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Why is engagement important?

I served as a panelist at the SUPERCOMM Digital Broadband Forum in Chicago today, at a session entitled “The Engaged Consumer.” The discussion was quite interesting, led by our moderator Steve Dennen of Comscore with my fellow panelists, John McCready of Nortel, Joe Paulsen of Experian, and Sumit Rai of Kulu Valley. Engagement is such a nebulous term, used to mean so many different things by different people, that you might wonder why engagement is even important.

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And for some companies, engagement really isn’t important. Google, for example, has made a living in search by being as disengaged as possible–they get you your search results and send you on your way. So, why are we fixated with engagement?
I think we all yearn for things to be simple. We want something easy to understand and measure, and some get excited about the idea that engagement is the right answer. But engagement is never important in and of itself. Who cares if someone spends an hour on your site an never buys anything while someone else parachutes in and makes a purchase in 30 seconds?
No, we often use engagement as a surrogate for loyalty or intent to purchase or some other valuable business goal, when it is in fact just a means to an end. On the panel, Sumit pointed out that if you use a tabbed browser, some measurements of time on site seem to show engagement when they actually show that you aren’t paying any attention at all. Now, most metrics systems are more sophisticated than that, but the point remains that measuring engagement as an end in itself might not help you make better decisions.
No, direct marketing principles put engagement in its place, as a sign that response is in the offing. Response is the real thing to measure, because with enough responses you will eventually make a sale.
If you’re focused on engagement or any other metric that has no tie to sales, you might want to examine your motivation. You’re probably better off looking for something that your CFO understands better than engagement.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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