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User Engagement Defined

July 24th, 2007 by Colin Carmichael

Apparently this is definition week. Yesterday I tried to define Web2.0 and tomorrow I’ll have another one. I seems an appropriate way to kick off a new blog, actually. Whatever I write over the next months would mean somewhat less if not written (and read) within the context of these definitions.

Dave McClure wrote this morning about measuring user engagement (UE). Problem number one, of course, is defining what it is that you’re measuring! Jeremiah Owyang offered his interpretation back in February:

Engagement indicates the level of authentic involvement, intensity, contribution, and ownership

I was going to write an entire post picking apart Jeremiah’s definition and creating my own, but I realize now that his is a really good one. I’ll instead take a spin at interpreting the four keys concepts in the definition to give them some depth and give some thought at how we’d try to measure each one:

  • authentic involvement – this is a 2-for-1 as it covers both the idea that we are talking about real users and that those users are involved – and not just passing through. The latter is the easier to measure, on most sites you could simply set a threshold of interactions per visit (greater than 1 should suffice). Any user meeting the threshold is involved. Authenticity is a little tougher to track – depending on the type of site – but IP blacklists and user-agent sniffing will go a long way to filtering out the non-authentic.
  • intensity – is essentially the level of involvement. Once we’ve established that a user in involved with the site, one way to measure intensity is by looking at how long each user stays on the site by both time and interactions. How often users return to the site is also a key metric for measuring engagement intensity.
  • contribution – is more dependent on the type of site than the previous two concepts. Contributions come in a variety of forms: forum posts, reviews/ratings, blog comments, questionnaires/surveys, form submissions. This is easily captured and measured, but can be tricky to interpret. Forum posts and blog comments for example have a considerable breadth in terms of how much contribution content is realized per contribution. The quality of the contribution is also a consideration and difficult to measure.
  • ownership – is the strength of connection that is felt by the user towards the site. This is perhaps the most difficult component of UE to track. Partly this is due to the fact that much of the expression of ownership is done off-site. Measuring ownership is almost an adjunct of reputation management. If you’re tracking what is being said about your site, you can measure how attached you users are to it.

It’s possible that I’ve completely misinterpreted what Jeremiah meant when he penned his definition of User Engagement. That’s ok, each strategist works from a slightly different set of experiences and will perceive the web, and its users, in a unique way. I’d appreciate any feedback!

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2 Responses to “User Engagement Defined”

  1. I’ve since been able to shorten it down:

    “Apparent Interest”

  2. […] If video killed the radio star, then AJAX killed the page view metric.  There has been lots of chatter lately about the irrelevance of the page view (PV). I have to agree with the conclusion that PV is no longer a reliable way to measure user engagement.  I’m so convinced that, in fact, I’ve switched to a new metric (at least in theory) that I haven’t actually defined properly, though I did use it in a post yesterday. […]