A Meaningful Engagement Story

In previous articles I created a New York Times hypothetical example to illustrate how to make a compelling engagement story work in an advertising discussion. I have also done the same with CondeNet. To cite an actual case study, I will turn to a company I worked for several years ago, CNET Networks. Now part of CBS Interactive, the company has a rich history of telling powerful engagement stories that lead to actionable insight for advertisers. I spoke recently with Dave Morris, CBS Interactive Chief Client Officer (now there's a great title!), who outlined how the company is using site data to provide advertisers with actionable site intelligence. With a portfolio of sites that span consumer to business technology, CBS Interactive has taken a unique approach to using audience intelligence to offer marketers the kind of insight that can drive strategy and tactics. Consider the following engagement stories, their plot lines, characterization, and epiphanies:



Games: attracts a community of game enthusiasts who share their experiences and views with each other. CBS Interactive can chart the "buzz" connected to an upcoming game launch and gauge positive or negative market perceptions, show a story line that connects audience buzz and activity to brand and product editorial coverage, competitive announcements, and game introductions.

Consumer technology: can show a laptop vendor how the market is shopping in relation to a specific product. Let's say that a user comes to the front door of via a search for a Lenovo laptop. CNET can show Lenovo how the audience is comparing that product to others from Lenovo -- and from the competitive set. Editorial video and text reviews, user ratings, editorial comparison charts, user-initiated product comparison charts, and advertising clicks can show Lenovo that perhaps, in addition to the expected competitive mindshare of HP and Dell, for a specific notebook Samsung or Sony have, per Lenovo's expectations, a surprising degree of consumers' interest and consideration.

Business: Sites like BNET, ZDNet, and TechRepublic focus on the business user. The sites offer a unique tool for marketers, Business Trax, which allows near-real time views of the audiences' interaction with content on ZDNet and TechRepublic. With BT Trax, as Morris said, "We can show a marketer how to influence the business technology decision process, from an 300X90 awareness ad unit to a 30-page white paper, all about the company and its product." CBS Interactive's Business group can do this by categorizing content and tools in terms of the marketing process. General editorial may be tagged as awareness. A video about a strategy for a technology solution may be tagged as consideration. A white paper on a specific product may be tagged as an even deeper level of consideration -- closer in the sales funnel to the actual transaction. Gathering intelligence via search terms, content click depth, video or audio interaction, community postings, and downloads, CNET can then show a marketer a great deal about mindshare trends, company and product awareness, interest and consideration.

"We use our audience insight to help our customers be successful," said Morris. "We can then very credibly advise them on particular programs and ad units to run. The better we do this, the more everyone wins." The chart below offers a sample view into the way that an engagement story can be told:


Essentially the visitor searches, actions and interaction are categorized in five buckets that mirror the advertising/marketing sales funnel: awareness, interest, engagement, consideration and "deep" consideration. In the above chart, they can show HP, Dell, IBM and Sun visitor actions that correlate to purchase cycle behavior. Is this information credible -- can HP really believe, for example, that its "consideration" numbers have dropped dramatically in the most recent period? The key of course is the credibility of the way that visitor activity is classified. According to Business Trax, "consideration" and "deep consideration" begin when users register for information and begin to download gated documents, video, audio, and produce community information relative to HP, to continue the example, and its products.

The CNET / CBS Interactive example here is one rich with audience data that can offer advertisers strategic insight on their marketing success and challenges. And because it so clearly maps to the customer sales funnel, it stands out as the kind of audience engagement story that a marketer would really care about.

What other engagement stories are leading marketers to these kinds of insights? Let me hear your epiphanies!

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