Digital, remote, hybrid, and other kinds of virtual events are all on the rise. Whether you’re hosting a product demonstration, social occasion, networking function, webinar, or even an international conference, the benchmark for success is no longer simply a matter of attendance, but rather how engaged and involved attendees were with the you virtually shared together. Considering the investment of time, resources, and technology that goes into coordinating a virtual event – making certain you’re getting the best-possible return-on-response is crucial in today’s marketing landscape.
So, What IS Engagement Anyway?
The “engagement” buzzword has been growing in popularity and usage over the past few years, with everyone from social media to website development firms promising complicated algorithms that demonstrate the levels to which they’ve delivered on this new metric of effectiveness.
And yet, the term “engagement” continues to be elusive. Some say it’s a measure of consumer or audience interest. Others will say it is an element of relationship building. Still others might say it is the act of “priming” a prospect to receive more directed marketing messages. All of these concepts are correct, but they each represent only part of the picture. When taken as a whole, engagement is the decision point at which a person agrees to be part of your brand’s story or narrative.
Think about what that means for your individual product, service, or business. A person who simply shows up to a digital or virtual event is far different from someone who participates in real-time surveys, re-tweets content, or provides product reviews. Each of those activities and others like them reflect a chain of interconnected behaviors that move a person from casual awareness to actual engagement.
How Engagement Works
- Interest – this is the spark that brings people in the digital door. It should be relevant to your audience, truthful about your brand, and propose some sort of benefit to the appropriate end-user.
- Discovery – if the spark was successful, then Discovery is the phase of fanning small embers into larger flames. Messaging and activities in this phase should almost work like breadcrumbs, entreating you audience to give them a little more attention, and a little more, all the while rewarding them with previously unknown knowledge, more excitement, or an entertaining use of their time.
- Response – there are very few consumer transactions these days that move directly to purchase or contract from a single interaction. Giving your audience other ways to respond keeps them involved in the cycle of engagement at a level of involvement equal to their current comfort level. This may be as simple as giving a speaker a rating, asking questions in real-time, engaging in an interactive game, or sharing a personal thought or photo. Like discovery, each response should feel “worthwhile” to the person giving it, and help remove mental barriers towards providing future responses.
- Ownership – remember that engagement is the decision point at which someone agrees to be part of your brand’s story. But even more than that, it’s not a one-time decision. The highest levels of “engagement” come from that agreement happening over and over again, consistently, across multiple interactions. Your virtual event itself is only one-such interaction on the path towards Ownership, the stage at which your audience believes or is “on board” with your message. The digital check-in experience, post-even follow up, giveaways, customer service, and other encounters all have the power to improve or detract from engagement.
Strategic Engagement Boosters
Interacting with your audience by asking for likes or one-click reactions is only the beginning of what is possible when it comes for enhancing engagement. Try thinking along the following strategic lines and then consider how you may approach non-traditional ways to achieve a specific strategic goal.
Know Your Audience
Don’t be content to rely on aggregated sales data and purchased demographic reports to tell you what matters to your audience – get them involved in telling you directly. It may be a teaser invitation that welcomes attendees to submit ideas about what kind of content or activities they expect to see. Or, it may be something you notice everyone in a particular market complaining about, but no one ever offers to solve. Listen to what your audience says and then apply that towards your “spark” of Interest.
Be a Trendsetter
Don’t settle for “basic” solutions when innovative integrated options exist. A good example is Sparkup – which takes two-way digital communication to the next level with multiple ways for attendees to get involved and be active in a conversation or event. At VIBE Agency, we’ve been impressed with how real-time feedback and customized interactions grab audience members and keep them interested throughout the event. It also provides useful reporting and observations that can be used to optimize future events or follow ups. We’re so fond of it, in fact, that we’re able to give VIBE clients a 10% discount on Sparkup features for their events.
Dare to be Different
“Another day, another Zoom,” is quickly becoming the catchphrase for virtual events that lack inspiration or planning. Think of your virtual event the same as you would one that happens in-person. Would you rather sit or stand quietly in an empty room with a podium until someone reads a series of notecards and bids you farewell, or would you rather enter a welcome gallery of photos and videos, and then join in an energetic kick-off activity and maybe win a surprise challenge? Easy decision, right? The same holds true for the digital event experience – and it can happen when guests receive invitations, reminders, with custom event waiting rooms, doorstep door-prize deliveries, and much more.
Stay In Touch
The greatest value any event experience delivers – virtual or otherwise – is its ability to attract more attendees to future events. Engagement is definitely something that can, and should be, paid forward. Keeping in contact with your audience not only presents additional opportunities for Discovery and Response along the engagement cycle, but also recruits those who have taken Ownership of your brand’s story into becoming ambassadors for your brand. With that kind of engagement, there is almost limitless potential available for growing your business, creating steady sales, increasing brand loyalty, and becoming a recognized leader in your industry.
About the VIBE Agency: The VIBE Agency is a Miami-based award-winning full-service production agency that specializes in the creation and orchestration of live and virtual experiences for the corporate industry. The agency is forward-thinking and was recognized as one of the 50 top event companies by Special Events magazine in 2019.