Best practice from iCrossing.
At the start of 2008, Channel 4 Education took the unprecedented step of shifting its entire £6m commissioning budget from TV to online and cross-platform projects, in a bid to re-connect with its teenage audience.
This ground-breaking content strategy, spearheaded by Channel 4’s new Commissioning Editor Matt Locke, came about after research revealed that its education content was largely unseen by its target audience.
It came as no surprise that Channel 4 Education’s target audience of 14 to 19 year olds were spending more time on social networks, gaming platforms and the internet in general, than sitting in front of the TV. The broadcaster realised that a multi-platform approach was called for, to engage with its target audience in the places where they like to be, instead of expecting viewers to actively pursue its content.
Locke was keen to take a measurements-focused approach in order to accurately understand how target users are engaging with education content outside of Channel 4 online properties, to assess the impact of different types of content.
He took the forward-thinking step of collaborating with digital marketing agency iCrossing for the launch of its pilot Measuring Engagement service, to assess how users engage with Channel 4 Education’s new online game ‘Bow Street Runner’.
The Measuring Engagement project for ‘Bow Street Runner’ was primarily focused on benchmarking its target audience of teenage gamers, to obtain a clearer picture of the content that they’re choosing to engage with and why, and discover where and how they’re finding it.
Key objectives were to:
• Evaluate the success of the Bow Street Runner game, to learn what ‘viewer’ numbers and results Channel 4 Education can expect from similar online gaming projects, delivered within a social media framework.
• Understand the kind of gaming content that teenagers can get passionate about and advocate, as well as learn from.
• Have visibility on how users are engaging with Channel 4 content outside of the broadcaster’s online properties.
• Develop a working model to ensure that future social media planning, from content creation through to game seeding, is based on more considered learning.
For the pilot project, iCrossing developed a bespoke method of measuring and evaluating user engagement, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to evaluate what is driving user attention and influence around Bow Street Runner, both on the Channel 4 website and within associated networks.
Measurements would be interpreted alongside qualitative observations to tell a story and understand what success online looks like for Channel 4 Education, for Bow Street Runner and subsequent educational games.
The strategy, therefore, consisted of two key components:
• An engagement scorecard, to bring together on and off-site data, to show levels of engagement with the ‘Bow Street Runner’ game, and associated Channel 4 Education brand.
• Active listening to understand elements of user behaviour that cannot be tracked simply, presented as a narrative on how the Bow Street Runner game is being discussed and engaged with both directly and in social media.
iCrossing developed a bespoke Measuring Engagement scorecard for Channel 4. The scorecard is based on a model outlined by Forrester in their August 2007 paper by Brian Haven entitled ‘Marketing’s New Key Metric: Engagement. In line with the Forrester model, the scorecard broke down into four key areas:
Are people coming to the site and playing the game? The involvement score was a composite measure of traditional web analytics data that quantified visitor numbers, dwell time and bounce rate.
How far do users get in the game? Do they come back, do they interact with other users and Channel 4? This score was driven by comment on the Channel 4 forum and email sign-ups.
What do users feel about the game? Do they bookmark it? Sentiment towards the game was calculated by analysing the comments appearing on blogs seeded by Channel 4. The sentiment of approximately 1,800 comments was checked through a combination of human interpretation and by iCrossing’s proprietary natural language analysis tool ‘Network Sense Monitoring’.
How far do users spread knowledge of the game through associated networks? A high proportion of the influence score was determined through content on influential gaming sites.
The results of the Measuring Engagement project were not focused on demonstrating the success of ‘Bow Street Runner’, but rather on using the game as validation for the measurement framework, and as a benchmark to show how target audiences are currently engaging with online Channel 4 Education content, to inform future output. Standard key performance indicators were not being sought by the broadcaster, and were not applicable.
Key learnings were delivered as a narrative, to help tell the ‘Measuring Engagement’ story for the Bow Street Runner game, and to place in context iCrossing’s recommendations for future content. The most useful findings included:
• Overall, engagement increased from the beta release benchmark, with users continuing to engage with the game as new episodes were released.
• First reaction to the game was mixed. Initially 30 per cent of user-generated content was positive, however there were similar levels of dissatisfaction over difficulty and bugs in the game. As these technical issues were ironed out, positive sentiment outscored negative.
• Engagement with the game was high within gaming networks. There was only less engagement with other communities, indicating further potential to identify and engage within education communities for example.
• Geo-segmentation findings revealed that the ‘Bow Street Runner’ audience was different to that of Channel 4 as a whole. A key learning point for Channel 4 was that only 16 per cent of visits came from the UK, representing 45,000 visits. The highest proportion of visitors came from the USA.
• 35 per cent of all traffic came from websites that were seeded by Channel 4 indicating that the seeding strategy employed was successful.
• Email was discovered to be the smallest traffic driver.
• Return visits from social bookmarking sites increased significantly over time, providing useful intelligence for future games.
• Time on page increased as new episodes of the game were released, with the average dwell time being 10 minutes.
Matt Locke, commissioning editor of Channel 4 Education, said “Working with iCrossing has allowed us to understand the appetite for more related content, which shows not only that we’re doing something right with our gaming content, but more importantly that there’s an opportunity to direct our audience to other sections of the Channel 4 website, as well as build relationships in social networks where we’re being discussed and advocated.”
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