Monday, November 26, 2007

Measuring Effectiveness of Social Media: Understanding the Power of Influence

There's lots of evidence all over the place that blogging makes friends--and just in my own little world, Mack Collier of the Viral Garden, who I met through blogging about marketing, recently tagged me for my thoughts on a meme on measuring the effectiveness of social media campaigns....

Now, I'm not going to claim I know it all about social media campaigns--frankly, I'm only starting to do some work on social media campaigns for clients, and I'm seeing how social media works both differently and the same for a company as it does for an individual looking to build a "personal brand"--

What I believe should be common to both building a personal brand as much as to a business is building influence through your blogging.

From influence can flow reputation...from reputation can flow business...

Now, I'm not going to get into the whys and wherefores of how to build a blog that creates influence. What I'm going to look at is how to know if you're creating that influence...

There are lots of measurements to help us understand what's going on with our blogs--but these measurements must be looked at quite carefully in order to understand them--and not underestimate them. What at first may seem like nothing--or even discouraging--can be, ultimately, a very big *something*...

In Mack mentions three criteria to help recognize when a blog is creating value for its readers:

1- Is your web/subscriber traffic increasing?

2 - Are the number of comments per post increasing?

3- Are you tracking more links to the posts you write on the blog?


And for the most part, these are very good questions to ask oneself. Let's ask some further questions to drill into the issues these questions raise--and I'm going to use my blog for an example, the way that Mack did....

1--how do you know your web/subscriber traffic is increasing? Well, this is where you have to look at your stats--whether you use Google Analytics or Sitemeter, or any number of stats tracking packages, you'll get the basic information on traffic increase. Most will also give you an idea of where your traffic is coming from--whether it's from links from other blogs, from Google or other search engines, or rss readers.



I haven't blogged in a few (well, more than a few) days, but I can see that I'm coming up regularly in Google search results, that a link from Masslive.com has brought someone in, as well as a link from some other blogs and someone following their comments with Co-Comment (a great feature I *still* have to sign up for)

Look carefully at the search terms, which are at the ends of the search strings--these will tell you the terms people used, what terms are associated with posts you've made to your blog. With Google searches, you can click to see what page --as in what number of results--your post came up in. Since some of the subjects of my posts are quite unique, my blog may come up fairly high in google's search.

This is part of how I've gained a rather high Google Page Rank even though my blog traffic is fairly low (really only 35-50 readers per day when I don't blog--sometimes up to 100 depending on the subject I blog on, as well as if I'm picked up by Techememe for blogging on a tech-related topic, or if I've received other links)

A much overlooked stat--which is a great measure of influence--is how long someone is staying on your blog If someone is reading, you're probably influencing them! Here's another page from my stats which will explain:



Note that several of the readers stayed for well over the average click-through. This means that I had the information they were looking for--not that I merely came up in their search criteria. Note that many of the folks who spent time reading also went to more than one page--and if you compare the top page with this page, you will also be able to see which search worked for them (it was Google's Blog Search) People who have found you once under the right search terms are more than likely to check out other pages in your blog--they may even subscribe, or at least come back to you again...

Which leads to the whole idea of subscriptions: which are great in theory, but, in practice, can be hard to track. That is, if you're using something other than a Feedburner feed. Emerging "industry standards" like Feedburner definitely make it easier to track subscriptions (not sure though if they track across different rss readers or not.) But if you don't use a Feedburner feed, you may be hard pressed to find out how many subscriptions you have over the varieties of rss readers out there. I know of the various subscriptions through various readers by examining my stats and getting details when I see "Bloglines" or "MyYahoo" or "Netvibes" or any number of other readers. Since my traffic is fairly low, I can give my blog this kind of personal attention--and could even come up with some way to track all of it if I sincerely desired to drill way into these stats.

But that's a lot of work--and not sure what it might tell me if I manually tracked this info. There are other ways to know if you're influencing...

Further who are all these subscribers anyway? It's sometimes hard to tell if your subscribers are other bloggers or just readers. Both are good, and both impact your influence, but knowing exactly whether you've got blogger/readers or just plain old readers is a bit tough...

Which leads to comments and links (Mack's #2 and #3 points). Let's ask these questions:

Are comments all that important? and How are you tracking links?

Let's look first at tracking links--do you rely on "trackbacks" to let you know who's linked to your posts? If you do, this might be a bit tricky, considering "trackback spam" or no-follow codes placed in your template that don't let you see who's linking to your posts. Registering with Technorati is still most helpful for tracking links, as well as Google'ing your blog in Google's Blog Search as well as regular Google. Also try smaller engines like Icerocket.com--which might yield some startling link results (such as LiveJournal, MySpace or splog links) Currently, Technorati says this blog has 509 blog reactions, with an authority of 145 and is ranked at 42,744 (also have a Google Page Rank of 5/10) not really all that bad for a solo blogger who writes on four different topics: journalism, media, tech, and marketing. :-)

Other folks I know, who have strong backgrounds in various "legacy" professions like marketing, journalism, television, or tech, do well when they blog within proximity to their legacy experience, while adding "personal touches" by blogging on something from their personal lives (parenting or travel.) The thing is to not sound stilted--be a person, whether you're blogging on more than one topic or if you're blogging on one topic, a "voice" is what can make a blog social, just as much as providing good information.

