8 min read  | HubSpot

Do Engagement Metrics Matter Anymore?

Engagement metrics have long reigned supreme as a gauge of digital campaign success, but are these straightforward KPIs losing their value?

You're not alone if you’ve seen a drop in your engagement metrics over the past year (or more). Conversations among the Aamplify team to summarise trends over the past year identified a common pain point among new and existing clients: How do we increase engagement? 

While we closely monitor and employ ever-evolving best practices in the B2B lead generation and content marketing space, this problem is part of a big-picture shift in how people interact with content and simply the vast amount of it being pushed into the digital landscape. Using social media engagement as an example, a recent study found zero correlation between engagement and actual readership. It’s not just how we keep score that’s shifting; it's the game itself.

Aamplify’s Marcomms Manager, Lisa Jansen, has been following this trend closely from a B2B gated content and lead generation perspective. Lisa is here to weigh in on the state of engagement affairs and how to nurture meaningful interactions in this evolving space. So, let’s get to it.

Q&A with Lisa

Q: Why has getting users to engage with content, such as lead generation campaigns, become increasingly challenging?

A: “For lead generation, for the last decade or so, many B2B marketers would create high-value content, whether that's an ebook, a checklist or something similar. Then, you put that on your website, put a form in front of it and promote it on your social channels through Google ads, email campaigns, social media, partnerships, etc.

“People would provide their contact details in exchange for getting your high-value resource. From there, you would enrol them in a nurture sequence and turn that contact into a qualified marketing lead. This has worked well in many industries I've worked with for a while, but it's become increasingly difficult over the last few years. There are several reasons for this; probably number one is that there's just too much out there.

“Everyone's now doing these ebooks and checklists, so what used to be fairly novel and high-value a decade ago is now online for free—you don't have to provide your contact details anymore. Even if everyone submits as many forms as they did a few years ago, the increase in content results in fewer conversions per campaign.”

Q: How have user perceptions around gated content shifted in recent years?

A: “With the amount of content out there, it's much harder to do something that's actually novel and of high value. This is only going to get worse now with AI, even just with the free version of ChatGPT, people can easily produce perceived high-value content. For example, it might take a couple of hours to have ChatGPT write you a 10-page ebook on a topic, whereas a few years ago, it would have taken a lot of effort because you would have to do a lot of research.

“Markets are already crowded with content and information, and the barrier has been lowered even more. Some companies have taken advantage of this a little bit and produced content that looks high-value from the outside but really isn't. People downloaded it and provided their contact details expecting to get something valuable, but they are disappointed with what they got, resulting in less trust. 

“Similarly, people aren't as happy to hand over their contact details anymore. The way customers analyse information and make buying decisions is changing; people expect more information readily available on websites, social channels, or YouTube. Before engaging with a company online, a lot of self-informed research goes on, which is also misaligned with this more traditional gated content strategy.”

Bonus reading: If you’re looking to revive your traditional gated content strategy, take a peek at Lisa’s in-depth LinkedIn article, Is gated content dead? And if so, what’s next?

Q: How has the digital landscape changed in recent years to result in this less engaged user behaviour?

A: “Observing this shift in marketing has been really interesting; I've compared it to the transformation caused by digital marketing, especially the Google AdWords platform.

“Before accessible digital platforms, advertising as a business was very different. You'd have an account manager, and there would be a lot of planning and agreements for a certain period of time, followed by a report. Then Google AdWords introduced its self-managed platform and completely changed the game. 

“Suddenly, marketers everywhere had access to run their own ads and be agile with them rather than making these big upfront commitments. That was a massive shift to how we execute marketing and reach people. Everything became digital; everything was online. Content marketing in the B2B space resulted from this vast new channel, answering the question of how to reach people and figuring out how to get them to engage. Resources like high-value content, ebooks, and checklists came out of this, and it’s where we are now. I feel like we’re currently in the middle of a similarly significant shift in how we do marketing, and this time AI is the trigger. 

“AI has created new opportunities and possibilities but also destroyed some. For example, the fact that now pretty much everyone can create an ebook in a couple of hours will devalue it. I don’t think anyone really knows yet how marketing will evolve in the next few years, but I wonder if, in 10 years, we will look back and consider this period another noteworthy shift in how we approach marketing and reach people, especially in the B2B space.”

Q: What new trends are emerging to foster meaningful interactions and engagement? 

A: “In the B2B tech marketer community I'm part of, there's a lot of talk about creating experiences, particularly because it’s the one thing that is a lot harder for AI and technology to replicate. AI might have all the facts and data in the world, but right now, humans are still a lot better at understanding how to make other humans feel a certain way—and how to create experiences that trigger feelings that ultimately lead to sales and loyalty. In other words, creating meaningful experiences for prospects and customers will be much harder to do than producing content—and whoever does it best will likely win. 

“I think this is one reason we’re seeing a trend back towards more in-person events. They are a way to create experience and build emotional connections with prospects and audiences. To be honest, I’m not sure yet if in-person events are here to stay or if it’s just something we’re defaulting to right now because we’re familiar with it, and digital channels aren’t working as well any more for many businesses. I certainly don’t think they are the only way to create meaningful experiences. 

“We might see companies experimenting with different digital channels to create better experiences there. For example, imagine instead of going to a company’s website to learn about their products, you could have a conversation with a human-like AI who asks about your requirements and provides tailored information? Or, imagine having a super valuable and meaningful conversation with a salesperson who really seems to get you and your needs (maybe partly because the company is extremely good at collecting and analysing data and making it super accessible to their salespeople). We can create better experiences for prospects and customers in so many ways. Many of them use the latest tech but add that human element and insight that make them hard to replicate. 

“The other trend that I hear talked about is the idea of hyper-personalisation. Personalisation has been around for a while, and we all know it’s possible to change a website, content, copy, and email content based on the user. This will likely go a step further; for example, traditional personalisation might be that you visit a website and because you've previously engaged with it, the website knows who you are, and it shows you information and content that it thinks is relevant to you. 

“Hyper-personalisation in the future could look quite different where you go somewhere, engage with an AI, and have a conversation where you can say specifically, I'm interested in this, and the AI serves that information or asks you questions to determine what's relevant for you. Personalisation means being put into a category or a bucket, and hyper-personalisation would mean that everyone is unique.”

Q: How important are traditional engagement metrics in this evolving space?

A: “Right now, we're used to engagement being something quite tangible; we're looking at people who clicked on our ads or posts on social media, people who opened or clicked on an email. It's a very specific and tangible metric. However, in reality, engagement can take all sorts of different shapes and forms, from reading articles on other people's pages and platforms to listening to podcasts to talking to peers at online forums or in-person events. 

“All of this is so much harder to measure and track, but organisations need to start thinking about how to produce that level of engagement and get people talking about what they’re doing. We’ve become so used to running a campaign and immediately assessing its clicks, leads, and conversions that these emerging engagement tactics can be a bit uncomfortable for companies and marketers looking to tie marketing costs back to ROI.”

Final Thoughts

The marketing world is at a pivotal point, with some (inevitable) major changes coming our way. How traditional engagement methods and metrics fare remains to be seen, but thankfully, we have some brilliant folks within our Aamplify ecosystem and beyond who love a good challenge. We can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

Get in touch with us to discuss B2B lead generation, gated content strategies, and innovative new ways to build meaningful connections with your customers further.