Online advocates have been trying to convince us that the proper measurement of online success is "engagement."
Engagement is a very imprecise and confusing term. Nobody can agree on what engagement means, how to measure it, or what value it has.
So it’s the perfect flavor of online unaccountability. Just like we disguise our traditional advertising failures behind branding ("it's not supposed to sell, it's a branding ad") we now hide our online failures behind "engagement ("clicks mean nothing.")
As Martin Weigel, head of planing at Wieden+Kennedy's Amsterdam office says,
"‘Engagement’ is an unworkable and meaningless concept. It means everything. And absolutely nothing. And as such it cannot possibly claim to be any kind of metric.
Searching, viewing, visits, spending time on site or page, opening promotional e-mails, completing a survey, page views, linking, bookmarking, blogging, forwarding, following, referring, clicking, friending, liking, +1-ing, playing, reading, subscribing, posting, printing, reviewing, recommending, rating, co-creating, discussing,...uploading, downloading, adding an item to favourites, joining a group, installing a widget...All of these and more are potential measures of ‘engagement’...It really is time to call bullshit on ‘engagement’. Better, to bundle it into a coffin labelled ‘Agency Puffery’ and put a nail firmly in it once and for all.”Let's take a real-world look at engagement and see how it translates into consumer behavior.
Last week, Google, oops, I mean YouTube, put on its first YouTube Music Awards featuring two of the biggest stars on the planet, Eminem and Lady Gaga.
According to YouTube press releases, they received over 60 million votes for these awards. Get 60 million actions of any kind and you've hit the engagement jackpot. And yet...
According to reports I've read, YouTube only averaged about 180,000 viewers at any particular time.
In other words, for every "engagement" action there were about .003 as many people actually watching the show at any given moment.
This is not the kind of "return on engagement" that is likely to build confidence in engagement as anything other than another bullshit "metric" dreamed up by the ad industry.
And if that's all you can do with Eminem and Gaga, imagine the results without them.