For the general public, the term “engagement” means “a promise to marry, and also the period of time between proposal and marriage – which may be lengthy or trivial” (Wikipedia). Defining engagement in the field of web analytics and social media measurement has been the subject of great debates, oftentimes quite fuzzy and erroneous, at times the result of esoteric mathematical formulas magically transforming clicks into emotions.

I like the French Wikipedia definition of engagement from a psychological perspective: “in social psychology, engagement addresses the consequences of an action on behavior and attitudes”.

In the first case, we talk about an emotional level and a timeframe – it’s almost like defining love (don’t forget it’s Valentine’s Day!) and if there is something hard to define, that is it. It varies so much from culture to culture, over time in history, and even from one individual to another. Transposed to the online world, we are in the most intimate sentiments of our visitors. They are the only ones who can truly assess if they are engaged or not.

The second definition is interesting because instead of reinventing the wheel, as is too often the case in the nascent fields of social media analytics, we can readily borrow from a definition stemming from social psychology and translate it into a simple mathematical representation:

engagement = f(outcome/(behavior + attitude))

We can identify the desired behavior leading to an online goal (the consequences and outcomes), and the attitudes can be measured through voice of customer. But “f”, the “function of”, remains unknown – it’s the magic formula for true love… I leave it up to you to define “f” for your own online experience.