The dynamic Connie Bensen tagged me in a 'discussion meme' around the topic of how we can measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns. The meme has generated some fantastic conversations from several social media experts.
I want to stick to blogging, because that's probably where most companies go first. My view toward blogging is that you have to create value in order to get value. If you are wanting to utilize blogging to improve your company's bottom line, then 'me first' does NOT apply.
And a great way to create value is to view your blog as a community-building tool. Some ways that you can judge if your blog is creating value for your readers is:
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?
If traffic, comments, emails and links are increasing, these are signs that you are creating content that's engaging your readers. Which means you are creating value for them. And they are promoting the content you produce to others, especially by linking to your content on their blogs.
But please remember that so much of the growth of your blog is dependent on the amount of time you spend OFF your blog! Your ability to create a vibrant community is dependent on you being a good community member yourself. If visitors become regular readers and commenters at your blog, then you should return the favor by spending time on THEIR blog reading and leaving comments! I advise the companies I discuss blogging with to invest at least half of their 'blogging time' to reading and commenting on other blogs.
Doing so further encourages readers to contribute at your blog. This is how your readers create value for you!
Now, as far as Return on Investment, how does the time you spend blogging benefit you?
1 - Blogging increases your Google Page Rank. This results in more web traffic, and helps establish your authority. And more than likely, your competition only has a static website, which puts them at a severe disadvantage when competing against an active blog in Google's eyes.
2 - Regular readers and contributors to your blog are more likely to become evangelists for you. This of course lowers your marketing costs and makes your marketing more effective.
3 - Your blog can increase customer satisfaction. You will hear this early and often, but blogging 'puts a human face on an organization'. It's the truth, we relate better to people that are like us, and blogging puts a company on a 'human level' with their customers. This leads to more communication, with leads to understanding, and customer satisfaction.
4 - Blogging can improve your image with other bloggers. Perhaps the best example of a company using blogging to improve its reputation online is Dell. At the height of Dell-Hell, almost half of all blog posts about Dell were negative. This was a wake-up call for the Austin-based company, and Dell decided to become active community members in the blogosphere. Since that time, Dell has become proactive about engaging bloggers and providing us with value. The result? The amount of negative blog posts about Dell has gone from a high of 49% to the current level of only 22%. Its Direct2Dell blog is now one of the most respected corporate blogs on the internet, and the company's efforts are now used as a case study for how a company can successfully utilize social media as a marketing tool.
Another interesting facet of this 'discussion meme' is that we are asked to share metrics from our blog's performance that back-up our points. Here's some of the key stats from this blog:
Traffic - Total daily blog traffic (Combining traffic straight to the blog, feed readers, and email subscribers) is currently around 2,100-2,300. In February that figure was at around 400 a day. The above is a graph showing the growth of feed subscribers over the life of The Viral Garden.
Links - Currently The Viral Garden has 534 links, with the blog ranked as 7,622 out of over 112 million blogs that Technorati tracks.
Google PageRank - 6
Comments - This is the 524th post at The Viral Garden, and a couple of weeks ago I manually counted over 2,500 comments left here (unfortunately Blogger won't total the comments for me). So there's roughly 5 comments per post.
Google results - There are currently 136,000 Google results for the exact term "The Viral Garden" Additionally, there were 476 Google results for my name the day I started blogging back in September of 2005. Today there are over 51,000.
But the value I have received from the blogging community cannot be measured. It's allowed me to meet so many amazing people that I otherwise would have likely never known. I have been able to meet and become friends with authors and marketers that I had literally idolized prior to joining the blogosphere. And the community I have joined and the connections I have made have indirectly led to consulting projects, speaking opportunities, writing assignments and even the chance to co-author an amazing book.
As with so much in life, 'your mileage may vary'. But in general, if you approach social media and especially blogging, with the mindset that if you FIRST CREATE value that you will receive value, your efforts will be well worth your time! Best of all, you can get started blogging for free, so you can kick the tires and see if it's for you. Here's a couple of articles that can help you get started.
Here's who I'd like to see chime in with their thoughts:
UPDATE: Geoff left this comment: "I really like how you get into using the statistics to determine how your efforts going, to not just monitor, but to perhaps change course direction. Well done!"
A bit of a clarification about my traffic. I noticed around January or February of this year that my feed readers had caught my daily traffic. So I started paying attention to Feedburner to track my subscriber stats. I moved my 'subscriber buttons' to the top of my sidebar, and added button for Google Reader, Netvibes, and NewsGator, since these seemed to be growing for me. I also added a form to subscribe by email.
I think the feed reader growth is mainly a sign of people's changing habits in how they read blog posts, but I'm sure my moving the subscriber buttons and adding an email form has helped. I think it also speaks to Geoff's point about monitoring your stats and making changes as you think they are necessary.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing