The engagement trap is very real, it’s very dangerous, and most of us are caught in it.
But engagement itself isn’t bad. The problem is when:
a) You align your efforts to drive the most engagement.
b) Engagement is all your colleagues understand about building community.
In a perfect world, you would ignore engagement metrics entirely and focus on the outcomes of this engagement (i.e. if engagement drives more loyalty, satisfaction, leads, search traffic etc…you would measure those things instead of engagement).
But often you can’t easily do this.
Sometimes you can’t get the data you need. Other times, no-one seems clear what the goal of the community should be. And, most often, someone senior just wants to have a big active community at the moment for a reason even they struggle to explain.
You can push back a little, but pushing too hard to be measured by outcomes can create more value than it solves.
This happens often in our consultancy work too. The solution is to build your boss/client’s wishes into a longer-term strategic roadmap for your community.
If everyone understands driving engagement is part of a stepping stone to driving clear results, you can avoid the engagement trap.
In practice, this usually means you create a 6 to a 24-month roadmap with goals to hit such as:
- Months 0 to 6: Reach a critical mass of activity
- Months 6 to 12: Drive up engagement.
- Months 12 to 24: Align members behaviors to most valuable actions.
Each of these will also need its own strategic plan.
Now you have engagement as part of a longer-term process to driving results. You know exactly how much engagement you need to move to the next phase. Better yet, everyone can get on board and track progress.
Chasing engagement or chasing value doesn’t have to be two mutually exclusive options.