So, when we look at the set of stats that relates to tracking links, we have to situate ourselves within the rest of the blogosphere, and think of ourselves in a glass-half-full kind of way: did we have this influence before? Are our links coming from other bloggers and not from splogs (remember: splogs do not generate traffic for us)? Can we link back to the bloggers who linked to us and thus create a positive social relationship?

Now, let's consider comments: are comments all that important? Well, yes, in many ways they are--they're great to get (even when people disagree) and they are an immediate, visual example of interaction. Comments are for both you and for the people who come to your blog.

However, let's not forget what we found out about blog comments: that only 10% of readers will leave comments--the other 90% are "lurkers" a/k/a "readers." Lots of them may be the same folks who are subscribed to your blog, and may never comment, or only comment sporadically. If you'd like to increase comments can follow some of these suggestions that Darren Rowse has culled from a number of places--however, these often work in tandem with links and increased traffic from better positioning in search. Think of it this way: if you don't have readership, who are you inviting to comment?

Two more important points: never forget dual powers of email and networking! Depending on the age of your audience, the size of your business, its market, and the subject matter of your blog, some people may be more comfortable emailing you with questions about you or your product. So, make sure there's an email addy where people can get in touch with you. Also, some people may not be comfortable doing business with you until they meet you. I know that, with me, many people have wondered "who the heck is this big-mouthed broad"--yet when we meet f2f or via telephone, they're usually pleasantly surprised...

Email may not be hip, but it's still very social...and F2F meeting/networking is often underrated in all the social media hype...

Think of it this way: Social media can be part of a company or individual's marketing campaign, and sometimes influence is more important than the busyness of comments and links. Traffic stats are always the #1 measurement to consider for effectiveness and influence--they tell you who's coming in, where they're coming from, and how long they're staying. Subscriptions, links, and comments all add to credibility and help support traffic stats, but may be difficult to gather up in one place in order to obtain accurate measurements. Further, you may be blogging in a way that is situating you in a very narrow niche that might *not* yield big traffic, big comments, or big anything. If that's the case, your traffic stats are your best measurement, as well as looking at who's linking--you should be getting links mostly from bloggers (and other media outlets), not sploggers.

Ultimately, social media is one of many ways of connecting and creating awareness about your business/product/yourself--and in this growing media landscape, we need more than one outlet to connect with people. To be effective, consider social media along with other forms of media--and can facilitate "old fashioned" contacts through networking or email. Remember: in the social media landscape, one creates influence which leads to reputation, which leads to business...

Note: In reviewing this post, I noticed I focused on hard, statistical measurements of influence. I didn't talk about how one *creates* influence. That, to me, is something that's not easily measured. We can see influence in links, but how do we get these links? We can get people over to our blogs via the right search criteria, but this doesn't necessarily create links for us either. The keys are, perhaps, in the content--in what we're talking about as well as in how personable we are. Can people relate to us? Yet men and women "relate" differently--and striking the balance of where/how/who one relates can be tough. Some bloggers are great at transcending gender boundaries, while others appeal to one gender over another. Ultimately, the truly 'social' aspects of social media, the ones that make it work just the right way, are the ones that really aren't measurable in a statistical, numeric way--partly because we can't track *every* single stat (as I note here) but also because some things about us, that make our blogs work, defy measurement :-)

5 comments:

Mack Collier said...

GREAT recap Tish, and I agree about time spent on the blog, that's a great measure of if you are influencing readers.

BTW if you use Feedburner, they have added a way to consolidate all your feeds and redirect them to your Feedburner feed. This means you can finally accurately track how many feed subscribers your blog has. I wrote about how to do this on The Viral Garden a few weeks back, email me if you want to know how and I'll send you the link.

Again, great post and resource for your readers!

Mack Collier said...

BTW I should have said that Feedburner has finally added a way to redirect feeds for Blogger blogs. They didn't have that feature before.

Ike said...

Glad to see I'm not the only one gleaning information from Sitemeter!

Every so often, I pop an update on the global nature of my audience.

Tish Grier said...

Hi Mack,

thanks for the Feedburner info...I'm going to have to check it out...will email you on the other info...

and thanks, Ike, for stopping by! I'm a compulsive stat-watcher, always pulling out what's going on. Will have to check your blog out and keep an eye for when you post about stats!

C. B. Whittemore said...

Tish, what an awesome post! I love how you went into detail with the various tools [I love sitemeter] while also putting blogging aspects into real world perspective. Thank you!!!