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Defining & Measuring Engagement – A Holy Grail? (part IV)

September 4, 2008

The 5 C’s of Engagement
Fundamentally, engagement is a state of deeply occupied attention. This may or may not include active elements of involvement and participation. For example, I might find a video highly engaging, although watching is pretty much a passive experience. Playing games, creating digital art, and messaging friends are good examples of active engagement.

I categorize digital engagements/experiences by 5 Cs

• Captivation
• Conversation
• Collaboration
• Creation
• Commerce

Captivation is often a passive form of engagement: watching videos, listening to music, or viewing images. It’s important to understand there is a strong qualitative factor that separates apathetic media consumption from captivation. This is one reason I feel ‘time spent’ is an inadequate measure of true engagement. Ten minutes of exposure to second-rate content doesn’t carry twice the weight of a compelling experience lasting five minutes. I also consider single-player games, demonstrations, and e-learning applications interactive platforms for captivation.


Conversation is a highly interactive form of engagement and a fundamental characteristic of social media. Posting, commenting, and messaging are means for users to engage others in opinions and ideas. From a brand marketer’s perspective, conversations are a powerful force that can drive product awareness, consideration and affinity. Like captivation, conversations that are entertaining, emotional, or otherwise provide value are more engaging than conversations that don’t.

Collaboration through wikis, multi-player games, and work applications are other examples of engagement. Brands have only scratched the surface in building collaborative experiences that let consumers not only interact with each other, but with a brand in creating something interesting.

Creation is a form of engagement that encompasses two separate activities: making and sharing. Digital toys, drawing and music applications are just a few examples of platforms that allow users to make their own creations. Product customization and visualization features also fall into this category. Media sharing platforms that allow users to post and share images, video, and digital documents overlap the creation and conversation experience.

Commerce might be the most powerful form of engagement. The seemingly prosaic process of shopping and purchasing is often one of the most memorable interactions we ever have with a brand. Likewise, the experiential factors of seeking product information, quotes, and customer service have a critical impact on conversion and affinity.

Next time: Are all engagements created equal?

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