Suddenly, everyone in the content management world has jumped off the Web 2.0 buzzword bus and jumped on the one marked ‘Engagement’. What does this mean? Where are we really going? Folks seem to have merely scribbled out yesterday’s out of favour term ‘Web 2.0’ and inked in ‘Engagement’ and are using it as a label for community building; social media web tools – like blogs, wikis and comments.

Is that right? Is that Engagement?

I think to a certain extent it is. Social media is just one pillar of an organisation’s audience, citizen or customer engagement strategy, and to implement this we do need tools. Having access to social media tools on your website also says something about you as an organisation and if you can motivate your community to comment, then even better. We all love the opinion of someone else like me that bought this product.

As well as the tools that we tack onto our own websites, there are of course also tools to reach out to other folks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and WordPress, which is perhaps a more essential focus for a social media strategy. What people say on these sites will hold more weight for your audience – it’s independent and it’s discussed with a community of folks that have self-selected and could potentially be your audience.

How frequently do people engage with you when they have some thoughts on your products and services, compared with how often they engage with each other, with their friends, with other people in your potential audience and community?

I know from my own browsing habits if I don’t like a website, its brand, its products or its prices, I’ll not hang around to leave a comment – 99.99% of the time I’ll vote with my mouse and go elsewhere.

I am not saying 99.99% to be sensational, think about how many site visits you make, visits that made you think about something or that you had a reaction to – how many times did you leave a comment? It’s a fraction of a percentage.

I have a burning desire to get something done or find something out – my time (and that of your visitors) is precious. And, of course, only a tiny fraction of these experiences will get me sufficiently engaged and emotional to bother Tweeting about it.

So, what can you learn from what people are doing and saying when they interact with us – the other 99.99% of those conversations, when people don’t comment?

People will engage with us through behaviour, through coming to our website, clicking on our content, linking to us, buying our products, downloading our whitepapers or reacting to our call to action.

It’s that kind of non-verbal communication (alright, so typing a comment isn’t ‘verbal’ but hopefully you see what I mean) that we need to analyze because it is at the crux of our engagement conversation. Even the simple metrics of how long people stay, how many pages they view and how deep they go will give you some insight.

What we’ve established here is that those that comment are the minority – an important minority, but still a minority. Putting too much focus in your engagement strategy on this noisy minority might mean you are missing something that good analytics would indentify. Engagement is about understanding and listening, and not just to the people that are shouting.