3 Ways to Start Thinking Strategically About User Engagement Now
User Engagement is a concept that is pretty ingrained in our strategic thinking, and today we are going to look at 3 steps to strategically look at how your brand or organization engages it’s audience.
Since becoming fairly ubiquitous in the digital design and technology fields in the mid-2000’s, a wide array of definitions, approaches, and concepts of what engagement “is” has emerged.
At its conceptual core, user engagement is about creating something of value for an audience.
Well, yeah, “of course” you say, concepts are great, but what about practicality?
On a very high level, our practical definition of “engagement” is the avenues through which a company interacts with its audience and the impact the measureable results of that interaction has when all is said and done.
Now we know that outside of a specific context, those words can be fairly esoteric. Part of the reason that a universal definition of user engagement, or engagements in general, is so hard to define, is due to the fact that they can mean so many different things to so many different people.
As a recent mashable.com article deftly points out, the way Engagement manifests today is as individual to a brand or person as it is highly specific to the task, scale, or scope of the effort you are looking to engage others in.
So, if the definition is esoteric, and the application is so individual and specific, how can we possibly provide any practical guidance to start thinking about engagement for your business?
Easy, even though something is hard to define doesn’t mean it has to be hard to do.
(i.e. Think about happiness. Being happy is (ideally) an easy thing, but happiness takes many forms and can have very individual definitions.)
1. Take a good, hard look in the mirror
To start, 2 sets of questions need to be asked:
Who are we to our audience (clients) now?
How are do we interact with our audience now?
Who do we want to be to our audience?
How do our customers want to interact with us?
You can’t actively direct where you are going unless you know where you are and these questions will help to frame the engagement. By taking stock of the current state of things, projecting where you want to go (a product refresh, a new product launch, building rapport with a new demographic, improving customer service, building a community, etc.), and understanding how people want to be engaged, you will have more strategic information at your fingertips to work with. From Deirdre Breakenridge, adjunct professor at NYU, via Mashable, “Engagement is a function of listening to the customer voice, how they’re behaving and how they actually want to engage with us […] It’s so hard to define engagement if you’re not taking the time to truly understand how people want to interact with you.”
2. Define the Impact of the Engagement
What kind of results do you want from the engagement? Increased brand recognition, increased sales, more users, better conversion rates, and improved customer satisfaction can all be end impact goals. By deciding how you will measure an engagement’s end goal, you can begin to formulate how the actions of the engagement will take shape. But remember, the impact should be a result of creating value for your audience!
3. Define the Action(s) of the Engagement
What tools will you use to generate measureable results? If the measureable results (i.e. facebook likes, media impressions, web traffic increases, app downloads) generated by the tools of the engagement don’t lead to a quantifiable impact, then they are just vanity metrics. “500% traffic increases” or “10,000 new facebook likes” hold little meaning if there isn’t a deeper impact.
Deciding how you will engage your audience (the concept/campaign, the idea, the action) and in what medium (digital, print, mobile, all of the above, etc.) will define the measureable results, which in turn ultimately lead to a quantifiable business impact.