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Building an Engaged Audience


The word “engagement” is overused.  Everyone is focusing on “online engagement.”  Brands, nonprofits, individuals — everyone wants to improve their online presence and measure engagement to prove what they are doing is successful.  But how do you actually measure engagement? How do you know what you are doing is working? What tools do you use? How do you build a solid foundation to ensure your message makes sense to the human beings behind the social media profiles?  

I studied engagement during my Masters year (in Curriculum and Instruction) before engagement was cool.  My colleagues and I studied it in students, based on their behavior in and outside of the classroom. We created metrics to measure engagement (using Bangert Drowns and Pyke’s seven levels of engagement) and were able to assess how it’s identified and even how it’s increased.

It wasn’t until after I graduated and jumped into a career in events and marketing that I realized you could actually use these levels of engagement outside of the classroom, in marketing. I realized you can use the seven levels to target a specific demographic around a brand, mission, values, or whatever you are really “educating” the public on.  

I use the word educating, because it may not seem like education and marketing have a lot in common, but in reality they are one in the same.  In order to engage your audience in a way that is compelling and walk them through the seven levels of engagement, you have to understand that engagement comes in many forms. There is more to it than you either “are” or you “aren’t.” 

Being that there are seven levels, it is important to note that disengagement and frustrated engagement are actually a part of the engagement scale, and not separate. Have you ever been on a customer call with a massive company that refuses to treat you like a human, and then you happen to get one amazing customer service representative that decides to change the way you feel entirely about the company? That is a perfect example of bringing a customer up a level, from frustrated engagement to structure-dependent engagement.

For a brand, it is the worst possible thing to throw your name on something without real intention behind it. The days of “sponsorship” are over. An integrated partnership between brand and experience has to co-exist in order for it to make sense. Intentions must be clearly defined and the audience educated around a topic that matters to them. 

Brands have voices, on and offline and in order to know how to use them, they have to start looking at themselves as teachers, their digital presence as the classroom, and their audience as the students.

It’s crucial to recognize that you have to take responsibility for the lack of engagement and see it as an opportunity to connect more authentically, not ignore it. 

Engagement can seem complicated, but the step that most miss is the opportunity to bring someone who is uninspired and disinterested into a new conversation. The second you make a person feel listened to, respected, and then share your vision with them based on the words they told you is the second that person will become an ambassador for your brand, not just another twitter follower.

Learn more about CatalystCreativ’s proprietary engagement framework, adapted from the work of Bangert Drowns and Pyke, The Seventh Level Engagement Framework at

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