This post is inspired by great thoughts from Stacy Minero of Twitter, Shenan Reed of MEC, Adrian Burton of Lambie-Nairn, Ad Age Digital and awesome marketing innovations of Taco Bell, Burger King, VISA and Adobe. Thanks guys! 


“Next year, we’ll be in a place where we’re commonly saying we’re buying on time.” Said Shenan Reed, the digital lead of MEC Ideas at this year’s Ad Age Digital

But what makes for a meaningful measure of time online?

Over the last few weeks we looked into the current industry thoughts around audience participation. Why? Audience participation brings a whole new level of intelligence to the impact of great content marketing. It’s a deep signal to help brands decipher attention. Audience participation communicates signals of intent and a sense of brand affinity and loyalty - or the lack thereof.

The sheer act of participating is an act of investment.

Participation tells brands not just if, but also how audiences chose to spend time with their content. Twitter’s head of content planning Stacy Minero believes that in 2015, even content distribution will be signal-driven. This means it will become increasingly important for brands to catch the right audience at the right time and place.

Understanding participation will be key in defining how to do that effectively and how relevant the signals are.


It’s not just about understanding attention on a qualitative level, but driving actual return on investment too. Audiences that participate in content beyond social sharing are also more likely to buy and become fans of a brand, resulting in repeat buys.

Proof? According to a study by Ad Age and Google, these “hyper-engagers” engage more across every channel and purchase more - with 40% of those hyper-engagers purchasing products online multiple times a week.

This means “those who engage more correlate with those who purchase more.” It’s clear that participation is a far stronger indicator of purchase intent and action than attention alone.

In 2015 even content alone will be participation-based. “Brands will invite audiences into the content creation process to make it a more fun experience,” adds Stacy Minero. This experience is rewarding for the audience too while the brand achieves their campaign goals. (Last year, Starbucks launched the #VoteForJoy campaign and got its followers to vote for their favorite holiday drink. It was later sold in stores across the US at 50 percent off. A pretty cool pay off for participating!)

Participatory content means not just storytelling at audiences, but story-making with them. The greatest brand examples discussed at Ad Age Digital were those of Burger King, Taco Bell, VISA and Adobe and you can read all about them here.  

Ann Lewnes, senior VP-CMO at Adobe thinks that participation starts from brand love.  

"The ability to get [consumers] to participate is so much easier than ever before," she shared, "but your brand is what lures people to participate."


Does this mean that participation is behaviour specific to brand fans? We think that more people are happy to participate assuming the interfaces that create the participation are consumer-driven, seamless and beautifully designed.

The better the experience, the more participation. The more participation, the more explicit, direct data from audiences. Direct feedback from audiences brings brands closer to what audiences want and enables audiences to be in touch with their favourite brands.

If that can be done in a way that is easy for brands to make our feedback count, it’s a win-win for everyone.

So how can brands encourage more of their audiences to participate and more importantly, how can they measure it quantifiably and at scale?


Great participation around content needs great participatory interface. Brands need to make it incredibly easy for audiences to engage and participate. It needs to be an enjoyable experience designed a) with audiences in mind and b) blending seamlessly with the content.

Adrian Burton of WPP’s Lambie-Nairn thinks success starts with brands having an absolute focus on audiences. His 8 golden rules reflect the need for brands to find ways to listen to audiences, create platforms for them to participate, hold conversations while remaining relevant and meaningful.

In short, participation requires an invitation to a rewarding experience.

But how easy is to for brands to build these platform? How can they be sure that audiences will interact with them at a high response rate? And how are they going to evaluate the impact of the participation? 

This is the problem that we’ve set out to solve - while showing brands how their content actually performs.


There’s so much great content out there, it can’t be disrupted in a way that isn’t enjoyable. (We say this for purely selfish reasons because we don't want to be disrupted ourselves!) But we also understand that brands are frustrated with the lack of measurement standards around content.

We need something simple that brings brands closer to how audiences actually feel.

We think the time is now for content to stop talking at audiences, but to talk with them. In order to get beyond attention, we need an easy and relevant way to get audiences to participate in content to see exactly how it’s impacted them. At Knotch we think this constitutes two parts:

a) a design-driven approach to engaging audiences around content (we get 55% interaction rates and 15% click rates with our native units)

b) an integrated measurement that evaluates content in a way that builds a trusted and full picture of how that content has performed.

So how can brands get started?

It starts with amazing content and a hunger to make audiences part of that experience. Investing in content creation and shifting budgets towards content should also include how brands plan to understand how that content has performed.

In order to understand that in full, this needs participation from audiences. Whether it’s directly co-creating the content with them or using analytics such as Knotch that creates the participation, we think direct and measurable feedback is the only way to bring brands one step closer to truly understanding what marks they’ve left on their audiences.