LONDON: Many marketers set store by brand engagement metrics but few think these are highly regarded at board level, according to a new survey.

A poll of 585 readers of Marketing Week revealed that eight in ten (79%) see engagement – whether that takes the form of likes, shares and retweets or actual purchases – as a way of understanding what marketing activity is working.

The term 'engagement' can cover a range of things – Metro UK's digital director Martin Ashplant said marketers have "used the word engagement for a long time without really knowing what it is" – and one reason likes, shares and retweets are widely considered to be an indicator of brand engagement (by 82% of the survey) is simply because they are so easily measureable.

But as comScore's Gian Fulgoni pointed in an article in the Journal of Advertising Research, not everything that can be measured matters, and marketers need to distinguish "valuable" from "nice to know".

The simple numbers of fans/followers or likes haven't been proven to drive positive business results, he observed, "whereas measures of actual sharing of content have been shown to deliver measurable marketing ROI".

Three quarters (78%) Marketing Week's survey said they would use the loosely defined "brand engagement" as an ROI metric, but only half that proportion (39%) thought the metric was taken seriously by senior executives.

As well as shares and likes, other signals of brand engagement cited by survey respondents included a positive mention on social media (84%), a negative mention on social media (55%), clicking on an online advert (58%) and opening or reading an email (52%); actual purchase of a product or service was mentioned by 60%.

Fulgoni dismissed clicks on online display ads as having "no value in terms of predicting effectiveness", but he argued that metrics that measure consumers' comments on social networks are important.

And he advised advertisers to respond quickly to negative engagement or risk financial damage.

Data sourced from Marketing Week, Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by Warc staff