Tag Archives: Engagement

Measuring Engagement

There’s a worthwhile discussion on the measurability of engagement at Web Analytics guru Eric Peterson’s blog. Eric sets out to measure the engagement of a few users in his RSS base and, based on the responses of those users, will now have to figure out how to readjust his metrics. Some of the best information is in the comments section, especially where Gartner’s Bill Gassman weighs in on the slipperiness of engagement:

Each organization’s version of engagement will be unique. It will be
derived from a number of root metrics, probably under a dozen. Common
root metrics will be frequency, recency, length of visit, purchases and
lifetime value. Some organizations may include visitor actions, such as
subscribing, providing personal information, writing a comment, or
participating in a blog. Soft metrics, such as attitude, influence and
obsession may be used. Not all root metrics will come from the Web
analytic tool. Many will use metrics from other channels such as call
center actions and physical store visits.

Anyone sitting on the fence waiting for a dashboard of engagement and ROI metrics should check back in a year or so. This isn’t going to be wrapped up in a bow any time soon. Of course, by the time the metrics are solidly drilled, the competitive edge will have long since dissolved into an efficiency game. Hell, when Betty Crocker has an RSS feed–and a nice one at that–this is no longer the territory of early adopters.

Unexpected Social Catalysts

This is odd, but fascinating. I’m camping out at my favorite wifi hotspot, the Coffee Roasters in San Anselmo. Just catching up on blogs and news. There’s a pretty constant background buzz of conversation and music that offers a pleasant flavor of neighborhoody white noise. Suddenly one thread of conversation rises above the rest, and then becomes a shouting match. A woman is standing at the front door shouting F-yous at the cashier. There’s an odd moment when everyone simultaneously realizes what’s going, every conversation ends, and all attention turns to the woman at the door. She’s nicely dressed, attractivce, and angry, continuing to shout F-yous as she exits stage left. Stunned silence. Then laughter as the cashier says, "well, Merry Christmas."

Here’s the interesting thing. As the conversation picks back up, everyone is talking about what just happened–but not to the same people they were talking to before. Everyone is now turned to connect with the person outside their original conversation to try and figure out who knows what caused the uproar. As I look around the coffee shop, I see three or four people now introducing themselves to each other while laughing and shaking their heads. What started out as an uncomfortable scene suddenly turned into a social catalyst that rearranged the operating networks in the coffee shop. A few minutes later, as I’m writing this, two of those new network connections are now heavily engaged in conversation.

It makes me think of social media, and how the online norms of social order and structure may not always be the most effective catalysts of engagement. We all lament the trolls and bashers on bulletin boards; I wonder if that shared lament is a shared experience that reorders and galvanizes new social connections.

The Value and Challenge of Engagement

I had a long and interesting conversation with Gil Roberts from PodTech yesterday. I was down in Palo Alto to talk with PodTech about working together on a couple of podcasting projects. He asked an interesting question during our conversation that I thought was worth repeating and discussing here.

Do you see companies investing in social media platforms, and would those platforms really establish working communities within an enterprise?

There are a lot of important threads knotted up in that question. But the two that popped out for me were the problem enterprises would want to solve with social media platforms, and how they would operate them.

The value proposition for enteprise social media platforms seems to be about knowledge exchange and collaboration. Businesses have been addressing these issues for a long, long time. Lotus Notes. Document management. Knowledge bases. Intranets. Wikis. How many relevant product categories and platforms can you name? The question any procurement team would ask when assessing a new platform is what it would bring to the table that these other systems don’t address. Not just how is it different, but how does the difference deliver value?

The second question is how a social system would be managed and developed inside a business. The holy grail is a self-organizing network that delivers value by distilling and disseminating knowledge. But self-organizing networks tend to develop around passionate and exciting topics. Politics, sports, dating… When you put a social platform inside the four walls of a business, that doesn’t seem to change much. Most people don’t get passionately engaged and self-organizing about business processes, or innovation. Especially when there’s significant potential for political fallout.

At some point the current drive to develop enterprise platforms for social media tools is going to run into the lack of organizational knowledge of how to successfully cultivate engagement. Let’s be honest. How many companies can you name that have a culture of engagement offline? Will a social media platform fill in for a cultural deficiency? Not impossible. But not likely.

Not that this lesson is new for anyone, but technology is never a self-contained solution. There are real cultural and organizational challenges for bringing the kind of social platform that works on the wild Web successfully into the enterprise. Someone’s going to have to start dissecting and analyzing the techniques for developing engagement in the enterprise, beyond just the flipping of a product switch.