The Engagement Ladder Theory

11 Applying the Engagement Ladder Theory

A white hand holding a yellow and green maple leaf in a maple tree grove
Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

CASE STUDY | is a Seattle-based nonprofit news website for environmental news, reports, and opinion. has succeeded in connecting with a younger audience that not only reads its content but is also inspired to take action. Their mission is to communicate what is going on in the movement around climate and sustainability to a broader audience of people who may not consider themselves environmentalists, help them understand how those issues relate to their everyday lives, and move those people to action. is a data-informed organization that uses a ladder of engagement not only to guide its content and social media integration strategy but uses measurement at each rung of the ladder to ensure that they are getting results. They engage users around content that shows how being green can reshape our world and inspire personal behaviour change, ultimately impacting society at large.’s ladder of engagement is simple and shows how their audience makes the journey from passive consumers of information to sustainable living champions. The steps include reading, commenting, and sharing stories of personal behaviour change. uses page views as an indicator of success at the bottom rung of the ladder.’s Key Results

  • Footprint: The reach of their activities, both online and offline.
  • Engagement: Readers engage with their content.
  • Individual Behaviour Change: Impact on user’s behaviours, purchase decisions, and daily lives that are in line with sustainability.
  • Societal Change: Impact on society, policy discussions, and conversations that advance sustainable practices. uses its social media channels as a fun on-ramp to their ladder of engagement. They have learned from their survey research, real-time monitoring, and content analysis of comments on their posts that a lot of people care deeply about environmental issues, but don’t self-identify as “environmentalists.” has been experimenting with Twitter Chats and fun hashtags to attract people to their content, but also empower them to advocate for on-the-ground change. For example, they launched a series of Twitter Chats called “Bikenomics: Make Cities More Bike Friendly” using the hashtag #bikenomics. The idea is that biking to work is not only good for the environment but can also help local economies. Among other changes, it requires encouraging employers to have more bike-friendly policies. Not only did the Twitter chats help connect with new readers who were passionate about this idea, but the series helped inspire action from readers who reported on surveys that they encouraged employers to establish bike-friendly policies like “bike to work days” or install bike racks.

They have regular surveys on the site as well as an in-depth annual reader survey that includes questions such as “How has our work impacted your daily life?” The questions are about behaviour change to sustainable practices – have they switched from buying bottled water or are they buying more locally sourced produce. also asks about whether a story has inspired them to pursue an issue by contacting a company or local official. The data informs their editorial decisions and choices for social media tactics so they are on track for moving people up the rungs of the ladder – from passive readers to green consumers and ultimately to a more sustainable planet.

Continued Learning

Learn more about measures along the Ladder of Engagement

Video icon Watch: Measuring Along the Ladder of Engagement Grist


This page contains material taken from:

Kanter, B. (2011, September 15). Measuring Along the Ladder of Engagement. Retrieved May 30, 2020, from

Video by Hidayat from the Noun Project


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An Open Guide to Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Copyright © by Andrea Niosi and KPU Marketing 4201 Class of Summer 2020 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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