Measuring Online Engagement (Analytics)

My last web blog was on increasing online engagement, but how do you know whether or not you are being successful.  I touched on this in section 6 of my last “web” post but it got me thinking more about it – so here I have put down thoughts on measuring web engagement and how to measure the success of your online engagement and interactions.  As with my other posts on web thinking this is the whole story, just what I’m thinking right now so please do comment with ideas on ways that success can be measured!

Old web analytics to new engagement analytics  Snap from Norway art park 2008 of people linked up

Web analytics were reasonably easy to define and generate. How many people have viewed the site, how long did people spend on the site, how do you rank with google?  They almost stand up by themselves as a set of figures, but they don’t really tell you how well the engagement went.  Is a site where 100 people visited and either purchased nothing doing better if the following month 200 people visited it and still purchase nothing and thought that your site was rubbish?  If people used to spend 1 minute on your site and now they spend 5 necessarily a good thing if that time is spent trying to find the piece of content that is impossible to find within your navigation structure?  How do the analytics relate to indicators that you are meeting your goals?

Those examples were deliberately a bit extreme! – traditional analytics are still very important and useful particulary for navigation improvements or if you have pay per view content, but they have a new friend to use them with, online engagement.

But, back to engagement, everyone knows that social media and online community is important – being 2010 I think it’s reached the stage where it’s no longer just something to do as well as your web strategy it may well have become your web strategy.

Measuring web engagement could be from the easy to define such as the number of participants in an online poll to trying to judge the effect on the relationships with long term clients and how this has improved via engaging with them via social media.  To measure engagement success you have to revisit your original goals and strategy to see how you doing against these aims, it’s also likely to involve a set of multiple metrics rather than being a one stop shop.  I also think you should keep an open mind as you may generate success from online engagement that you weren’t originally intending or measuring.

It’s not just your friend count

A metric that is easy to find but I’d suggest less valid would be number of followers or friends.  To become a friend or follower that was a one off engagement, sure it looks good on your profile to have a large number of followers and friends but does it really mean that many people are engaging with you, or just receiving spam from you if they even use those networks any more.  If they reply to your status updates, comment on your blogs and interact or even just read your posts those are the people that you are really engaging with, not those who shortly after adding you as a friend sold their computer and never went online again.  That’s not to ignore number of friends and followers – as they are those who have selected at one point to have that interaction with you, it’s just not the complete story.

When you get it right though those interactions may lead to further things,

A couple of years ago I was added as a friend on MySpace by a band called Mountain Mirrors, dark acoustic rock music, that resulted in me purchasing 3 CDs from the states from a great band I would have never come across before, that would be a great metric of how visibility of the band was increased – here they are with a video

A great artist I follow on Twitter released a song at Christmas, this song was advertised on twitter and I paid my money, downloaded it, and retweeted.  The engagement there lead to a sale, and the further push out into the world of tweet – so two different types of success in metric terms.  Whether or not more sales was a goal I don’t know.

The metrics you measure will probably change with time, as I mentioned before it is worth looking out for the unexpected successes from online interactions.  At a talk at a conference I think it was Euan Semple who said regarding social media ROI – “If you keep the I small enough people won’t worry about the R”.  So, you could try something reasonably easily and cheaply to see what success it brings towards your goals and then measure it.

Know what engagement are you looking for, then you can measure it

In order to measure it you need to know what engagement is important to you – going back to what you are trying to achieve again, what are your overall goals. What interactions with a customer will help your business, and that isn’t just in the positive ones.  Allowing a customer to voice a complaint which you can then be seen to respond to and resolve can be a very positive thing – even more so if you do it in public for everyone to see.

Some ideas of measures

  • More Usage– referrals to another piece of content on your site, downloads of songs
  • More Customer Satisfaction – Customer complaints resolved – it may appear you get more complaints but is it a case that you are now more able to turn unhappy customers into happy customers
  • Better customer knowledge – information from customer, targeting gig information to customers from certain areas
  • More Sales – engaging with customers who purchase
  • Gauging future product direction – Participation in an online poll
  • Reducing support costs – letting customers support customers via forums, helping each other out.
  • Promotion of products – Customers promoting and “liking”/”Retweeting” your content – increasing visibility of brand
  • Event success – Participation in pre-event forums, discussions and networking providing a usefl experience for the customer
  • Reduced advertising costs -able to advertise via free channels and get the community to help you
  • Better marketing campaigns – letting customers become part of the campaign
  • Increased audience participation – Questions asked via Twitter during an event or gig
  • Better customer relationships – more trust in your brand

From this list some will generate obvious tangible numbers whereas others will be harder to measure by themselves – i’m sure you can add more ideas to the list too.

Some of the easier numbers you can probably obtain to try and link back to your goals could be

  • Responses to a blog or tweet
  • Retweets
  • Links
  • Recommendations
  • Number of countries people have interacted from
  • Pre Event participation
  • Referrals to your site from sites like Digg, Twitter
  • Number of people who “like”
  • Number of active channels – twitter, facebook etc
  • Number of friends/followers – not the be all end all but it is a metric that you can get
  • Page views, stickiness, bounce rate etc – these are all still important numbers.

But to work out how your really doing against your goals listening is also likely to be an important source of info – and hopefully build them up listening is important, this is where buzz monitoring tools like http://www.addictomatic.com are likely to be advantageous.

Summary

So, in summary analytics for engagement are not figures that just fall out by themselves, they have to be used alongside your overall goals and they range from numbers that you can pull out such as number of retweets, to longer terms results such as customer relationship building that will hopefully be measurable by looking at customer loyalty.  Online engagement should help you towards your main goals, you just need to look for what sort of interactions will assist you and monitor them.

I’ll finish with a great example of community metrics that were used in a completion.  Marillion – a band that always seem to be one step ahead with the web and community gave out a free song “Whatever is wrong with you” in 2008 and asked the community to create videos for it and upload them onto YouTube.  The one with the most views won a prize, genius!  So, they had the community create videos for the single and actively promote them on social networks at the same time as having a lot of fun.  Metrics they could look at would be the number of views, number of different videos and hopefully awareness of their new album at the time.  I made one, but rather than mine I’ll finish with one of the more popular videos –

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