Imagine sending a group of firefighter recruits into a burning building with the expectation that, despite not having any real knowledge of how fires burn, they will put it out. No fire chief would do that. Yet that’s exactly what companies do with digital engagement. They assemble entire teams to improve digital engagement despite the fact that no one really knows what it actually is.
The business world’s penchant for jargon makes it easy to work the phrase ‘digital engagement’ into so many different conversations. Talking about digital engagement sounds great. It sounds hip, modern, and informed. But if the people responsible for engagement do not know what it means, how on earth can they do it?
A Basic Definition
You can search online and find some pretty complicated definitions of digital engagement. For this post, we’ll start with the simplest definition possible. Master it and all the more complex definitions take care of themselves.
Former UK Department of Health Deputy Head of Digital Tim Lloyd offers one of the most profound definitions of digital engagement ever. He says that “digital engagement is anything and everything that involves an online conversation.”
Unfortunately, his definition really pertains mainly to the digital aspect. It doesn’t help us understand the engagement portion. For that, we turn to the Cambridge Dictionary. Here is how it defines ‘engage’:
- To interest someone in something and keep them thinking about it
- To become involved, or have contact, with someone or something.
Combining the Cambridge Dictionary with Lloyd’s definition reveals that digital engagement is using online tools to make contact with people, get them involved, and generate interest.
Messaging Isn’t Engagement
The mistake so many companies make is believing that digital messaging equals digital engagement. It does not. A message is a message; it is one-sided and moves only in one direction. Engagement is two-sided; it moves in both directions.
It’s not enough for a company to get its marketing message out. It is not enough to put time and effort into pushing the brand. If genuine digital engagement is to take place, companies need to find a way to solicit a positive response from customers.
A positive response opens the door to a conversation. When companies and their customers have conversations, that’s when they are truly engaged. That is when the magic happens. Where there is no conversation, there are only messages trying to find someone to resonate with.
It All Starts with Data
So, how do companies effectively facilitate digital engagement? By using available tools and technologies to meet customers where they are. Just know this: it all starts with data. Companies rely on data to tell them how to engage. If they are working with unreliable data, their efforts are not likely to pay off.
The best data is first-party data, according to healthcare tech company iMedical Data. Their proprietary healthcare databases are built around first-party data that is reliable and up to date.
The right data tells companies who the target audience is. It explains how that target audience can be reached most effectively. It offers insights into how a company’s digital engagement efforts are performing. Leverage the right data and digital engagement becomes an exercise in following that data wherever it leads.
Digital engagement is often misunderstood as mere marketing using digital means. Such misunderstandings are forgivable given the fact that marketing and engagement are often seen as synonymous. But in the end, marketing is more closely aligned with messaging than engagement.
When customers are engaged, they are actively interacting with the messengers. In the modern era, digital means are the most common way to foster it.