As the holidays approach, my SKY+ hard disk (PVR/Tivo thing) is brimming with movies ready for the onset of quality time with my young family. Perhaps our viewing pleasure as I recuperated from what I anticipate to be a fine lunch could be an old movie that I think will entertain the girls – the musical Oliver!. In it they sing “Who will buy”, something I have been hearing on blogs and twitter about Web Engagement.

OK, so as festive holiday themed posts go, this is tenuous. In fact, in a fit of self doubt I am now not even sure the film Oliver! is that well known outside the UK, so if you too would like to have the song playing on loop in your head as you read this, you can go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4gzmoUHrQ4

Anyway… let’s press on…

So, who will buy this web engagement?

To me this is like asking the question “who will buy customer satisfaction?”

Of course the answer is nobody can.

Everyone would want to wave a magic dollar bill, watch the world go fuzzy and instantly see service metrics hockey stick up and to the right – but of course the truth is as fanciful as buying “this wonderful morning”. The same is absolutely true of web engagement, being satisfied or being engaged is not something you can choose for someone else – they’ll decide.

If I look at this blog for example if I talk about WordPress or social media these pages become popular – but is being popular about WordPress the engagement objective of this blog? There are also people that end up this site looking for information about ‘The Yes Man’ book or film, I feel for them as it was an analogy I used in an early post – but I am not going to culture engagement with those folks. To me their clicks are just noise, to them my content is noise and please bounce on, sorry to have troubled you.

As I think I’ve probably mentioned once or twice before, we need to get smarter about understanding the level of engagement we have with our visitors beyond the crude counting of clicks or bounce rates. Our websites are not popularity contests.

I recently wrote about providing customer service over our websites and in that case the number of clicks and pages viewed in the session may actually be the symptom of a pissed off visitor, caught up in a maze of content, frustrated that they can’t get the answer they are looking for. Of course, it may not, it maybe your next customer eagerly consuming everything you’ve written on a subject. The point is, you don’t know and counting clicks won’t tell you.

Think about the decision process that went into the last page published on your website, was it in response to a need of the visitor, was it an act of vanity, was it because you’ve always done that, or that everyone else does that? What information do you have that help inform that decision?

But every conversation about engagement cannot be solely about just understanding the visitor, the reason why I get so excited about web engagement from a content management professionals perspective is that it drives organizations to look closely at the life blood of the web engagement thing – content.

Yes, yes, we’ve been wanging on about the core competencies of web content management; separation of content from presentation, the componentization of content, understanding the content through metadata, the democratization of content authoring, dynamic delivery etc etc… for a billion years. I really think that publishing to this multi-channel, multi-destination splinternet really brings these needs to light, maybe it flushes out those webpage or website publishing tools from content management.

I think to do this engagement thing properly start with a decent WCM and content management strategy before you start rushing to provide your visitor with a personalized view of your grubby, out of date under garments. Basically, if we understand web engagement as a business objective, then we can start describing the capability of the tools in a business context and get people to pay attention to the important conversations we have, like why WordPress is not a terribly good CMS…

Anyway, I should get back to my point – Who will buy this web engagement? You can’t – but will they buy the tools to execute a web engagement management strategy – absolutely.

By the way… analytics and content are just two of the five things that we at Gilbane think are important for folks to look at for web engagement, the rest are here.