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Developing a Metric for Engagement

Friday, February 19, 2010

For several years the topic of measuring engagement has been important to marketers and still is, according to the recent study quoted in eMarketer (newsletter, January 26, 2010). The most desirable metrics can be interpreted as engagement—with your website or with your ads. As the chart suggests, the state of the art is still single metrics. Here’s another example that's interesting both for content and for metrics; the level of engagement with social media in various countries by comScore late last year. They use time on site and number of pages as the key—and separate—metrics. It seems to me there’s a need for a multivariate measure of engagement. I’ve looked around and have found two different approaches.

Business Week has taken a variety of steps to increase engagement with its readers, including hiring an engagement editor. Here’s an interesting summary of what they have done; I don’t find an update so far in 2010. Most germane to my point, they have developed a proprietary User Engagement Index. Here’s how they describe it:

We developed a proprietary set of metrics to help us both track, and make us accountable for, our goal of being the business and financial site with the deepest and most meaningful engagement of its users. The index is the ratio of our outputs to the world (the stories and blog posts we publish) to the world's inputs to us (perspectives on stories and blog posts from readers as well as their guest columns.)

It makes sense to me and it is an approach any business could sit down, think about, and adapt to its own product category and situation.

If you want a ready-made solution, I found that also. Dutch metrics supplier Nedstat has an engagement solution that’s based on basic website metrics. Web Metrics Demystified recently did a good post, which included this graphic. There are two basic components to the Nedstat approach. First, the user develops her own engagement algorithm; that follows the Business Week example. Engagement is not the same for every product category, every website. Perhaps even more important, it’s going to differ on the basis of your own communications strategy—what you are doing to try to encourage customer engagement.
Second, Nedstat has a solution they call Live Segmentation that allows you to choose a customer segment and calculate the engagement index for that segment. Both the engagement algorithm and the segmentation choice are said to be easily varied as the marketer considers better metrics or strategy options. Aurelie Pols’ post rightly points out that you can do this with traditional web metrics, but it may be easier to work with a metrics company that can guide you through the process.

What it comes down to is interesting. If you are serious about measuring engagement, you need to construct your own multivariate metric. You can DIY or you can engage a consultancy. Either way, it’s going to take some thinking, some work.

Another object lesson reinforcing the fact that none of this is easy!
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