By robert pratten, August 30th, 2010

This is a two-part blog post with this being the first part. The second part is here. And you can get a PDF of the full piece, including my earlier associated work on Content Strategy.

When creative people get in the zone they generate a ton of ideas for content and experiences that could all work with their transmedia world. However, with resources always limited, these ideas have to be whittled down to essentials, nice-to-haves and stuff-for-later. One approach is to optimize the mix of content such that it (a) maximizes audience engagement and (b) the longevity (or likelihood of traction) of the experience. In this context I’m using “content” to mean all the things and tools that the audience has at their disposal – from videos, images and text to forums, chat rooms, leaderboards and so on.

If we are to design transmedia projects that engage audiences then we need to understand what it means to be engaged. Most would agree that it’s more than just “a view” and that there are probably degrees of engagement ranging from “doing something” (like a click) to “creating something” (like remixing a video).

Audience engagement is explained in the next section.

1.1.1 Measuring engagement

In 2006, Ross Mayfield stated in his blog:

“The vast majority of users will not have a high level of engagement with a given group, and most tend to be free riders upon community value. But patterns have emerged where low threshold participation amounts to collective intelligence and high engagement provides a different form of collaborative intelligence”.

He coined the term “The Power Law of Participation” which is shown in his diagram below (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Power Law of Participation

This participation curve can also be applied to transmedia worlds and will be evident to those who’ve run an ARG. Figure 2 shows the participation law at work in Mike Dicks diagram “Rules of Engagement” in which he expects that only 20% of the audience will engage in the gaming content of a cross-platform experience compared to 75% with the “sit-back” media.

Figure 2 Audience Participation with Content

What this means is that if there’s less effort involved in participating in the storyworld (for example watching a video vs remixing a video) then more of the audience is likely to do it but you can’t say that they’re as engaged with world as those who are expending more effort. More effort on behalf of the audience implies that they must be more engaged, right? Well, yes and no.

It depends on how the individual audience member derives his or her pleasure from the world. Not everyone wants to or feels able to remix videos or contribute user-generated content yet nevertheless may be a strong advocate for the world – telling friends, family and strangers that they really ought to check out the content. Surely that’s an engaged audience too?

Forrester Research identifies four measures for engagement with media content: involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence. Developing this for our purposes of understanding engagement with a transmedia world, we should measure not only the audience’s interaction and contribution but also their affection and affinity towards the world – that is, what they say and how they feel about it.

Taking this approach, a Facebook “Like”, while taking such little time and effort, ranks pretty well on the engagement scale. It’s more than just any click. It’s a show of affection.

But to get that “Like” or to get a “Share”, you need to provide the mechanism and the content.

Figure 3 shows the three stages of engagement – Discovery, Experience & Exploration – that inform your content choices across my five levels of increasing engagement:

  • Attention
  • Evaluation
  • Affection
  • Advocacy
  • Contribution.

Figure 3 Measuring Engagement

Stages of Engagement Discovery Experience Exploration
Level of Engagement Attention Evaluation Affection Advocacy Contribution
Content Type Teaser Trailer Target Participation Collaboration
Goal for your content Find me.

Fan comes to site and consumes low-involvement free “teaser content

Try me.

Fan increases engagement and consumes free “trailer content

Love me.

Fan spends money and decides that what I offer delivers on the promise, is entertaining and is worthwhile.

Talk about me.

Fan tells friends.

Be me.

Fan creates new content

How Be relevant Be credible Be exceptional Be spreadable Be open
Measurement views, hits, time spent per view, number for content viewed (per channel & content (e.g. emails, blogs, videos, Twitter etc.) clicks, downloads, trials, registrations purchases, ratings, reviews, comments, blog posts, Twitter follows, Likes, community sign-ups, other memberships, subscriptions, repeat purchases

referrals, reTweets, forwards, shares, embeds, satisfaction polls & questionnaires

Offline: focus groups, surveys

uploads, remixes, stories written, collaborations, fan moderators for forum, events held, other UGC

This post continues here.

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Posted in audience-building storytelling transmedia

robert pratten Robert Pratten is CEO and Founder of Transmedia Storyteller Ltd, an audience engagement company and provider of Conducttr, an pervasive entertainment platform. He has more than 20 years experience as an international marketing consultant and has established himself as a thought-leader in the field of transmedia storytelling. He is author of the first practical book transmedia storytelling: Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling: A Practical Guide for Beginners. http://twitter.com/robpratten

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