Finding the value in consumer generate media

It’s a well known fact in the office that I have two very serious crushes. The first is on a certain Seattle-based SEO and the other is on brilliant video blogger, Ze Frank (congrats on your two Vloggies, Ze!). The latter is sitting on a panel about 5 feet in front of me and part of me just wants to hide under the chair (the other part just won’t stop staring).

Ze is taking part on today’s Consumer-Generated Media’s Role in The Engagement Equation, along with Terry Pittman (AOL Digital Services), Jonah Peretti (Huffington Post) and Bob DeSena (Mediaedge:cia).

Today’s session was supposed to help marketers identify the individuals who are engaged, determine their engagement level and predict what their response will be to a product based on that level. But none of that happened.

It didn’t happen because among the panel (as well as on the Web in general), no one could agree on what the term "engagement" actually meant. If we can’t define it, how can we add value to it?

Bob DeSena started the session by giving users the ARF definition of the term engagement, which is:

"Turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context."

What does that mean? I have no idea. It takes a vague concept and somehow makes it even harder to distinguish. Bob noted that even when first formed, the definition he gave was thought of as a "working definition", and he agreed it didn’t accurately reflect the term.

That’s kind of lame.

Moving on, he saved himself (in my eyes) by noting that engagement is really a symptom, not a cause. If you deal with engagement by talking solely about engagement and not your product, you end up with a lot of talk and no product. Terry Pittman says, sometimes "it’s all about the product, stupid".


For Ze, engagement is about learning to take advantage of this huge distribution platform that is the Internet. It’s about facilitating energy stages and figuring out how to play with it. (Facilitating energy states? Sexy.)

I think what Ze’s saying is that you have to learn how to use the Internet to give your users what they want in a new way. It’s about bringing something new to the table that will make users voluntarily interact with it. It’s similar to what David spoke about in his keynote earlier this morning.
And it wasn’t just defining engagement that tripped up the panel, so did trying to put value to it. What defines an engaged audience? Is it measurable?

Yes it is, but you have to determine what’s more valuable – a unique visitor, a video download, a page view, that they perform some over specific action, etc? And when you determine a site has "more value" – more value than whom, in what regard?

For example, Ze Frank has a hugely popular video blog called "The Show" where users are actively (perhaps over-actively) engaged. But should advertisers pay more to advertise on than on a site where users are less engaged?

It depends on your site. Instead of blindly putting your ad dollars towards popular sites, do some research. Use the engagement of Ze’s site to get to know his audience. Then determine if his audience is valuable to you. Are the people who flock to Ze’s site (card-carrying Sports Racer right here), the kind of people who would be excited about what you’re offering? If they are, then yes, it’s worth paying a little more to reach them, if not, well, there’s your answer.

In the engagement war, it’s not just about finding an engaged audience, it’s about finding out where your audience is engaging and putting yourself there.

The one thing audience members took away from today’s panel was that site owners have to be "in the game". They have to be there to see what’s working and what’s not. They should be going to interest points that are unexpected to customers. It doesn’t mean you’re losing control by following them, it means you’re reacting to your customers’ movements.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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