The 5 C’s of Engagement

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Our favorite blog metrics site, PostRank (see our “top posts” in the sidebar), bases their metrics on what they call the 5 C’s of Engagement. Beth Kanter spoke to PostRank’s community manager and this postfrom her has a bit more background on how they came up with this, but here’s the basic scoop. Note the descriptions here deal specifically with blog metrics.

The 5 Cs of Engagement


The strongest form of engagement is demonstrated by using an item as inspiration to create your own, for example, writing your own blog post that responds to or refutes someone else’s blog post. Creation requires the most thought and investment of time, actively generates conversation, and therefore indicates the highest level of engagement.


Reading a blog post and then leaving a comment requires an investment of time, thought and effort (or sometimes just typing and name-calling…), and is a form of conversation. However, it requires less effort than writing a whole blog post. So while it is an important action, it does not indicate as much engagement as Creating.


Sharing and discussing information can often be started with one click, so it doesn’t require a major investment of effort. However, a desire to share is a strong indication of relevance, and the act of sharing and its ensuing discussion are acts of conversation. Use of social media applications like Twitter encourage both the sharing of information and the resulting conversations. As a result, social media “chatting” indicates a good level of engagement.


Bookmarking or submitting items to social sites also tend to be “one-click” actions. They are intentional acts of archiving and sharing, but don’t require much time or effort. However, the sharing that occurs often sparks conversations, so Collecting does demonstrate some engagement.


Activities like clicks and page views indicate lower engagement because they’re passive interactions. Clicking a link to read a blog post doesn’t require much work, and you’re not giving anything back except your reading time. It is an intentional act, however, and thus indicates a mild level of interest and engagement. Which may grow after the item is read.

I really like the simplicity of the 5 C’s and I think they can be extrapolated to online activity in general. Of course, they also relate quite nicely to Forrester’s Social Technographics (Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, Inactives). Obviously, those buckets are about types of people, whereas the 5 C’s are about actions.

  • Creating
  • Critiquing
  • Chatting
  • Collecting
  • Clicking

Interestingly, the 5 C’s put “Chatting” above “Collecting” (unlike Forrester’s order) and I personally think that that makes more sense.

I also really like the last “Clicking” category because that really could include the actions (eg reading, saving (not on social bookmarking sites but for personal use) etc. that are things that 90% (from the 1:9:90 rule) of online users do – which are actually really really important and often overlooked. Those lurkers still have a level of engagement that can result in ROI – they may not be doing some of the more engaged social actions ONLINE, but they are reading and may well be doing more talking, participating and attending OFFLINE, as a result of things they see online, than we traditionally give them credit for. Clicking could even contain very measurable actions like registering/RSVP’ing for an event, or downloading a white paper, or buying something from your online store.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, I almost answered my own question in my last sentence above. You could apply the 5 C’s to all kinds of social media spaces, not just blogs. I think when you’re trying to figure out metrics for measuring engagement, it can’t hurt to start by dropping all the actions you can think of into the 5 C’s framework. Think about this in terms of specific social media projects. What might be in the 5 C’s when you’re thinking about your Facebook page? What about your online community? What about your event-specific site?

Once you’ve gone through that exercise, you can potentially start to see how to rank actions based on how much effort is involved (as per the existing ranking of the 5 C’s) in order to give a good overall snapshot of the activity of your project – and then measure all of that against your objectives. You can also start to use this framework to set a baseline benchmark, for ongoing measurement to see your progress over time.

I think the issue everyone is struggling with in terms of developing a framework for measuring engagement is that we’re not quite sure what we need to measure nor how to rank line items that we’re measuring once we come up with a list. The 5 C’s of engagement seems to me to be a simple way to start doing that. (Maybe we could go all Dan Roam on this and I’ll see if I can get Lindy to come up with a cool graphic to use for it – maybe 5 concentric circles like the target/venn diagram we have for aligning social focus and association focus – something we could all use as an exercise template for jotting down all the various actions we can think of.

What do you think? Would this work for your social media efforts? Try it and let us know.

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