Normally I advise against aiming to boost a particular email metric, as trying to tilt a particular number can lead to some unstrategic decisions. For example, if a marketer wants a higher open rate he might resort to subject line gimmicks which can cause a temporary spike in the number of people who read a message, but ultimately erode attention or trust.

Engagement metrics – in particular the number of people who interact meaningfully with your message by reading it, clicking on a link or replying to a message – are rising in importance, however, and are beginning to have a meaningful impact on deliverability. Each ISP has a slightly different formula for how it incorporates engagement metrics into a message’s likelihood of being delivered to the inbox, but the executive summary of the similarities is that as the number of subscribers who actively interact with your email increases, the number of messages delivered straight to the inbox increases as well.

For this reason, part (not necessarily all) of your email strategy should be to move past delivering content that is relevant and anticipated, and actually capitalizing on your subscribers’ attention by soliciting some clicks and other measurable activity. Here are some tactics to consider:

Surveys and Polls: A message that asks for feedback through a survey or poll can score high on the engagement scale. It is a softer call-to-action than Buy Now, and also indicates that the brand is listening. For best results, construct a poll that will drive responses your subscribers will be interested in, not just a frivolous survey that might work on Facebook where the threshold for engagement is a little lower.

Videos: Videos are enormous drivers of engagement. While you can not embed them into email with good results, you can nevertheless feature them in email with a large screenshot that looks like the video player, which launches the video page when clicked. Roll videos out on Facebook first to see which get the best response before dedicating an email to one.

Representative Photo from an Online Gallery or Album: If you include a picture in your email, your subscribers will look at it. If you indicate that it is one from many in an album (from the last conference or an industry dinner, or a behind-the-scenes photo shoot, etc.) they will click on it to see the rest of the gallery.

Hyperlink the word “LOLcats”: I wish I were kidding about this one but at the same time I’m glad that I’m not. We had our monthly newsletter go out a few weeks ago, and one of the paragraphs excerpted this blog which happens to mention LOLcats and link to a picture of one. The clicks on that link alone tripled our regular click rate for newsletters. What was particularly interesting though is that the link was buried in the 5th paragraph well below the fold. All of the clicks indicated that we had our audience’s engagement all along, and that the link turned all of this attention into engagement-scoring action.

Have you had success with similar tactics? I’d love to hear what else you’ve found that turns attention into engagement.