Measuring social activities online using my visitor engagement metric (Part V in a series)
Published by Eric T. Peterson on February 15, 2007.
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(If you need to catch up on where we are to date, have a look at my last post in this series on measuring visitor engagement.)
I had a nice conversation a few days ago with Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategist at PodTech.net, on how I have been measuring engagement. Jeremiah has been thinking about how engagement is defined for some time and had a very fresh perspective on the subject which has somewhat expanded my thinking on the subject. Jeremiah, by virtue of being an “A-list” blogger (IMHO) gets great critical feedback from folks like Forrester’s Charlene Li (who says that my measurement is too explicit, oh well …) After we talked, I realized that I really needed to get the promised post on measuring “social engagement in a Web 2.0 world” out the door. So here it is.
One of the links that Jeremiah references is this one from Wiredset, published in November of last year. In their post, Wiredset gives a definition of engagement as “a consumer based measurement that regards interaction with an aspect of a brand or media property” and goes on to say that “Web 2.0 Engagement” could include activities (Jeremiah refers to these as “gestures”) like:
- Creating and Publishing to a Group
- Adding Friends
- Creating Mash-up Content
I absolutely agree with Wiredset, and they go on to say:
“When measuring engagement, the level of user interaction (i.e. 200 vs. 2,000,000 streams) is an obvious and important component. Yet engagement is complex in that it is not comprised solely by clicks, but also a range of involved user actions.“
If you’ve been reading along the entire time, you’ll note that my current definition of visitor engagement is derived exclusively from click-stream data and it tries to be as independent of content as possible. While this makes sense for a lot of reasons, the larger conversation (as Clint and Jeremiah wisely point out) is about how a visitor engagement metric can help us better understand the value of emerging Internet technologies.
While Web Analytics Demystified is not your typical Web 2.0 or social community site, I have enough of the activities listed above on my site to apply a social media filter to my measurement calculation and look at the effects. Again, if you’ve been reading along, I covered many of these in Part III of this series.
Here is the list of things that I am tracking vis-a-vis social media/Web 2.0 on my site:
Now, up until this point I have basically fought applying any weighting to the visitor engagement metric, mostly because I think it’s pretty difficult to rationalize any particular weighting over another and it will complicate what has already been described as “the mother of all KPIs”. That said, I am scoring these social activities into what I call an “interaction index” (ratio of sessions with one of the activities above vs. sessions without) and using the interaction index to weight the visitor engagement metric.
So instead of the existing definition of visitor engagement:
We have the new definition of “Social Engagement”:
Both metrics are the sum of component indices divided by seven, so you can hopefully see that the latter metric is weighted by any contribution made by the “Interaction Index”. For definitions of the component indices, please see Part IV in this series.
So what does this give us? Well, if you were interested in tracking individual users based on their level of visitor or social engagement, you would be able to drill-down along each Web 2.0 activity and perhaps learn something interesting:
There is Frank Faubert from Unica again, not much more socially engaged with my site than he is otherwise engaged. Remember that Frank initially complained about his only having a 21 percent engagement score, to which I responded that I had lost him in my data. Well, I found him, and based on the evolving calculation, Frank is over 31 percent engaged but little of his measured engagement is “social” in nature.
But what if I drill-down along each of my defined social activities, what can I learn?
First we can see my good friend Jeff Katz, formerly of WebTrends, who is a regular reader of my blog and whose social engagement score is much higher than his visitor engagement score. Jeff has repeatedly joined the community (Web 2.0 Measurement Working Group, Web Analytics Wednesday attendee) and has also hosted a WAW event here in Portland, OR.
Looking at direct engagement via email, we can see the great Aurelie Pols from OX2 Belgium who has also submitted comments to my blog.
I can also apply the visitor and social engagement scores to other relevant dimensions like referrers:
Here you can see that I’ve calculated the variance between visitor and social engagement and am color-coding that against my site referrers. O’Reilly’s XML.com, E-consultancy, and Jim Sterne’s Emetrics web site all are sending visitors who are well-engaged socially.
Finally, you can see the difference between visitor and social engagement applied to the various blog posts I am tracking for Clint Ivy, Ian Houston, Robbin Steif, and Avinash Kaushik. Clint’s open letter to Jeff Jarvis (a controversial piece if ever there was one) is driving a great deal of Web 2.0 engagement amongst Clint’s readers. Nice work, Clint!
Hopefully you get the picture here. By weighting the visitor engagement metric with these social media activities, I am able to easily identify individuals, referring sources, marketing campaigns, rich Internet applications, etc. that are actively interacting, both on my site (join community, engage directly, submit a comment, contribute content) and off (host an event, share a social bookmark).
Wiredset’s proposes a distilled definition of “Engagement = Interaction/Attention” which makes sense to me … you have attention by virtue of their coming to the site, but can you drive interaction? I would propose that the visitor and social engagement metrics I have described in this series of blog posts describes this equation practically applied.
As always, I welcome your comments and criticism.
About Eric T. Peterson
Eric T. Peterson is the founder of Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. and the author of Web Analytics Demystified, Web Site Measurement Hacks, and The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators. Mr. Peterson frequently presents on web analytics, is often cited in articles about digital measurement, and has been blogging on the subject since 2004.
Want to speak with Eric? Contact Web Analytics Demystified