How to drive audience engagement effectively.
Research Intelligence

How to Drive Audience Engagement in 3 Steps

by Ruth Trucks , Senior Marketing Writer 8 Min.
March 29, 2022 | Updated October 11, 2022

“Engagement rates are down. Why is this happening? We need data and we need it today.” The email from the CMO is flagged as “urgent” and that’s never a good sign. It looks like you’re off to a bad start to the week.

Sound familiar? Somewhere in the world, a market researcher or insights manager is experiencing this right now. And you know what? The next time, it could be you.

Management knows that engaged audiences are more likely to convert and, in turn, drive more revenue. Closely monitoring digital audience engagement metrics can help you circumvent such unpleasant emails.

In this quick guide, we’ll explain what audience engagement means and how to measure it for maximum insights. We’ll also share some inspiring audience engagement examples and a bonus tip.

What is audience engagement?

The definition of audience engagement varies depending on who you ask. To Marcel Broersma, a Dutch University Professor, “Audience engagement (also, user engagement) refers to the cognitive, emotional, or affective experiences that users have with media content or brands.” This describes the audience engagement meaning more acutely and assumes that an action will follow as a result.

When digital marketers speak about audience engagement, they typically mean an action taken by users after consuming certain digital content.

But audience behavior isn’t something you can control. Users may love your content, but never take the action that marketers intend for them. For example, they might like to watch all your informative videos, but never actually purchase your service. A specific type of user interaction can be significant for one business, but totally meaningless for another.

Audience engagement definition: an action taken by users after consuming certain digital content

To market in a way that drives audience engagement, moves them further in the buyer journey, and results in the desired action, you need to figure out two things:

  1. Who exactly is the target audience?
  2. What does engagement mean to your business?

3 steps to create an audience engagement strategy

The team expects you to provide data that enables audience development based on greater engagement. You need to deliver insights that allow them to identify trends and take advantage of opportunities for more engagement.

Here are the three steps you need to take to build a strategy that boosts audience engagement:

  1. Get to know your audience and identify your competition.
  2. Determine business-relevant engagement and match representative metrics.
  3. Measure and benchmark engagement for optimization.

Follow these three steps, and you’ll be able to present a complete landscape of audience engagement with actionable insights.

How do you measure audience engagement effectively?

Business-relevant engagement can be many different things for different businesses. It all depends on where the money comes from. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of your website: inform, sell, or service the audience? Each requires its own unique kind of engagement.

For example, an eCommerce site’s purpose is to sell. Visitors who come for information only are not valuable, no matter how much time they spend. Unless they end up buying something, dwell time doesn’t have value for the business.

Now take the example of a subscription-based site or app, such as one in the gaming world. These are intended for users to spend a lot of in time, and the metric could very well be relevant in evaluating audience engagement.

You need to keep tabs on all engagement metrics and see the whole picture. But, when the CEO demands more engagement, they’re referring to the specific metrics representing engagement that will lead to conversion and ultimately, drive revenue.

Monitor basic audience engagement metrics

Keep in mind that each isolated engagement metric is meaningless when you look at it without context. Only when you benchmark engagement metrics against the industry average do you begin to gauge their value.

5 metrics to measure for audience engagement.

The basic engagement metrics every company should measure and benchmark are:

  • Unique visitors
    You want to know how many pairs of eyes view your site on average and compare the rate to your competitors. Also, investigate which pages or segments of your website or app get the most visits — view engagement metrics relative to unique visitors.
  • Average visit duration
    Measure how much time your visitors spend on your site on average and compare different site locations. Benchmark against the industry average and industry leader to evaluate.
  • Average page views
    Monitor the browsing activity of your visitors. Understand how much of your site content your visitors interact with. This is indicative of how much curiosity the content raises in the visitor.
  • New vs. returning visitors
    Establish the ratio between new and returning visitors for your website. While new visitors are always welcome, you might have a target for how many visitors you’d like to return to your site. Returning visitors is a primary way of measuring audience engagement.
  • Bounce rate
    Always keep an eye on the bounce rate. It can put all engagement metrics in a different light or raise a red flag. Benchmark to make sure it’s not off from the average bounce rate in your industry.

Take audience engagement analysis to the next level

So far, you’ve been looking at audience engagement the traditional way. What if you change the angle of your viewpoint? Instead of viewing engagement from your website location, look from the market’s side or the audience’s side.

What does that mean? Instead of relying on your website metrics, measure your audience’s metrics to understand how they see you and examine industry metrics to see where you fit in.

Here are some ideas on how to do that:

  • Audience overlap
    The Similarweb Audience Overlap Feature does exactly what it says: visualizes how audiences overlap with your competitors. See which competitor sites in your industry receive traffic from the same visitors and identify your strongest rivals.

Audience Overlap on similarweb.com for popular online brands.

