I’ve been married a very long time (33 years and counting, thank you) but I still remember getting engaged. I have no clue what it’s like today, but it used to be a big deal and there was a ritual to be followed (I still thank my lucky stars that her father was way easier on me than he should have been…). I spend a fair amount of time these days talking about getting engaged except it’s not with my daughters (statement of fact, not a complaint!). Instead, clients and I talk about “getting engaged” with their consumers. The thought struck me that it’s not all that dissimilar.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An engagement is a commitment in either sense of the word (marriage or otherwise). The only way one partner can figure out if the other is worth spending a lot of time with is to engage one another in dialog. You know – appropriate questions, thoughtful, honest answers – a dialog. Obviously, you can’t spend your time telling your prospective partner how great you are. Things go a lot more smoothly if you spend a fair amount of time telling them how great THEY are. While it’s important to keep your own goals in mind, you can’t be a crazed egomaniac if an engagement is your objective.
The hard part is listening. As marketers and content producers, we tend to put out a lot about ourselves and don’t take in enough about our potential customers. As an aside, we do the same as managers in a lot of cases – “jobs” are often known as “engagements” after all.
We need to woo our customers, our users, our clients – whatever you want to call those who pay the bills – as we would a potential spouse. That’s the only way to get engaged. Hey – who says romance is dead!
For those of you with children (or those of you who can recall when the adults you’ve raised were children), you might remember one of the great parental moments. It’s the one where the child – probably only 4 or so – realizes that they can do things for themselves. Maybe it’s pour a drink of water or maybe it’s get dressed on their own. No matter which of the dozens of tasks we as parents undertook for our kids, at some point we all hear “I can do that all by myself!”
I bring this up because by the time most folks are old enough to use the web, they can do most things by themselves. Which is why I can’t understand many sites’ choices to present audio or video elements which aren’t user-initiated. As someone who used to run a large site that made a fair amount of money based on ad views, I get that showing more ads is a good thing. But as someone who spends too much time (and more than a second is too much time) finding and closing the pane providing me with an annoying sound or a video that’s running down my laptop’s battery, I can’t help but wonder if web-masters are doing this just to increase their video views, ads served, or audio files played. They can’t be doing it because users like it. More importantly, advertisers are starting to ask the same question and about how it affects consumer response to and engagement with their ad.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, auto-initiated content is that which plays automatically when users visit a web page. According to SpotXchange, which is a video ad network and market:
There is a significant difference between auto- and user-initiated video ads, which results in two different user experiences. An auto-initiated ad plays automatically when a user visits a web page, but the video ad does not block the user from viewing intended content. User-initiated ads must be viewed by consumers before reaching their desired content, such as a video or game. Because higher levels of consumer engagement are associated with user-initiated video ads, advertisers are willing to pay a premium for them.
By not letting the user decide what they want to see, publishers may actually be shooting themselves in the foot, since the value of the content displayed is diminished. We can all do the web all by ourselves and choose what we want to see and hear. Turns out it’s better business too to let the user decide. Imagine that!
Image via Wikipedia
A group of very smart web executives and I were talking about content and how to present it to increase engagement. The discussion centered around defining how we should be thinking about user engagement with content – is it just page views, is it time on a page, is greater time on fewer pages just as good as a lot of quick views, etc. I tried to simplify it down to the basic question I think is in the user’s mind: what is this and why should I care about it. Let me explain. Continue reading