Some say WEM's the latest WCM marketing ploy. Some have never heard the phrase. We think Web Engagement Management (WEM) is an important change in the way people build and utilize web content management systems.

The Web as We Knew It

Step back with us for a second. Pre-blogging and before the social media explosion the Web was good stuff -- but not nearly as central to information workers' and marketing managers' lives as it has become. But since we're talking WEM, it's the marketers who get our focus.

In many cases an organization's website started out as a stand-alone entity managed by marketing to act as simply another promotional channel. It had pretty pictures, fancy marketing words and maybe a product brochure or two to download. It talked at visitors, telling them what they ought to think and do.

Thankfully, the Web has been busy evolving. E-commerce has been here all along, forcing marketers to consider the Web a potentially vibrant channel. Personalization had a rough start in the late 90's, but has maintained a faint presence, mainly has a facilitator of e-commerce.

But the communication was still really one way -- the marketers talked at you, not with you; content was static from a conversational perspective; feedback loops were largely patched together, if they existed at all; and customers' digital voices came through perhaps only via the odd web form or two.

The post Dot Com Bust years brought pain and suffering -- and on the brighter side, the Cluetrain Manifesto. This book proclaimed the "end of business as usual" and that "markets are conversations." In 2005, lo, hark, we have Tim O'Reilly formalizing the term Web 2.0 and launching the conference. These events marked the beginning of web engagement.

A new Web was emerging. It was one overflowing with blogs, mashable, syndicated content feeds, comments and trackbacks, social networking and social media sentiment. People were conversing up a storm and spending a lot more time online. Expectations where shifting too. Formalities and firewalls were being dropped right and left. The tone of communications changed.

Sharp organizations reacted -- listening,  participating and rebuilding their web presences to engage visitors, to give them a voice and a response. Sharp technology vendors reacted -- building in new features and formulating what, in 2007, we called Web 2.0 Content Management.

We think we're entering a new phase now. Its mechanics are not the same -- much of the technology and concepts have existed for some time. No, in our opinion, web engagement management is about process and technology convergence. It's about managing content, conversations, conversions and relevance in mostly the same place and at almost the same time.

WEM is an Evolution, Not a Revolution

Web engagement management involves real technology evolution, but is also a strategy or a framework for how an organization brings together its resources to optimize their digital presence. It is a natural evolution for how business must be conducted in today's world.

In 2007 we laid-out 6 principles of Web 2.0 Content Management:

  1. Be Informal; Embrace the Bottom-up Model
  2. Data is the Application
  3. Participation is Key
  4. The Interface Must be Rich, Yet Simple
  5. Content is Objects, Not Pages.
  6. The Web is a Multi-device, Evolving Platform

These are still good ideas and continue to inform our thinking on things Web. However, customers and visitors are demanding more from digital experiences today. They want to be remembered, to have the most relevant content delivered instantly and to have consistent brand experiences across devices. Marketers want technology to enable them, multiply their force and be easy to use. Sharp companies and technology providers are evolving to meet these needs.

Denise Schiffman (see blog), a respected marketing consultant and the author of ‘The Age of Engage’ said this:

"In this reinvention of marketing, it is the fast, the unique, the innovative and creative, the socially connected and, most importantly, those who engage their audience that will win."

WEM is by and large an evolution of marketing supported by Web CMS and other technologies. It builds on Web 2.0, and in our world of content management, shepherds in an era where content strategists work alongside marketers -- the WCM talks to the CRM, the WCM plays a role in demand generation, analytics are native and multi-channel, and marketers are empowered to define personalization profiles and configure multi-variate-based content optimizations in the Web CMS platform.

"While the old Web was about sites, clicks and eyeballs, the new Web is about communities, participation and peering," wrote Don Tapscott in his book Wikinomics. The numerous opportunities people have to network and collaborate have transformed electronic interactions into much more distinct, weighty and personal communications. A reinvention of marketing logically follows, or as one vendor in our space recently said:

"Marketing is changing because we are changing."

The way an organization manages their role in this new Web, the way they formalize their approach in relating to their audiences, is what defines Web Engagement Management.

The 5 Pillars of WEM

Web Engagement Management is a composite concept. These are the 5 parts we consider its core:

  1. Content Optimization
    This include native or tightly integrated analytics, content and experience personalization, multi-variate testing and optimization and SEO.
  2. Multi-channel Management
    Consistency is important and WEM maintains it by delivering the same message/experience to customers across devices and channels both online and offline.
  3. Conversational Engagement
    WEM supports this through communities, user generated content, commenting, trackbacks, micro-blogging, social media integration, analytics, social media monitoring and sentiment analysis.
  4. Demand Generation
    Targeted marketing is huge. With an overall goal of increasing the number and quality of relationships, WEM comes to the aid of demand generators through need recognition, relevancy enhancements and engagement triggers.
  5. Sales Automation
    Love isn't the only two-way street, and as social media analyst Jeremiah Owyang put it, "real-time isn't fast enough." This idea is manifest in WEM in areas like two-way CRM integration, social CRM and e-mail or other campaign integration with the content platform.

Content Management: The Tie that Binds

These 5 pillars all rest on the web content management foundation. Just about everything you can do to engage with your audience is facilitated or aided by a solid content management and distribution core.

It's how you create and manage content, including primary web content, multi-device content, blogs, forums and wikis. Your WCM platform is also the hub of your social media integrations and increasingly the dashboard by which you view your brand's conversational world.

Building Your WEM Strategy

Not every organization is going to have the same approach to web engagement. The framework you build depends on a number of things:

  • Who your audiences are and what they expect
  • What type of products or services you provide
  • What level of executive buy-in you have
  • Your broader marketing  and technology strategies

Over the course of this month, we'll be digging into various aspects of WEM -- providing you with information on the tools and strategies you need. We'll also look at how technology is evolving, where it's currently an enabler and where the gapping cracks still exist.

Significant R&D is going into this space and previously distinct practices are converging. From where we're sitting, it's an exciting time. We encourage you to be a part of this conversation, either through the comments here, via twitter (@cmswire) or via our Facebook page.