What does ‘engagement’ really mean?

"Engage or Die" by Hugh MacLeod

In marketing and in social media in particular, the terms ‘engage’ and ‘engagement’ are used a lot. But what does it mean to ‘engage’ with people on the social web? And what does ‘engagement’ mean to customers?

Creating connections

Brian Solis defines engagement as ‘the time spent with the brand, either individually, in a community environment or through direct interaction’. In other words, engagement can be described as conversations with brand representatives (either individually or as part of a community) and/ or spending time and taking action with branded online content.

For me, engagement is about creating a connection with somebody else and in the case of companies and brands that inevitably means customers. To engage with a customer is to involve, excite and inspire them. Engagement is about establishing a bond with customers that breaks down the traditional barriers between vendor and buyer and begin to sow the seeds of a meaningful business relationship.

There are a number of ways to engage and create connections with customers. Some of the key ways include:

  • Conversations through social networks, blogs and forums
  • Comments on blog posts, websites and video
  • Bookmarking and ‘favouriting’ branded content
  • Fans, followers and likes on social networks
  • Interaction with online branded content
  • Traffic and activity around a website or social object
  • Downloads, registration and subscriptions to email, content, information and offers

Engagement is different to different people

Naturally, true engagement will differ depending on the company, its customers and their attitudes toward the brand. The goal is to successfully identify with your target audience and invite them to interact with you on their terms.

For example, to a young, dynamic fashion audience, engagement might involve community discussion around regular blog posts and Facebook updates related to the latest showbiz and entertainment news. Whereas engagement for customers in the retail sector might include subscriptions or opt-in to emails or alerts centred around offers and deals.

The key is to determine how your customers want to engage – and deliver.

Measuring engagement

As important as it is to define engagement, it is just as important to measure it. After all, what is the point of attracting hundreds and thousands of likes, followers and comments if you don’t know what this means to the business?

Companies intent on engaging with customers must consider who, how and where people are interacting with branded online content and how this relates to corporate objectives and performance. There must always be a strong, rational and conscious business reason for producing quality content and encouraging customers to engage.

What does engagement mean to you? How do you engage with customers? And how do you measure these connections and interactions?