Online and across various digital products, publishers have long touted their audience volume as the primary success metric—CPM rates are based on these numbers, after all. But engagement and performance metrics are also valued, especially via social media, which can greatly increase engagement counts for an online brand.

“Engagement metrics are tremendously important,” says Mark Howard, Forbes Media’s SVP of digital advertising strategy. “Everyone’s got the impressions and the clicks, but for us, and for so many others, there’s a lot more to the story than just the clicks.”

Howard says that the ability to track, report and optimize engagement metrics presents Forbes with a huge differentiator in the marketplace since social strength is an important factor for the brand.

Transparent Numbers

“We have the pageview counts in addition to social share counts readily available on every page,” he says. “We have a ‘Most Popular’ section—it’s based off of an algorithm we created. It’s a combination of total views, outbound shares and comments. In this area, some stories make it in off of the views and others often make it in because of a high volume of commenting or distribution through one of the different social platforms. We’re elevating content so people can discover it more easily based off the fact that is has this social activity taking place and not just off of the popularity contest that is pageviews.”

Howard says more savvy buyers already ask for this type of data but the company is also tracking campaigns across the “core-four” engagement metrics the brand tallies: percentage viewed, time in view, interaction rates and interaction times of ads.

“We’re presenting this data back to our advertisers,” he says. “We know that the impressions and clicks really just represent the tip of the iceberg. It’s really all of these other metrics associated with how the user is engaging with the unit and with the page that are most important.”

Gawker Media has built a business model around highly sharable content and acknowledges that quality engagement metrics are exceedingly important in the ad-buying market place.

“We’re seeing a lot of requests for engagement metrics beyond the standard reach metrics that years ago would have been just fine,” says Erin Pettigrew, executive director of business development for Gawker Media. “They want some understanding of the level of interaction with the advertising we’re producing for them.”

Keeping Engagement On-Site

Gawker gets requests from advertisers for things like Facebook, Twitter and comment activity, which usually come through in the RFP process. Pettigrew adds that the RFP will include a few bullet points on the publisher’s potential to augment social engagement or interaction levels of a campaign. She says about 70 to 80 percent of advertisers are asking for that information.

“Engagement has to exist on our property and be something we encourage,” she says. “It shouldn’t be an off-network activity. Larger social networks can take away from our readership and borrow from our brand credibility in other places. It’s important that we start to bring it back and focus on growing our own, essentially, social property. That’s the direction we want to go.”

Expanding Your Brand into Live Events
Check out this related session at The Folio: Show, November 1-2 in NYC!

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