Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Time Spent Is The Right Metric To Measure Engagement
By Cory Treffiletti
If you're attempting to measure engagement online, you're most likely looking at time spent in ad units as one of your primary considerations -- and if you're not, then you're probably doing it wrong. That being said, keeping a watchful eye on time spent in a single ad unit is only telling a part of the whole story, so you're still not looking at the whole picture.
The fact is that we have many, many different metrics we can evaluate to determine success -- but when you break them all down, time spent across the entire campaign is the only one that truly covers all bases. Click rate is not the right metric and it hasn't been for quite some time. Interaction rates are good, but they can be gamed by the creative and influenced using trickery. Conversion rates are ideal, but not always applicable when you're trying to drive an offline transaction that can't be measured in a single online session.
Traditional brands that are looking to spend money online are looking at ways to generate awareness, create interest, stimulate desire and inspire action (the typical AIDA model that we all learned in Marketing 101). These metrics ultimately measure consideration and intent, which translate to sales and market share. If consumers spend time with the brand, whether it's via searching for information on Google, visiting the core Web site, or engaging in discussions and commenting with bloggers, then they are spending time with the brand -- and this is what you should be measuring.
Time spent is a standard measure that can be applied to a rich media display effort, but measuring time spent is much more interesting if you can aggregate together the time spent on the activities mentioned above. The only way to do that is to create an organizational plan in your media that forecasts the number of touches you have with a brand and the resultant amount of time spent with the brand. For example, if you're running a campaign that integrates social media, mobile, search and display, then you should attempt to evaluate the total number of exposures, as well as the visits you'll drive to the site and the increase in total mentions that can be measured within social media by using established tools.
Once you understand the total touches, you can either measure directly or assume through general patterns what the time spent is across each of these vehicles, and then create a cumulative time spent for the campaign. This metric is actually quite relevant to traditional media, where TV advertisers tend to evaluate their campaigns against a GRP as well as a cost per point. The cost per point assumes that value of the exposure, which is typically in a fixed setting of either 15, 30 or 60 seconds. In online you can assign the value of the media to the total time spent and create a cost per point-esque metric that not only measures efficiency of the initial exposure, but provides an apples-to-apples comparison of one campaign to the next.
When you break down the individual media vehicles, time spent is actually quite easy to report on -- so why shouldn't this become the de-facto metric for measuring engagement? If consumers spend more time than the average, they must be interested in your product or service -- and if they are interested, that is a measure of intent. The more efficient you are at implementing a campaign, which includes paid as well as non-paid placements, the more likely your campaign will be to drive that increase, which ultimately results in sales.
If you're using time spent in this manner, share with us on the Spin board what success you're seeing. If you aren't using it in this manner, tell me what you think. Would you give it a try? Would you agree with the concept? Let me know!
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Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.
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