  • Audience interest
    Measure real traffic to your and your competitors’ sites to understand who your toughest competitors are. Don’t rely on ranking. Differentiate between organic and paid search and discover who gets more engagement when searching for key terms. Comprehensive keyword research provides insights into how visitors reach your brand.

Audience interests for popular eCommerce sites.

  • Market mapping
    Create a competitive matrix with total traffic on the X-axis and a relevant engagement metric on the Y-axis. This way, you get a competitive market map and are able to see where you appear relative to the competitive landscape on the chart.

Example of market mapping matrix.

 Audience analysis on Similarweb for popular eCommerce sites.

With these deep insights, you can determine which competitors are driving the highest engagement and who the most engaged audiences are. For a more granular view, you should look at various site segments separately to unveil which features, products, or pages are popular.

No more guessing which competitor steals your audience and how they do it. This data shows you where to look and what to look for. Your marketing team doesn’t need to invent the wheel every time if you know which competitors to learn from. Others may already have found solutions.

Fun and creative audience engagement examples

Now let’s have some fun! When you investigate your competition, you’ll come across out-of-the-box ideas on how to drive audience engagement. We’ve done that for you this time and want to share some examples for inspiration.

We’ve all seen the hilarious recreations of famous artworks by regular people on social media, right? That wasn’t some crazy idea by a frustrated wannabe artist.

In 2020, when people couldn’t enjoy live exhibits, the Getty Museum found a creative way to keep the audience close. It challenged the public to recreate famous art pieces with regular household items and share them using a specific hashtag.

Giving the audience a chance to be seen and heard is a great way to get engagement. Companies encourage customers to provide feedback, tell a story around the brand, write poems, or pose with a product.

That’s what the fashion brand Zalando did when sales slipped during COVID-19. Replacing Casual Friday with Style Day Friday, the brand launched a campaign asking people to post images of themselves stylishly dressed each Friday. The outcome? Zalando doubled its engagement and quadrupled the number of followers with the campaign.

A more sales-focused approach, not involving social media, is reward programs. One version allows visitors to collect points to eventually be entitled to a discount or a giveaway. Loyalty and membership programs work the same way.

Here’s a particularly remarkable example of customer engagement enhancement. Fender is a large guitar manufacturer, but guitars aren’t something people frequently buy or collect, and there’s no reason to interact with the brand beyond the first purchase.

How did Fender keep its audience engaged after their guitar purchase? It launched a teaching app so beginners could stay connected, updated, and recommend the brand to others.

Speaking of recommendations, content should always be easily shareable. That also goes for interactive tools you might offer, such as calculators, quizzes, or games, that you may choose to motivate engagement.

What to remember about digital audience engagement

1. Meet consumers on their buyer journey

It’s critical to know your audience and its behavior. You can’t expect the same engagement from a visitor unfamiliar with your brand vs. from a returning customer. Offer engagement opportunities that match the buyer journey stage.

Pro Tip: Different cultures and age groups also show different levels of engagement, underlining the importance of audience research.

2. Stay aligned with your brand character

It’s vital to research your competition and learn how it engages with its audience to drive engagement. But don’t just copy-paste.. Create content and campaigns for engagement that fit the style, image, and values of your brand.

3. Experiment, test, and optimize

At the end of the day, you won’t know what works until you try it. Besides, digital technologies and marketing are constantly evolving. A channel that drove traffic yesterday may be abandoned tomorrow; currently hyper-popular content types may not last. In digital, nothing is forever, and you need to continue experimenting, testing, and optimizing.

Bonus advice for researchers and analysts

Don’t wait till the CEO’s demand rocks the boat. These things only come to the attention of management when revenue is affected. But by then, time is essential, and the pressure is on you.

If you analyze audience behavior and engagement continuously with the advanced metrics, you’ll be the one to point out that personalization alone doesn’t bring in the desired results anymore. You can turn the tables and raise the flag with optimization suggestions.

And don’t worry, Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence will be there to back you up.

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Audience engagement FAQ

What is audience engagement?

Digital audience engagement usually refers to the level of interactive visitor behavior with your brand. This includes your website, marketing campaigns, and social media.

Why is audience engagement important?

Visitors go through several stages in the buyer journey before they convert. Engagement along the way helps move them down the funnel, create a bond with your brand, and build customer loyalty. Engaged users are also more easily approachable – an advantage for the business.

How do you measure audience engagement?

A simple way is to determine engagement rate. To get a more comprehensive picture, measure and track various engagement metrics that matter to your business. Benchmarking them against the industry standard or your competition lets you evaluate.

How can you increase audience engagement in digital marketing?

Follow the three steps outlined in this blog post: 1. Know your audience and your competitors 2. Set KPIs 3. Monitor and benchmark to identify opportunities.

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