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Brands Need Real Engagement Metrics from Digital Media Marketplace

Do an online search
on the word "digital" and you get more entries than you could read and still
make dinner. Add the word "engagement" and you can forget ever eating again.

So why does digital
engagement matter so much? Ask this question and you run the risk of
encountering lots of eye rolls and audible sighs. Doesn't everyone already know
that engaging through digital is the new Holy Grail?

We suggest here that
no question is obvious until the answer is equally clear-and as people continue
to see a troubling approach to that answer, they will understandably continue
to ask it.

So once again:
Why does digital engagement matter so much?

Using the old media
paradigm of "fishing where the fish are," digital is where folks are these
days. But that doesn't explain why it should matter to brands; that only posits
the opportunity. When we start to measure opportunity as success, we go back in
time to when measures of "awareness" were enough to help brands sleep at night.
Those days, however, are over.

Many are calling
this the "relationship marketplace," but that phrase assumes an
already-existing relationship between brand and human. We would argue this is
more the "consumer marketplace," where people are talking to each other before
ever talking with brands. By the time people allow a brand into relationship,
they've looked them over closely.

And given that
digital remains the place where much of that close inspection comes into focus,
how can a brand measure whether a consumer really is that into you or not?

To begin with, you
have to ask for digital engagement metrics-real ones, not awareness and
arithmetic dressed up in a Prada suit. Real engagement metrics must have, at
their core, emotional metrics that really measure the heart-bond which drives
all the closest relationships.

But more
importantly, you must make absolutely sure those digital engagement metrics
connect to your category. Our research has shown that digital engagement works
differently category-to-category. If you can't tie digital engagement to how
people engage in your category, then you are not able to buy digital media strategically,
with the full intelligence-and impact-that you must have to make profitable

Estimates abound on
how many unique visits are made to social media sites every day, and no one
seems to ever start that number at less than a whopping 350 million. Some consumers
spend a lot of time on their pages, and perhaps even click on ads from General
Motors or Audi or Kia.

But a recent study
suggests that social networks, as a contributor to engagement with the
automotive category, lands only as high as eighth place, compared to myriad
attention-getters. These automotive category figures come from a nationwide
Digital Platform Engagement Index, a study conducted in early 2012 connecting
digital engagement in 83 categories that reflect nearly 700 brands:

This might seem like
a rude awakening to the manager who recently shifted budget away from an
innovation of the brand website to an interactive Facebook campaign. 

Given that General
Motors has pulled back from Facebook, one assumes they understand this reality
exceedingly well. And one suspects marketers that have been placing media in the
brave new social media world do as well-or are at least are starting to get an

The key to fishing
is not just to go where the fish are, or even that they see your hook. It's to
have something on that hook the fish just can't resist.

Passikoff is founder and president of Brand
Keys Inc., a global brand and engagement consultancy. He can be reached at Shea
is executive VP Director of global brand development. She can be reached at