22.4% Citizens Engaged – How to Measure Digital Engagement

I was reading NYC’s Digital Roadmap updateand I really liked the page (pg.20) they did on digital engagement. As communicators, I think a huge measure of our success is our reach (not just whether we did something or exist in X channel).

The City of NY reaches 5,483,640 individuals digitally each month broken done as:

3,100,100 NYC.gov unique visitors

1,137,868 Newsletter subscribers

488,924 Twitter followers

469,343 Facebook likes

77,335 Smartphone App Downloads
63,874 Foursquare followers

54,100 SMS Subs

52,262 Tumblr followers

32,648 LinkedIn group members

7,286 YouTube subscribers

How do you measure digital engagement?

Do those numbers seem good?
What statistics do you like to measure instead?

I think a great number would be % of population engaged which for NYC would be:

5.5M/22.1M (metro population) = 24.9%

5.5M/8.2M (city population) = 67.7%

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Sebastian James

We should be proud of how many people we can potentially reach; but we should measure how many actually hear and pass along our messages. I know I’m making my own job harder, but I think beyond reach we need to measure those activities that indicate people consumed our content and did something with it. Twitter mentions and retweets, FB people reached, comments, shares and post likes, opening Foursquare specials, how many transactions that came from mobile apps, etc.

Avatar photo Jacob Anderson

Engagement is a tricky concept.Thanks for addressing it.

At the Knight Foundation #Tech4Engage summit, a lot of conversation swirled around the idea that engagement involves action. The City of NY may reach 5.5 million people, but that certainly doesn’t mean that 5.5 Million people are engaged (ie, actually doing something).

There’s value to the communication represented in the numbers reported above, but do they represent “engagement” or is there a better term to use? I think your use of the word “reach” fits well to describe the metrics used in the NYC Digital Roadmap.

In the NYC Digital Roadmap, they measure citizen tweets mentioning @NYCGov. That’s closer to engagement because it’s citizen-generated content involving the City. Same for the photo contest. Citizen-generated content is harder to measure because it is unique to each platform (4sq, Twitter, FB all have unique interaction styles), but to my mind those metrics give a much more meaningful picture of engagement.

What do you think about the difference between “reach” and “engagement”? Can we arrive at standard definitions for gov-citizen interaction metrics?


Jacob – good points.

I actually think there’s 2 concepts here
-Reach/awareness – like a Maslov hierarchy of needs, the most basic/important is how many folks do you reach/make aware of your information – at it’s most basic, can you reach 1M citizens directly when you have a hurricane, a new road closure, etc (or is it only 10,000) – for a lot of activities and lot of citizens, the goal is just get the information that you need at the right time (boom, i got school closure updates when I needed them and saved time)

-Engagement – to me this is a higher level of Maslov’s needs. At the most basic, I want to know my kids’ school closings and key information at the right time. Only then, once that is mastered, do I really want to go to next level of engagement. Different measures are needed for engagement as you mentioned – interaction styles per platform. One stat could be % engaged – for example on FB – likes + comments / # of fans

John Kagia

Interesting data, Steve. One observation, though – NYC is arguably the world’s top tourist destination. I would assume that at least some proportion of those interacting with the city through these channels aren’t residents, they’re visitors using the city’s resources to plan their trip.

It would be interesting to see the the geographic distribution of their traffic which would help paint a much more accurate picture of how much data is coming from within the city.