Trying to crack the social engagement paradigm

jill neyIt’s been a while since I have written an article, times have been busy for me but the world of social has been ever moving. While the magazine theme for this month is austerity I’m going to move off tangent and look at some of the things that I have been quietly working on.

So, what’s one of the biggest unanswered questions in social? I think that it’s engagement. We have been classifying engagement as the driver of social media, yet we have no clear definition and are still largely unclear on the unit (or units) of measurement. I’m not going to add to the engagement definitional debate here, I’m saving that for a more comprehensive whitepaper.

I’ve been having another look at possible units of measurement for engagement. Last year I was working with the social media agency, Yomego. As part of my work there I redesigned their SMR model and subsequently a whitepaper was published. The measurement unit there was advocacy. That the interactions a consumer makes towards the brand represents a level of advocacy toward the brand. What others believe to be micro-metrics, the number of likes, shares and comments is actually the consumer demonstrating a level of advocacy toward the brand. Ok, so it can be argued that they are displaying a level of advocacy but there is another measurement construct that better explains their behaviour.

It now seems glaringly obvious to me. In consumer behaviour literature (back to the old academic roots) the construct of involvement underpins a lot of consumer motivations, actions and behaviours. So, it would appear relative that involvement would underpin engagement. How involved is the customer with your brand, your message and your products and services? The ‘micro-metrics’ can be used as a relative measure of involvement in that one post or the brand.

We can gain insight into the brand by looking at how involved consumers are with certain brand elements, product, services and/or message communication. The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) have been exploring engagement on multiple levels. In one paper they mention that there are three major forms of engagement, which can all be traced through academic and psychological thinking:

1. Cognitive (awareness, interest, intention)
2. Physical (user initiated interaction)
3. Emotional (affective)

In each type of engagement there is a strong sense of involvement. For instance, the level of involvement a consumer has with a brand will moderate their behaviours, a highly involved consumer may be more likely to search out content and join that conversation than a consumer with low involvement. In a world where we are always connected and we are bombarded with information we become very good at filtering out the information that is most relevant to us. Involvement would help explain why we choose to engage with one piece of content over another.

I’m currently working on whitepapers and research around this topic; please look out for them. This post is not so comprehensive but gives a general outline of my thoughts. And I also have some good news to share with you all: I am about to launch my own customer engagement consultancy. I’ll be using my new models and thinking to analyse social data to bring brands valuable insight and join up their customer experience to create value to their customers.

Jill Ney is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.

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