Defining and Measuring Engagement
During the last year I have enjoyed various presentations on engagement. What has frustrated me though is the lack of consistency in describing engagement. While many people talk about engagement, there does not seem to be a common understanding of what it is and why it is important.
This blog summarizes why engagement has become such an important concept and introduce a working definition of engagement.
Why has engagement become important?
First, it is important to understand that the reason for defining and measuring engagement and implementing engagement strategy is to influence behavior.
We don’t measure engagement for fun; we do it because we hope to accomplish something. This something could be a purchase or it could be a call to a local congressman but without a link to desired behavior it becomes simply an intellectual exercise.
Second, the marketing or purchase funnel was traditionally a very linear process leading prospective customers from awareness through purchase.
Unfortunately, social media tools have disrupted this linear and, relatively speaking, controlled and predictable process. Social media tools have allowed for a much more fluid and real-time relationship between a person and the organization and thus, the traditional way of looking at this relationship is insufficiently robust.
As a result, the concept of “engagement” has been introduced as a potential model to describe this more complex relationship.
Engagement can be used to achieve the following benefits.
- Identifying the nature of the interaction(s) between individuals/markets and the association.
- Understanding the strength of the relationship between a person/market and the association.
- Understanding how to serve their needs more effectively.
- Identifying the needs of the person/market relative to what the association produces
- Understanding how to allocate resources.
If used properly, engagement can be a powerful marketing tool helping associations create sustainable business strategy.
How do we define engagement?
In order to use engagement in decision-making, we must measure it and in order to measure it, we must define it.
Forrester Research developed a definition of engagement in 2007. This definition posited that engagement consisted of 4 important components.
- Involvement – the “touches” between a person and the organization
This component of engagement is the basic approach of a person to the association. Common measurements would be web page views or requests for information. At this point there is no “back and forth” or purchase transaction.
- Interaction – the contributions or back and forth between the person and the organization
Interactions represent the common “transactions” between a member and the association. Interactions would include becoming a member, purchasing a book or registering for a conference. Interactions go both ways though, so this area also includes volunteering or writing an article for the newsletter. Interaction is not only when the person requests and receives something from the association but also begins to contribute to the association.
- Intimacy – the sentiment (likes or dislikes) of the person regarding the organization
Intimacy represents how the person “feels” about the association. Potential measures might include satisfaction or net promoter scores or “likes” on the association’s facebook. Intimacy is indicative of a person’s emotional commitment to the association.
- Influence – the likelihood and strength of a person’s promotion or advocacy for the organization
The influence stage is when the member (or other stakeholder) begins to actively promote the association, for example, through a member-get-a-member campaign.
When taken together, these four components represent a model of engagement that can be measured, tracked and used to guide business strategy.
Engagement is a new way of looking at the relationship between a person and the association. It offers associations an important tool to improve this relationship and use it to influence outcomes.
It is important to note that our understanding of the concept of engagement is still in flux, without a clear right or wrong way of using it to inform decisions. The association community will need to continue experimenting with engagement and discover what works and doesn’t work regarding association strategy.
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