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How to Measure Engagement

With the help of our CMI contributors, we’re tackling how to make content more engaging, which was the biggest challenge identified in the new research about B2B Content Marketing. Over the past two weeks, our contributors answered these questions:

This week, our contributors answer the question, “How should marketers measure engagement?”

Measuring engagement isn’t really about ROI (at first). What you are trying to understand is whether or not people are:

  • returning to your site (or social network)
  • asking questions or commenting
  • connecting with other community members
  • sharing your content
  • making comments about it elsewhere
  • spending more time on your site over time
  • attending events and tweeting (or talking) about them

These are good metrics to start with, but remember to research your target audience. If they are not active in the “Forrester technographic ladder” don’t plan on much proactive content coming from your users.

Barbra Gago (@barbragago)

For us, the big goal is not just to get downloaded and read, it’s to get people to share the content with others. That says, “I endorse this. I’m happy to link my reputation to it.”

Engagement metrics include comments, retweets, ‘likes’, shares and linkbacks. For web content, time on page and pages viewed are good engagement indicators. And don’t forget the softer metrics: being quoted, invited to speak or write an article or guest post.  Anything that says they stayed for the whole show, wanted more and told their friends.

Project Open Kimono on our blog goes through our real-life case study of a recent agency promotion campaign. It touches on all these engagement metrics — some might surprise!

Doug Kessler (@dougkessler)

Measurement is always a tough one because different documents have different purposes and, therefore, different yardsticks. The volume of comments on a blog post is a good indicator – the more comments, the better the engagement. An enewsletter will have no comments but the open rate is a good way to judge engagement. Other types of content can be measured by the number of social media “shares.”

Sarah Mitchell (@globalcopywrite)

Engagement is relative to the medium in which you ask your customers to engage.  For instance, we measure Facebook page engagement by looking at both the growth of the fan base over time and at weekly intervals.  Looking at week-over-week growth allows us to adjust our content strategy and fan page advertising campaigns quickly if need be.

We also look at the ratio of various interactions (likes, user generated comments and non-admin wall posts) against the weekly fan base growth.  Each has a specific value that is ranked by the amount of effort it takes a user to interact. For example, an unsolicited wall post from a fan on our page would have higher value than simply “liking” a comment.

Nate Riggs (@nateriggs)

Engagement is not about numbers, it’s about people. So, if you want to measure engagement, better start by carefully researching and identifying the group of people you want to activate.  You may not need an army of thousands…you may only need the right five people to care about your content.

Once you have a clear picture of who your audience is, develop customized content.  Now you are in position to develop metrics that reflect what success with this group of people will feel like. The benchmarks will vary greatly by company, but frequent starting points would be: 1) increased inbound links for key areas on your website, 2) click-throughs on social-only content offers or 3) active blog commentary.

Elizabeth Sosnow (@elizabethsosnow)

To measure engagement, marketers need to understand how well their content is moving buyers from one stage to the next. It starts with including a call to action and creating a unique landing page for every content asset, and then paying attention to prospects’ online behavior (coined “digital body language” by Steven Woods of Eloqua). By tracking how and how often prospects are consuming content online, marketers can gather clues about prospects’ intent. Marketers can then combine these insights with information about offline consumption of content, which can be measured using sales force automation and CRM systems.

Stephanie Tilton (@stephanietilton)

Beyond the basics (hits, click-throughs, time on page, “likes” or re-tweets, comments, etc. – all of which are specific to the media and type of content used), I’m always really interested in understanding the journey users are taking: 1) to get to content that interests them; and 2) once they find it, navigating around websites in general.  Not all of these data points are measurable by the analytics we typically use for our own sites.  Some of them are best observed by watching different users in action and asking them about what they are doing and thinking while they are doing it.

I confess, I’ve subjected a number of my friends and family members to this field research! I’ve frequently been surprised by how someone finds a blog or website, and then what captures their attention once they are there–the places I might click or be interested in are sometimes very different.  Besides telling us what is most engaging, it also shows us whether the user experience best practices we think about represent a common journey that real people are inclined to take.

Jennifer Watson (@ContextComm)

Although how you measure engagement will depend on your business goals, I believe that it’s critically important to remember that quality matters far more than quantity.

The online world offers all kinds of measures: visits, page views, subscribers, comments, etc.  So many in fact that you can lose sight of the bigger picture by focusing too much on the details.  The bigger picture takes into account that you are looking to interact and engage with people, not data.  Although the data offers perspective and insight on people and what they engage with, it is still data and doesn’t fully capture the human aspects of engagement.

For example, depending on your audience, you may find your content generates more offline interaction.  Or perhaps intense email exchanges. After two years writing a blog focused on the sights, sounds, history and community of my local neighborhood, word-of-mouth has led to two to three emails per month filled with personal stories and anecdotes – and photos.  Those exchanges are poorly captured in data, but they are powerful signs of intense engagement with an audience more comfortable with traditional forms of interaction [e.g., email] rather than blog comments.

Look for signs, both online and offline, that allow you to appreciate quality rather than than quantity and gain context for the engagement you’ve created. You’re much better off with fewer well-qualified visitors who are eager to consume your content – because it’s relevant to them – than with an army of readers bouncing off your [to them] irrelevant content. That way you can fine tune your content, strengthen the engaging qualities and possibly even capture more quantity!

CB Whittemore (@cbwhittemore)

When measuring engagement, you are measuring the effectiveness of content marketing – just as you’d measure other marcomm tools that deliver on engagement.  But it’s important to recall that engagement isn’t your end goal, it is delivery on objectives.  It’s not enough to look only at ‘time spent per session’ or ‘unaided awareness’ – but to use all objectives’ measurements when and where possible.

Engagement shouldn’t be your end goal, but delivery on your objectives should be. (Nutlug’s C.A.R.E. ™ model identifies multiple stages in the Customer Journey, which match directly to marketers’ objectives.)  Engagement means something different to different customers as they are in different stages of relationship with your brand – hence measuring engagement means looking at multiple metrics against achieving objectives.

And, as true objectives, make certain they are measurable (in percentages, units or dollars) and contain a time element (next 18 months, next fiscal year, etc.).

As a note, make sure that you include a line item in your budget for measuring engagement. While this is often only a minor percentage of your overall content marketing budget, too many practitioners pare that as an unnecessary expense and then scramble when they need to provide value.

Keith Wiegold (@contentkeith)


As a number of our contributors mentioned, measuring engagement is about how people respond to your content – and it goes beyond the number of downloads you have. What action is your audience taking? And are you reaching the right audience instead of a large audience?

While the type of content will impact what you measure, here are some common metrics:

  • Your website:
    • Are people returning to your site?
    • How much time are they spending?
    • Which pages are they viewing?
  • Social sharing:
    • Are people sharing your content via Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks?
    • Are they referencing it in their blog posts and in other places?
    • How is your fan base growing over time?
  • Content interaction:
    • Are people commenting on your blog or Facebook page?
    • Are you being asked to write articles or speak at events?
    • Are they engaging you offline or via email?

Other contributors provides ideas on how you can measure content:

  • Research and identify the people you want to reach so you know you are interacting with the right people.
  • Set up a specific call to action.
  • Develop unique landing pages.

I’d love to get your thoughts. How else would you measure if content is engaging?

If you want to get more tips on how to make your content engaging, stay tuned to our posts on Tuesdays. Even better, sign up so to get all of our content marketing how-to articles.

Other posts in this series: