Engagement becomes the new metrics system
The report uses recent examples from Procter & Gamble and Dell, where marketing campaigns have been measured in a different way - in P&G's case, their agency was able to track both the initial message sent out as well as subsequent ones through other social networks, so that the viral path from one peer to the next could be tracked indefinitely. A color-coded viral map measured first-time messages consumers sent off the contest site versus those messages that were later passed on from one social network to the next.
This concept is based on the idea that activities undertaken - and the success of a viral marketing campaign for brand building - is more important than direct clicks on a site, or the resulting sales generated (which can be difficult to measure for a FMCG company like Procter & Gamble). The use of widgets can enable companies to track the chain of actions between different users but many marketers and brand managers still see engagement metrics as 'too loose' with few engagement measurements to date leading to sales.
Microsoft's Engagement Mapping service also tries to address this issue by tracking both the last site a consumer clicked on to get to a brand's web page (such as via a banner ad), as well as a history of pages a person has traveled through on which a brand has advertised, prior to landing on that brand's home page. The ultimate goal is to measure how effectively a campaign creates recall for someone.
In Dell's case, the article reports that the company is more concerned with creating and measuring online interactions than with connecting them to sales, with a goal of community involvement by encouraging suggestions on changes that could be made to Dell's products. Ultimately the company wants to build a sense of trust with consumers, so that they return frequently to the brand's website.