?

Ashley Friedlein