engagement

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I know the world is a digital world. And I don’t want to go all “geezer” on you, but if I hear or read one more CMO or CEO say they “want to increase engagement” ima (sic) go all Baltimore. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppleman used these words yesterday to defend his poor quarterly performance. I understand that the product is an online content play, fueled by user activity, growth and advertising but the word engagement just feels so dissociated from sales and revenue.

In the heyday of TV Networks (last week?), earning calls didn’t talk about the act of watching TV or focus on the number of viewers? (Of course show ratings were important.) They top-bottom lined the bottom line — with gross ad sales and net revenue.

Here’s the litmus test: If you are looking to purchase an online property with your own money, who would you want in your meeting: the chief engagement officer or the chief financial officer?

Start-ups, growth companies and mature enterprises of the digital nature, need to keep their eyes on the prize. The stuff that goes into the bank. The bank bank. Not the engagement bank.

Engagement is a means to an end, some are forgetting the ends. Peace.

 

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LinkedIn sent me a survey yesterday which I gladly filled out. LinkedIn is one of the coolest tools on the web. Reid Hoffman, Jeff Weiner and team have uncovered a gem of a portal. No, they engineered a gem of a portal. I said gladly filled out the survey because as much as I like LinkedIn, it’s not perfect. Who is? I get more spam from LinkedIn than any other web provider. Even after turning off lots of things in preferences. The whole endorsements feature is a sham. They should have bulked up recoomendations.  People endorse like errant laps dogs. It’s a glorified like button.

linkedin grab

The newish content creation scheme is also annoying. Articles from so-called opinion leaders and influencers appear above the fold, crowding out the people I know and want to keep tabs on. I understand what motives the influencer articles and the endorsement features; they are engagement builders. That’s said, portals with a finely tuned idea who overdo it, who search for extra ad dollars by adding functionality beyond their mission are on a slick slope.

I believe LinkedIn is aware of this and now taking stock. Unless, of course, they’re researching ideas that will lead them further down the feature-creep path. Hopefully it’s the former. My heart and business sense tell me so.

Peace.

 R.I.P. Fergus O’Daly. A lion.

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Engage Maslow.

Is it easy to engage the angry? Of course it is. Toss a match. Is it easy to engage Zen-ed out lovers of life? Sure, toss a petal or feather.

Talking sports with a sports guy, Pearl Jam with a Ten Club member, Common Core with a teacher – these are topics about which people can easily engage; even people who don’t know one another. When it comes to selling, however, engagement is not so easy.  That’s why the word “engagement” is such a popular topic in marketing.  Fred C. Poppe, often wrote about engagement in the 70s and 80 and it did him well, but today engagement is almost a cult-like pursuit. 

People are not always consumers.  Sometimes, they are just people. When you treat people as consumers you treat them differently. And they can smell you a mile away. Pop marketing suggests we need to give people things of value with our marketing and communication to earn their interest. True this. But everyone’s definition of value may change by time of day, stage of life, and as Robert Scoble will talk about in his upcoming book situational context.

The best marketing is based on a full-duplex model. A two way model. One way marketing is over. The days of things sticking to the wall are over. Today we are talking to people. People who are twitching away from our messages with increasing speed.  Planners who search for people value – think Maslow – are the best searchers. Peace.

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My father, Fred C. Poppe, built a business on engagement.  It was a word he used back in the 70s and it meant the same thing it does today — but back then he was talking about ads that were engaging. He parlayed this word (his word) into articles in Ad Age, then a few books and finally into a well-respected agency brand Poppe Tyson.  Engagement was my pops’ thing.

 

Engagement today, thanks to the web and digital marketing, goes way beyond ads and includes brands, communities of buyers and brand experiences. I’m a fan of engagement — so long as there is some selling taking place.

Readers know I write a lot about Yahoo!.  Yahoo! was like my first pretty babysitter…she taught me new things and opened my eyes to the possibilities.  These days I engage with Yahoo only during fantasy football season where, BTW, they’re doing a fine job of pursuing a content strategy. Elsewhere? I’m not finding Yahoo particularly relevant.

 

Here’s an engagement measure. Let’s call it word usage. If you could Google all the words you use over the course of a day, week, or month and quantify them, how many times would you say the word Yahoo? Engagement starts with awareness, moves to meaning, relevance, utility, usage and purchase. People aren’t talking about Yahoo any more. And if they are, it’s about money making or money losing. Yahoo has a content strategy but it’s not serious. Someone at Yahoo will write me and tell me it’s the #4 most trafficked website and makes hundreds of millions in ad revenue per quarter and they would be correct. But Yahoo is no longer the pretty or handsome babysitter – it’s more like the friend of your grandmother who babysits for a week and cooks cabbage for dinner. Yahoo is no longer engaging. And it needs to be. Peace!

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Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang conducted a webinar a couple of days ago, along with Michal Della Penna of StrongMail, on social media today and tomorrow.  He made two very key important points.  Don’t market your ass off (my words) only to give your traffic over to Mark Zuckerberg.  And don’t use “engagement” as a key metric when trying to prove social media ROI to your executive committee. 

Point 1.  I’ve heard on a number of occasions, from some pretty smart, that many companies are considering reducing the scope and scale of their corporate websites in favor of bulked up their Facebook efforts.  Mistake.  Overblown company and brand websites can be a blight, but they don’t really hurt anybody.  Letting all your customers and prospects learn about your product on Fotchbook on the other hand, can dilute your control and funded sales efforts.

Point 2.  Consumer engagement, often defined on the dashboard as clicks, time on site, members, views, likes, check-ins are not sales.  Certainly they can lead to sales, but until tied to money changing hands, its engagement not a wedding ring.  It’s like dating without the you know. We all know dating leads to you know, so I’m not pooh-poohing engagement, I’m just suggesting as did Mr. Owyang that executives care about da monies.  When was the last time you read a financial article the headline for which was “Goldman’s Engagement Slid 53% In Quarter.”  Peace!

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In a TED video I watched yesterday on the state of education, Sir Ken Robinson mentioned something pretty profound. He said most people are often “good at something they don’t really like doing.”  His point being, that mom-ism, “If you do something you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”  His broader point was students today are broadcast to, not engaged, and that’s why education is in such a sorry state.

Broadcast Selling.

I was mowing the lawn last night and thinking about this as it relates to advertising and marketing.  With media exploding into more and more, always-on devices (ding-a-ling, Good Will on the phone), and those devices containing advertising, the bombardment of selling is growing exponentially.  Moreover, that selling is being done by more craft-less people, creating the advertising equivalent of fast food — poorly constructed and not good for you. (Ads by SEO kids, videos by moms.) 

How to sell.

As a young ‘un in the ad business I drafted an article for Adweek that suggested people read ads to be: educated, entertained or to see something they’ve never seen before.  I think this still applies. We are so inundated with selling messages today we shut down.  Ingest too many antibiotics and you become immune.  Hear the word “quality” too many times and you become similarly immune. 

Our Job

Our job as marketers is not to say the same things with new messaging devices, it’s to educate, entertain and present the artful unseen. (In the 70’s my dad Fred Poppe used to call this “engagement.”)  Engagement starts with getting someone to let down their message defenses. My ramble.  My peace!  Happy 4th.

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