Engage thy neighbour.

More technology or data won’t necessarily make your product or campaign better.


This November we were invited to WUD Silesia 2014 conference to talk about engagement. While the word has been in vogue for quite a while now, to the point that some even claimed it meant very little, the conference organizers decided to challenge the usual approach to engagement and look beyond UX. We thought it would be interesting to go even further – beyond online – to stress once again that engagement as the vital part of relationship between brands and customers critically depends on rarely obvious human insights. 


What do you mean, "engage"?

Most people have some idea about engagement and perhaps that’s why there are so many definitions that speak about different things from different angles. But when you are planning how to engage customers with your brand, it’s important to consider at least these four aspects.

Engagement is attitude. Once you decide to engage, there’s no honourable disengaging. You have to deliver and build trust, credibility and relevance, but you must also commit yourself to being judged and addressing criticism out in the open.

Engagement is experience. As such it is inherently emotional. To establish a lasting relationship with the customer, you must imagine her experience with empathy and understand it, so that you can design it.

Engagement is behaviour. It’s a layered play of action and reaction. The longer the play, the more meaningful the interaction – the stronger the bond. It is not only about nudging and funnelling, but about empowering, educating and helping, too.

Engagement is metrics. But the numbers of “views”, “likes”, “comments”, “shares” etc. matter only if you can eventually use them to increase the number of purchases. Social network analysis is a refined technique, way older than social media, so put it to work.


Off the screen

In other words, engagement results from aligning values, emotions, actions and – above all – interests between brands and customers. To successfully engage the people we must identify what inhibits them, what motivates them and what triggers their behaviour. While marketers’ goals have always been to spread brand awareness and create preference in order to drive purchases, our knowledge about what customers want is far less certain.

Big data analysis and social listening have rightfully become hot topics for giving us the big picture of what is going on in the world, but they are rarely enough to tell us why. Another simple, yet often forgotten fact is that the most of people’s interests materialize offline. This means that to obtain human insights we must get beyond the screen and add ethnography to our toolkit.

For this, there is a great reward. Not only does unearthing hidden insights helps us to innovate products and services, including marketing, it unlocks the great potential for growth. The Internet of Things is already recognized as more than just the next big thing, but the real value for businesses lies in knowing how and where exactly to fit the digital into the real, physical world and keep customers engaged.