Everyone knows how to measure things, right? You need a new table, so you get out your tape measure, measure the space the table will sit in, then off you go to your nearest shop to find a table that fits in the space. That shop is usually IKEA, except here in NZ. I don’t know whether to be grateful or confused about the lack of IKEA over here. How did the behemoth of soft furnishings, Swedish hotdogs and sucking the time out of a bank holiday neglect this nation?
Sometimes, though, measurements are not so easy. Sometimes you want to measure something, but you’re not sure how. Digital engagement is a lot like this.
I’ve been putting a lot of thought into measuring digital engagement for a variety of online projects recently. It’s incredibly easy to measure statistics such as visitation, time spent on page, number of shares, etc. But these aren’t measures of engagement: at best, these stats tell you how many people your website is reaching, and provide an indication of how people are using your website. At worst, these stats are red herrings, throwing you off the scent of what’s really important. Great, people are spending a lot of time on your website! But are they spending a lot of time there because the content is interesting? Or are they spending time there because your crappy navigation has confused the hell out of them and visitors spend five minutes wondering where to find the damn purchase button before giving up and going somewhere else?
It’s a lot harder to measure something that demonstrates exactly how people are engaged with your website: their motivations for visiting the website, whether they managed to fulfil their objectives, how they feel once they’ve experienced it and so forth.
These thoughts about digital engagement are nothing that have’t been said before by plenty of people cleverer than I am, and many organisations are wrestling with these issues at the moment (and will continue to wrestle with them in different guises as the digital world evolves).
These resources have been incredibly helpful whilst beginning my journey into the nebulous world of measuring digital engagement:
- Let’s Get Real, Culture 24
- Digital engagement in culture, heritage and the arts, Jasper Visser /Jim Richardson
I’m looking forward to trying out some of the techniques mentioned in these reports.
Digital engagement means different things to different institutions, and can mean different things depending on what form the digital output takes. It’s crucial to define what digital engagement means for your institution and for your projects. For example, we can define digital engagement as When a visitor interacts with digital content in a meaningful manner. But for each website – and for each visitor – “meaningful” will be different depending on their motivations for visiting the website. To measure digital engagement, we first have to define what engagement means for each digital project. It’s a time consuming process to think about digital engagement for each digital project, and give the measurements the time and thought required to ensure the digital content is valued by your audience.
It’s an ongoing process, and undoubtedly thoughts and processes on this subject will continue to evolve. I’ll make a note of the progress here. But I’d really love to hear from other people wrestling with the same issues, whether it’s for a museum, library, for-profit business, whatever. We’ve all got stories to share and things to learn, so let’s hear from you!