Oh yes I did -- I said the engagement word. And did I hear a small sigh? Is the word already starting to creep into the lexicon of marketecture? Has it fallen to the same reason that I can no longer utter the word leverage without people giggling? Is it all a bit, you know, web 2.0?

Or can we still talk about it as an industry best practice, a unit of measure, a goal or a set of tools for defining and describing that connection with our audience? I'll argue for the latter.

If I say that a vendor's product helps you “engage with your audience”, do your toes curl up as if I’ve just claimed it was ‘Web 2.0 compliant’? Would you think that I’ve drunk too much from the bottle marked ‘marketing’ -- or do your ears prick up in anticipation of learning something that might just be useful and relevant to your content, communications and marketing challenges?

In other words is Web Engagement going the way of Web 2.0 -- kinda hackneyed and passé? Or is striving toward engagement still (oh dear) engaging?

Last year on my blog I asked if CMS vendors had hopped off the Web 2.0 buzzword bus to the one marked Engagement. All of a sudden community, social and collaboration had a new moniker and it had a big E.

Beyond Conversation, Relevance

Of course web engagement is much more than formerly-known-as-web-two-oh. Web engagement isn’t just about giving folks a virtual suggestion box, or even hanging out in the same place where the audience is (say Facebook or Twitter) -- although these things help. It’s about a conversation, being relevant.

To be relevant need know what you are talking about, to understand your content. You also need to understand your audience, what are they interested in, why are they here? You need to have a point, an objective, what are you driving at? Why are you here?

Oh the Assortment of Content and Activity

As technologists, content professionals and strategists, the tools, techniques and best practices we need to apply to this are broad.

We have information about our audience in log files, analytics, marketing databases, call centers and CRM systems -- meanwhile our audience is laying breadcrumbs of likes and dislikes around the web.

We have mavens, sneezers, connectors, influencers in our markets that are telling our audience (and us) that this, this or this are the very coolest things around. Stay here, buy that, follow so-and-so or read this.

Of course we have content, or “things that might be of interest” everywhere, not just our websites, our manuals, the user generated stuff our employees are creating, our emails, our support systems, oh and that file share thing that the new intern uses.

We have multiple channels to publish that stuff, our websites, our social media and our email campaigns -- we are under pressure to deliver fast, safe, accessible, reliable, legal and yet beautiful.

Somehow we need to meld that morass together into something that will please our time poor, attention deficient visitor into a coherent experience, of you, your brand, your message, your product, your service, your status as a trusted advisor and partner in whatever it is this person is trying to do with you.

My god, this engagement thing is huge!

A Phrase Abused, Yet Real, Relevant

But, I’m starting to see people crinkle their noses up a little now when you mention Engagement. Some now sport that funny little ‘they all say that’ smirk -- I even got it when I mentioned that I specialized in WCM as someone smiled “you mean ‘engagement’ right?”

..and that got me wondering.

Are we now witnessing the beginning of the passing of a marketing fad, are we losing the word engagement to those buzzword marketing fiends that stole our ‘leverage’ and ‘Web 2.0’ or can we keep it, to describe a digital communication concept?

Learning Opportunities

The term ‘Web 2.0’ is of course different, an event, a something that will happen, it was always going to date -- it even has a version number for chrisakes -- and then we’ll move on to the next thing.

I think commentators now describe the Web 2.0 epoch (if there is one) as post “social media revolution” or maybe “the day the deer got the guns”.

It’s the time the participatory web became mainstream, when regular consumers gained a platform to speak, it’s when we offered functionality not just brochures, it’s...well, you’re a CMSWire reader and you know all of that.

It’s a thing that happened to us all and we are there now.

The concept of Engagement is different. It happens today, tomorrow, the next day. It’s evolving, subtle and it’s personal.

If you’ve read my stuff before, or heard me speak, you’ll gasp at the fact I’ve gone 600 odd words without a story or an analogy. So, I’ll finish with this:

My Dad gets followed silently on Twitter by a tourist information website. It's because he tweeted about going to their county -- and for him this event is a bit scary.

If they’d said hello first and perhaps offered him a voucher for a cup of tea or decent pint, or maybe a link to coastal walk, he’d be back and emailing his friends.

How do they know he likes tea, coastal walks or beer? They might not or that might be the only reason people visit the town. But how do they know he’d interpret being followed as "I’m listening"? They didn’t know that either.

What they did have was the opportunity to ask the man if he had enjoyed Kent and if he'd like a free beer.

Now that’s engaging. So please Mr Marketing, can we keep it?