Who is a lurker, who is engaged, and who is addicted?
by Katie Delahaye Paine
Note: Those of you interested in engagement will find four articles on the topic in this issue of The Measurement Standard:
I just listened through another NPR pledge drive. Which is perhaps the ultimate definition of extreme engagement: I am so engaged with NHPR that not only do I listen to it 24 hours a day, everywhere I go, but I actually continue to listen during the pledge drives. And even after I've pledged.
So, how engaged is engaged?
Okay, there's probably a fine line here between engagement and addiction. But when Procter & Gamble declared that they'd only pay for engagement (rather than eyeballs), what they were saying is that they want to reach consumers who become measurably involved with their brands, products or advertising.
I have a feeling that my relationship with NPR is the sort of engagement P&G would pay extra to attract:
- I gave NPR my email address the first time they asked;
- I've had my own fundraisers for them;
- I tell the time by the voices on the air;
- I know every underwriter and make an effort to shop or eat at those underwriters;
- At least once a week I tweet @nhpr some piece of news or gossip;
- And most of all, I listen constantly, including paying some $10-$20 a day in fees to hotels outside the U.S. so I can listen to my local NPR news online.
Obviously, not every media outlet can claim consumers with that level of engagement. But contemplating my own NPR engagement/addiction did get me to thinking about just how to measure and calculate engagement.
What would an engagement scale look like? One way to look at this is to first think about the endpoints. And for that we can turn to Jakob Nielsen's participation inequality research.
At the bottom are the lurkers, the engagement zombies
If my relationship is NPR is at one extreme, then the other extreme is occupied by the multitude of lurkers. (In last month's issue of The Measurement Standard, I wrote about "The Value of Lurkers in Social Media Communities.") Jakob Nielsen suggests that 90% of any "multi-user communities and online social networks" will be non-participants, or "lurkers." (See this article for more on lurkers and an engagement scale.)
And at the top are the addicted
Mr. Nielsen claims that only 1% of any online community accounts for almost all the participation. Accordingly, we can safely guess the the top end of our engagement scale -- let's call them "addicted" -- will include fewer than 1% of the audience.
Of course, we are thinking very generally here, and there will no doubt be many different
And so, here is a six-point scale of engagement:
0: Unengaged -- takes no action
1: Repeat Visitor -- engaged enough to come back, but not enough to take any other action
2: Occasionally Engaged -- visits at least once a month, occasionally comments, retweets, or forwards
3: Regularly Engaged -- subscribes to RSS feed or follows, frequently comments
4: Highly Engaged -- regularly reads (not just subscribes) to the feed, passes along to friends, links, comments, provides email address and other personal information
5: Addicted -- reads every day, listens through the pledge drive, drives friends batty with references, starts every other sentence "did you hear on NPR..."
That works for traditional media outlets, but what about a Facebook page or a Twitter account? That's where this interesting list of 35 possible signs from econsultancy comes in:
- Alerts (register and response rates / by channel / CTR / post click activity)
- Bookmarks (onsite, offsite)
- Email subscriptions
- Fans (become a fan of something / someone)
- Favorites (add an item to favorites)
- Feedback (via the site)
- Followers (follow something / someone)
- Forward to a friend
- Groups (create / join / total number of groups / group activity)
- Install widget (on a blog page, Facebook, etc)
- Invite / Refer (a friend)
- Key page activity (post-activity)
- Love / Like this (a simpler form of rating something)
- Messaging (onsite)
- Personalization (pages, display, theme)
- Profile (e.g. update avatar, bio, links, email, customization, etc)
- Print page
- Registered users (new / total / active / dormant / churn)
- Report spam / abuse
- Social media sharing / participation (activity on key social media sites, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc)
- Tagging (user-generated metadata)
- Time spent on key pages
- Time spent on site (by source / by entry page)
- Total contributors (and % active contributors)
- Uploads (add an item, e.g. articles, links, images, videos)
- Views (videos, ads, rich images)
- Widgets (number of new widgets users / embedded widgets)
Engagement vs. Passion
In general, it's important to differentiate between engagement and passion. A while back, Kevin Roberts came up with the notion of Lovemarks, those brands about which people are so passionate they'll forgive flaws and foibles. Apple comes to mind, and certainly Johnson & Johnson. Who knows, maybe even Tiger Woods. (See "Can This Reputation be Saved?" in this month's issue.) Lovemarks touches on the notion of passion, but was written before the days of social media. Now, passion gets exclaimed in 140 characters every day: "Wiping your butt with Quilted Northern is like wiping yourself with a cloud," writes one passionate Twitterer about his/her favorite brand of toilet paper. (...seriously.)
People express passion about movies, books, people, places -- you name it -- on a daily basis. But not all those people are truly engaged in the brand. They may simply like it, rave about it once, and go onto the next hot thing.
And, from the perspective of Procter & Gamble, that's an important differentiator. They want to buy access to people who are engaged enough to stick with their brands, to advocate for them to their friends, to subscribe, to spread the word, and ultimately buy. They want to listen to those that are passionate: they already have their business, now they want to tap their passion and enthusiasm to make their products better.
I'm passionate about my Honda Element, for example. I've owned two, and may buy a third when this one wears out. But my love is not unconditional. I'm tired of getting into a car with cold seats, and wondering if I'm going to hit black ice. So, I want one with heated seats and an outdoor thermometer that tells me when there's black ice out there. And next time I go car shopping, if Honda hasn't listened, I'll look at some other brand.
Not that we need more rating scales, or another social media metric, but as the forms of communications evolved, so too do we need to evolve how we categorize them.