There’s a new term that replacing the idea of Return on Investment (ROI), and that’s Return on Engagement (ROE). At first glance, it seems like just another slightly clever rebranding of old ideas, but actually it’s a complete paradigm shift.
The term ROI focuses on money – the ratio of net profit to investment cost. And that makes a lot of sense when looking at actual costs of physical things. But think about something like a digital signage system – does it make sense to think about it in terms of finances? It can if you’re trying to offset the costs of deployment (the hardware, the CMS software, the labor-hours employees spend creating and managing content, etc.) with income generation techniques (like charging local businesses or internal groups to advertise on your digital signs). But is that really all you want to measure?
If you have a digital signage system in place, why did you get it? And if you’re considering getting one, ask yourself why you want one. Even with income-generating schemes in place, and factoring in cost savings a digital communications platform brings, you might break even or possibly make a small profit, but your organization isn’t going to get rich using digital signage for communications. Monetary gain is not the point.
Most likely you want to communicate more effectively with your audience – whether that’s internal employees, event attendees or the general public. You’re using something tangible, digital signs, to positively affect something intangible, human minds. So, a term like ROI just doesn’t really fit the bill.
Return on Engagement, on the other hand, does. It looks at brand strength and strategy, and knitting together a disparate group of individuals into a community. The digital signs themselves, and the content they display, are tools you use to attract and engage people, and get them take certain actions, or change the way they behave, or change the way they think about things. That’s a very different thing than simply measuring money in and money out.
But how do you measure something intangible like engagement? What does it even mean? There are three ways to look at media you have:
- Owned media – assets that are yours, like your website
- Paid media – things you pay for, like advertising
- Earned media – value added to your organization and brand through participation in things like social media pages, content marketing, etc.
Engagement means people are actively involved in your communications. They are following your calls to action, they are talking about what they see on the screens with others, they are actively following the advice the digital signs present, and they are talking advantage of opportunities being offered. This is the earned media aspect of your communications efforts.
One way to think about how engaging your digital signage is would be to think of things in terms of other digital communication methods that are already commonplace and in everyone’s lives on a daily basis – websites and social media pages. Taking inspiration from these forms of communication can help you decide what to measure and how to measure it.
Time and Action
One important thing to look at is how long people look at your screens. This is known as dwell time on websites, and means the length of time people spend on a webpage before going back to the search results that got them to the page in the first place. The idea is that, the longer people spend on a page, the more engaged they must be with it. And when people click through to another page from that page, rather than going back to the search results, that’s even more engagement.
Your digital signage messages display for a set amount of time (hopefully 7-10 seconds), so dwell time doesn’t correlate exactly. But there are a couple of things you can measure that are similar. One is simply this: do people look at the screens? If people just walk past without paying any attention, then they obviously aren’t engaged with your content. You can measure this by simply standing near a digital sign and watching people. Do they slow down, or maybe even stop, when a message gets displayed? Was there an attractor used – like local weather or traffic? What’s their reaction when they see the content? Do they smile, or if they’re with someone else, do they comment on it?
You can also ask your audience. Have frequent, short polls and surveys asking if people remember seeing a digital signage message recently. If they answer “yes”, then they not only saw it but remember it. Which means they were engaged.
The clearest indication is if they follow your call to action (sort of the equivalent of clickthroughs on a webpage). If a message asks people to go a webpage for more information (by offering a short URL or QR tag), you should see an increase in traffic to that page. If a message asks people to sign up for something, you should see more registrations. If it’s a deal on muffins at the on-site café, you should sell more muffins.
Shares and Downloads
Websites often measure how many times a particular piece of content is downloaded in order to judge its popularity. On social media, an important metric is how often a particular post is shared. This is part of active participation.
In digital signage, this again correlates to how often people follow your calls to action. When people download something from a website, they find it valuable and want to keep it. When people see something valuable on digital signs, they will want to participate.
Sharing in an organization can be something as simple as water cooler chatter. No one spends all day just talking about work. Break rooms are filled with discussions of the newest streaming tv series or news items of the day. If you’re making engaging content, some of that talk will also be about your digital signage messages.
You probably have a digital sign in the break room, so pay attention to what people pay attention to in that room. While deep in a discussion about Daredevil’s motivations and moral shortcomings, do they suddenly stop and comment when your message with a sleeping kitten comes up on the screen? If so, then you are engaging them.
The questions you want to ask yourself about your content are:
- Does it generate positive reactions?
- Does it generate influence?
- Does it confirm authority?
- Does it make people want to participate?
Comments and Feedback
Because people today live immersed in a world of digital communications of all sorts, digital signage is inherently interactive, even if some of the screens themselves aren’t. People see the content and react to it in some way.
What do people say about your digital signage messages? Pay attention, but also ask them directly. Encourage your audience to interact with your organization in as many ways as possible – post and comment on your social media pages, fill in surveys, participate in polls, attend events, etc.
Gamification is another great way to get people involved and also measure how engaged they are. Using your digital signage to help create experiences for your audience is the surest way to engage them. Regular gamified communications also give you regular numbers you can compare over time, giving you still more data on how your Return on Engagement is going.
You’ll have to gauge your organizational culture in addition to engagement. Sometimes this can just be a feeling, but there are clear indications of an engaged workforce. Studies categorically show that engaged employees are more productive, work harder, work longer, have more ideas, and report a good work-life balance. When measuring items such as these, make sure to include questions about your digital signage to see how instrumental it is in the culture of the place. Use that feedback to fine-tune future messages, and adjust ones that don’t make a positive impact.
Loyalists and Cheerleaders
An engaged organization just feels more positive and energized. But that can be difficult to measure. The trick is to create a positive environment and then see who rises to the top, who goes the extra mile, who gives more than is expected. You want to pay attention to people who don’t just like working there, but who are loyal. This means they often participate in things, frequently follow your calls to action, attend events, participate in training opportunities, and so on. Pay attention to these people, and solicit their opinions on your digital signage efforts.
And loyalists who become cheerleaders – who not only regularly participate in the organizational culture but encourage others to do the same – are invaluable. They aren’t just highly engaged themselves, but are raising engagement levels across the organization.
Marketers of products and services love these kinds of people, and there’s a lot of talk in the PR world these days of attracting influencers. Well, your organizational digital signage strategy also needs influencers.
The thing is to create content that is attractive (so people look), interesting (so people engage) and connectable (so it’s easy for people to participate). Make sure your digital signage contributes and encourages an atmosphere of trust and reciprocity. Being authentic and transparent goes a long way to encouraging trust. Reciprocity in digital communications translates into co-creation, which means not only that people take the actions you suggest, but encourage others to do so.
And when you find some loyalists and cheerleaders, tap them for content ideas. They already love your signage, and their enthusiasm can get others to love it as well.