What does engagement in content marketing really mean?

By Posted in - ALL & Content Strategy & Engagement on December 15th, 2015 0 Comments

“We want more engagement, Tracy.”

Oh how often do I hear those words? It is, after all, the apparent holy grail of great content marketing and social media marketing, is it not?

“So, what does engagement mean to you?” I ask.

“Why, it means more likes, more comments and interaction, more sharing of our posts,” they almost always reply. I sigh. I question, does this perception of engagement really ring true for all audiences? Or are we setting unfair and unrealistic expectations of ourselves and – above all – our audiences?

For years now, in a bid to advocate meaningful content marketing approaches, and even more meaningful measurement and evaluation tactics, I’ve been on a mission to debunk the myth that great digital engagement equates to likes, comments and shares.

In their book Groundswell (2008), Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff outline a method for understanding how an individual’s relationship with social technologies varies from person to person. They call this the social technographics profile. The social technographics profile is a handy template for thinking about, planning and measuring your approaches to digital engagement through social media.

A man sitting on a wall at sunset on a laptop

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

With the social technographics profile, Li and Bernoff define seven different “types” of behaviour online from the audience’s perspective:

Creators – create and contribute large volumes of original content to social media sites and spaces. Includes bloggers, vloggers, video creators, podcasters, and similar.

Conversationalists – start original conversations online, but typically in a short form such as a status update, a Tweet, a snap or Instagram image, or by starting a discussion topic.

Critics – respond to conversations and content started or created by other people. They will comment on blog posts, reply to discussions, add their views and opinions to existing content.

Collectors – like to make sense of the sheer volume of content online by gathering and curating content from different sources. Use social bookmarking tools, or curation sites like Pinterest.

Joiners – have given out some kind of information about themselves – such as their email address – in order to become part of an online community such as a social networking site.

Spectators – watch, read or listen to content online through social media platforms, but they do so passively and haven’t “joined” anything to access that content. Not in social networks.

Inactives – do not use any form of social media at all and are more often than not (in 2015) also not using the Internet at all. Includes the digitally disengaged.

By working out where our audiences tend to be on the profile, we are able to use that information to plan effective approaches to content and social media marketing, and also to plan the way in which we set our expectations around how – and in what form – “engagement” will manifest itself on your social and digital media platforms.

At a very simple level, if someone is a spectator then attempting to measure their “engagement” levels through counting likes, comments and shares, makes little to no sense at all since by their very nature they’re not inclined to use social media that way. Instead, you may choose to measure their time on your website or page, their click-through rates and how they move through your information and move closer to your desired action that you need them to make. To successfully “engage” with those in the spectator category you’re going to need to create some compelling and useful content for them to watch, read or listen to.

conversation bubbles

If your audience is predominantly made up of conversationalists, then your approach to content and social media marketing could and should be different, allowing them far greater opportunity to develop their own original voice. With conversationalists, encouraging them to talk with you or about you is more likely to lead to success, and you can set yourself a degree of expectation that they should talk with you as a sign of their “engagement”.

So, engagement means very different things to different people depending on where on the social technographics profile they are. Just because they’re not liking, commenting on and sharing everything you post does not mean that they’re not “engaged” – it just means that engagement may manifest itself in a different way for them. Either that, or your content is not working so well. And that’s where we come in to help. Contact us to find out more.

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