Defining a universal “engagement metric” (sounds like what Nielsen/NetRatings trying to do?) is like finding the holy grail. So while we all are trying to crack the code on how to best measure engagement, Compete created an important sister metric a few months back called “Attention” (freely available on Compete.com).
The Attention metric considers total time we collectively spend online and determines what percentage of that total time was spent on a given site. For example: If MySpace has Attention of 12%, it translates to: Of all time spent online by all U.S. internet users, 12% was spent on MySpace. You can also interpret the 12% as “the average internet user in the U.S. spends 12% of their online time on MySpace”.
Since “Attention” is based on time, logically the more time we spend on a site, the more attention we give it. Think of Attention as finite – a pie-chart – so the sites that are increasing in Attention over time are performing well along this metric.
I believe true engagement on the other hand is more of a spectrum that requires attitudinal inputs, and that the idea of a “universal” engagement is nice, but in practice it should generally be specific to a firm or product. What constitutes engagement for one product may be very different to even its competitors, let alone firms in other industries.
Why care about “Attention”?
Marketers need universal measures in order to put their own performance into context – relative to rivals, peers, or anyone else they want to compare themselves to. While Compete doesn’t present Attention as the king of all metrics, and certainly not as a one-size-fits-all metrics, it is an important additional piece of the puzzle of online measurement and engagement, and a step in the right direction.