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January 26, 2010

An Unconvential Definition of Engagement and Why It’s Important to You

What is Engagement?

In the marketing and traffic generation world, it refers to how deeply a person is involved in something, most often your site or your product. Some would go beyond involved to say bonded or connected, even. I say involved, because depending on the product and the person, not every product warrants the deep level of commitment that words like bonded are implying.

For example, to me, a carton of eggs is a carton of eggs. I’m not paying double for the brand name unless the eggs are made out of gold. So sometimes, if two products are of equal value to a consumer, it all comes down to the price, and they barely engage.

BUT.

Engagement can give you the edge if your audience cares about a certain difference between your product and the next one. My brother buys some kind of brand name egg whites. He’s the most physically fit person I know right now and it’s part of his regimen. He’s happy to pay more. For eggs!

And yet, some folks are going to tell you not to pay attention to engagement because its impact isn’t as measurable as say, the conversion rate of visitors to subscribers.

To which I say, there’s no measurement of how important taking a shower and brushing my teeth is to how well my face to face meetings go, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. If you think things that can’t be measured don’t impact the bottom line, don’t shower for the next 7 days, and see if one of your family members doesn’t impact YOUR bottom line with their foot as motivation to get cleaned up.

But I like the whole Devil’s Advocate game. Let’s ask again – if we can’t even agree on how engagement is to be measured, why is engagement important?

Because people who are not engaged don’t buy.

I may not have been thrilled about the eggs, but I bought them. Yes, I bought the cheap ones, but I bought them instead of, say, pre-cooked frozen bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches.

Yes, some people shop because they’re bored, because they’re addicted, or because they are pretending not to be hungry. But let’s not get the reasons people shop in general confused with the reasons people buy specific items.

Who cares why they’re in the store, or why they’re web surfing with a Visa debit card handy – we don’t have that much control over it. What makes them punch those numbers in on our order form, or swipe at the cashier?

That we can affect.

Now if you intuitively get that, you might not need to keep reading.

But if the profits in your business could stand to go up another notch, the worst thing that could happen is that you lose a few minutes of your life being reminded of something you already know.

I implied earlier that you have likely read something about our topic recently. And how could you not?

One of the most important new web traffic buzzwords is engagement. It’s the latest hip metric and it’s over-taking the discussion about page views – the measure of success is shifting to how long visitors spent on your site, not how many pages they flipped through.

And it makes sense.

Page views can be manipulated and inflated in many ways that engagement can’t.

Since engagement, is all about how attached, involved, connected or bonded your customers and clients are in relation your product, brand, website or other representations of your business, length of time spent makes sense as one effective measure. We humans tend to spend a lot less time on things that we are bored with or disinterested in. True, there’s some contention about how to measure it and if it can be measured.

But just because there’s not one exact science to measure it, doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

In fact, it may the most important factor to promoting your business. Because it’s the reason why you could do the exact steps of a traffic program as the person next to you, or as your competitor, and either get startling, mind-blowing over-the-top results, or fail abysmally.

So why do you need to pay more attention to engagement?

Because traffic is not enough. You *must* create fans to thrive in any economy. Your company, your products Must have personality, identity, to be noticed. The one thing that will save you when the waters get choppy is that you put some of that magic you into your communications about your business, from your sales letters, to your podcasts and videos.

I make mistakes all the time and I’m sure you’ve seen them. What saves me is that I am wiling to reveal myself, be open and transparent, let people correct me in public (okay, not the rude ones) and address those errors to the best of my ability. I also have some pretty great successes to back me up.

Many people will say things like engagement and branding doesn’t matter — and if you have an unlimited budget for ad spending, or want a series of one-time customers rather than a business with repeat buyers, well, maybe you’re right. However, when I want to know if something like engagement is worth committing to, I think about whether a hugely successful company would think so.

Let’s see. Can you name a big company that has a blog, a Facebook page or Twitter account, or is otherwise using social media to attempt to connect to its fan base?

I’ll do you one better. Skittles.com isn’t even a whole site. You log in on the first page with your DOB and you’re on their Facebook page, with a little navigation guy in the corner. Only 3 million people have signed up.

Even if it’s 3 million teen agers, it’s 3 million people old enough to go to the store and get their product. 3 million people who thought their candy preference was important enough for them to become a fan. Of a candy.

I pay extra close attention to what the sellers of items people don’t even need are doing in their marketing, because when they’re successful, it’s often as something that those of us who own tire stores or dental practices can emulate with positive results. Because we’re selling things that are higher up on the scale of desire or necessity.

But hey, if you’re the only staple-maker in town, who cares if you brand, especially if you’ll be the only one forever, and you know staples will be necessary forever. Do your Dundler-Mifflin thing.

However, when you are in a market with competition, when you can’t compete on price without sacrificing quality, when you’re the small business up against the big business, then you must give serious though to things like engagement or branding.

Why?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

No one gives two craps about some company selling some stuff.

Fans have died, literally died for the love of their favorite things, especially projects and hobbies. This year, think about how you can cultivate a following, a fan base – single out your devoted customers and study them.

And if you’ve got no fan base? Get one.

Even if you have a boring product, in a boring industry, the way you present yourself doesn’t have to be boring. Your customer service could be legendary, like Zappos.

Your product demonstration could be the talk of YouTube, like Blendtec.

Take some time to figure out how to increase your level of engagement, or the company that will take your place undoubtedly will.


Tinu is a website promotion specialist who teaches traffic generation to entrepreneurs and builds custom traffic systems for larger companies. You can contact her through her flagship website Free Traffic Tips for a free consultation..

2 Responses to “An Unconvential Definition of Engagement and Why It’s Important to You

    Great write up on engagement. I think it’s really improtant that you get people to care about what it is your selling.

    I’ve recently started working with the San Jose CVB and I can tell you that it’s very important when promoting a city that you engage the people you talk to and get them to like your city. Otherwise, they won’t have a reason to have a convention or other function in your town.

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