THE BLOG
10/07/2014 05:04 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2014

Building an Engaged Audience

The word engaged is overused. Everyone is focusing on "online engagement." Brands, nonprofits, individuals -- everyone wants to increase their online presence and measure online engagement to be able to showcase what they are doing is successful. But how do you actually measure engagement in person? How do you know what you are doing is working, how do you have the tools and the foundation set so when you are bringing what you are doing offline to an online existence you know that it makes sense with the actual human beings behind the online profiles?

I studied engagement during my Masters year (in Curriculum and Instruction) before engagement was cool. My colleagues and I studied engagement in regards to students, and their behavior in and outside of the classroom. We created a metrics of engagement (using the Bangert Drowns and Pyke seven levels of engagement), and were able to assess what engagement actually looked like and how to increase it. I realized after graduating and jumping into a career in events and marketing that you could actually use these levels of engagement to target a specific demographic around your brand, mission, values, or whatever you are really "educating" the public on.

I use the word educating, because it may not seem like education and marketing have a lot in common, but in reality they are one in the same. In order to engage your audience in a way that is compelling and walk them through the seven levels of engagement, you have to understand that engagement comes in many forms. Being that there are seven levels, it is important to note that disengagement and frustrated engagement are actually a part of the engagement scale, and not separate. Have you ever been on a customer call with a massive company that refuses to treat you like a human, and then you happen to get one amazing customer service representative that decides to change the way you feel entirely about the company? That is a perfect example of bringing a customer from frustrated engaged to structure dependent engaged.

For a brand, it is the worst possible thing to throw your name on something without a real intention behind it. The days of "sponsorship" are over. It is an integrated partnership between brand and experience that has to co-exist where the intentions are clearly defined and the audience is educated around a topic that matters to them. Brands have voices, on and offline and in order to know how to use them, they have to start looking at themselves as teachers and their audience as the classroom. It's also crucial to recognize that you have to take responsibility for the lack of engagement and see it as an opportunity to further engage, not ignore. The step that most miss is the opportunity to bring someone who is uninspired and disinterested into the conversation. The second you make a person feel listened to, respected, and then share your vision with them based on the words they told you, the second that person will become an ambassador for your brand, not just another twitter follower.