In the world of digital marketing, the term ‘engagement’ is often overused and under defined. So why should we focus digital activity on encouraging engagement and what business benefits does this bring?

What does digital engagement mean?

Engagement can mean ‘anything that involves two-way communication’. For a brand or company operating in a digital space, this can include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Social Media Platforms to incite interactions and discussions
  • Live video or webinar with registration and or comments, recent additions include Periscope and Facebook Live Video
  • Long form publishing – Blogs:- either posting content or commenting on third party posts
  • Websites and forums with comments, feedback or ratings
  • Product or service reviews through a third party website or app
  • An application to encourage interaction with a brand outside of the usual relationship

Why is it important in the healthcare industry?

Patient and public involvement has been on the NHS agenda for a long time but with an ageing population, and an anticipated increase in co morbidities from 1.9million in 2008 to 2.9million by 20181, we are seeing a growing need for better self-management of long term conditions and health & wellbeing in general which is increasingly being supported by the private sector in a bid to elevate brand positioning and gain market share.

The drive for engagement on this level has dramatically changed the way which healthcare organisations communicate with their audience. Traditional approaches are no longer the norm, brands have to work harder to convert customers and then make them advocates through the use of multiple channels.

Buying a product or service can still be broken down into a 3 step process of:


But now the journey is much less linear, the digital marketing mix is busier than ever.

Far from replacing the traditional approach, digital engagement can influence a purchase decision at every stage of the buying process.

How do we encourage Digital Engagement?

Successfully achieving high levels of digital engagement is often about positioning your brand and/or your selected ambassadors as leaders or experts to provide an authoritative voice and encourage your prospective customers to listen to and trust you.

Good examples of this theory go beyond the normal product or service offering of an organisation and provoke a reaction.

What we are increasingly seeing is healthcare organisations, particularly those in the pharmaceutical industry, providing digital health tools to patients in the care system that could also be their customers. From a patient’s point of view, this has the opportunity to facilitate a better experience between clinical interactions, improve patient outcomes and reduce the cost of care. From a healthcare organisations’ point of view, the provision of these tools elevates brands, provides a better understanding of the market via the provision of data and provides a platform to increase the chance of meaningful interactions with the target audience.

How do we measure Digital Engagement?

At the start of any engagement programme, it’s important to set metrics by which you can measure effectiveness.

Going far beyond increasing website visits, app downloads or Facebook likes, engagement should be continuous and focus on what happens beyond that first interaction. Calls to action should be well planned to facilitate this measurement.

By setting the right metrics, you will more easily be able to quantify return on engagement as well as return on investment.

Five tips on starting with Digital Engagement

  1. Choose your focus. Look at the market and see where you can make the biggest impact. Set up a goal and then research the best platform for you to achieve the intelligence you require using KPI’s. Choose one or two channels to begin with you can that you can fully commit without spreading yourself too thin.
  2. Be authentic. Customers do not want to be spoken to as if they are pound signs. Your voice reflects your brand personality and the best way to build this is to assume a character/persona that resonates with your target audience then work on your tone, language and purpose.
  3. Build trust. The easiest way to get your audience to believe in your brand is to have others endorse it for you – personal stories demonstrate belief in your offering and enhance your position amongst your competitors 61% of customers now read online reviews before making a purchase decision2. Guest blog posts, reviews, and positive comments all contribute to building advocates for your brand.
  4. Provide added value. By providing additional digital health services to complement your product offer you can potentially broaden how your customers will find you in the market place indirectly increasing brand awareness
  5. Be patient. The greatest strength of digital marketing is being able to act on measurable metrics. When launching a new platform allow some time for data to accumulate before reviewing, adjusting and amending.


1 Long Term Conditions Compendium of Information: Third Edition, Department of Health, 2012