Measuring the Effectiveness of Social Media

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:

Chris Brogan
Jennifer Laycock
Josh Hallett
CK
Chris Thilk
Tish Grier
Jake McKee
Katie Chatfield


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.


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posted by Mack Collier @ 9:55 AM,

17 Comments:

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Cece said...

Thanks for the overview Mack. Great basis for measuring the effectiveness of social media. Though my current company doesn't have a corporate blog, reading and participating on blogs is the first step. I've been able to measure some traffic from sites where comments were left. It's a start :-)

 
At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Glenn Gow said...

Mack,

Congratulations on your blogging success. Quite impressive!

I agree that blogging should be about creating value. We went through a lot of learning on how to optimize our approach, but we’ve always maintained that this is about sharing value with your target market.

And, as you say, it’s not just via your blog, but by participating in the conversations hosted by others. (Like this).

Now, we are privileged to assist many of our clients with their social media strategies (and implementations). Social media is working for us, and for our clients as well.

Thank you for your contributions to our learning as well.

 
At 3:34 PM, Anonymous David Brazeal said...

Mack, this is really a great post. Thanks for pulling together all this information in one place... I'll be sending people here to read it!

 
At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Seni Thomas said...

Mack,

Good stuff man. I've been thinking a lot about the creation of conversation conduits between companies and consumers. I some ways I feel that blogs are too one-directional. As a solution I wrote a post on using the Facebooks new Fan pages to develop communities and empower your consumers.

Stop by and check it out, I'd love to hear your take on it.

http://senithomas.wordpress
.com/2007/11/13/facebook-
fan-pages-guide-
destinations-vs-
collaborative-conversation
-spaces/

Cheers,

Seni

 
At 7:04 PM, Blogger Valeria Maltoni said...

Way to go, Mack. Very content rich and taking the conversation to the next level ;-) Your stats are quite impressive, and deserved.

I like the suggestion that 'mileage may vary' because there are different business promises/models and types of bloggers. When you rely more on the human touch, you also involve more chemistry; and that cannot be fabricated.

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger Geoff_Livingston said...

Wow! this is probably the best measurement post yet. 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!

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Chris Brogan said...

Hi Mack--

I'm like a goof when it comes to measurements. I'll tell you which chicken bones I'm tossing right now, for whatever they discern about the future.

I use feedburner to see my RSS subscriptions. I use compete.com to see who's landing on the site. I use Google Analytics which always seem WAY lower than the other numbers.

But those numbers never seem to mean much to my success or lack therein.

Instead, I have one thing that gives me a sense of value or lack of value: comments.

When I met Liz Strauss, she introduced herself, and told me next that her blog had over 39,000 comments (it's coming up on 60K now). What a STAT! I thought, "engagement measured by comments." Now that's a neat measurement.

But just to throw this into a full-on "blog post in your comments," what if we look at this:

Who cares how many people come? The real stat is "who takes the action you want them to take?"

That, dear friend, is my measurement holy grail.

So, that's all I have for you. But yes, good on ya for the success!

 
At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Jill said...

A gradual increase in subscribers, hits, links and comments may be a sign that your blog is on the right track but what is a healthy level of growth? Should bloggers expect these numbers to double every month or is 10-20% growth more realistic?

I realize growth in these areas will likely depend on the amount of time that's invested in content development and outreach efforts but I'm interested to hear your thoughts on what level of growth is healthy and sustainable.

 
At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Connie Bensen said...

I knew that you'd have some great insight, Mack! It's awesome to hear from a marketer that's making it work.

What I really like is the analysis & adaptation. I believe that needs to be ongoing.

I'm so fortunate to have met you in Facebook!
Connie
www.conniebensen.com

 
At 7:21 AM, Blogger Jennifer Laycock said...

Been out of town, so just spotted this. I'll work up my response this afternoon and will drop you a link to let you know it's up.

Interesting conversation and now you've given me my article idea for the day. ;)

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"Though my current company doesn't have a corporate blog, reading and participating on blogs is the first step. I've been able to measure some traffic from sites where comments were left. It's a start :-)"

Cece that's a GREAT first step, as it allows you to 'get your feet wet' and get a bit of an understanding about blogs before you dive in.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"I knew that you'd have some great insight, Mack! It's awesome to hear from a marketer that's making it work.

What I really like is the analysis & adaptation. I believe that needs to be ongoing.

I'm so fortunate to have met you in Facebook!"

Actually Connie I probably wouldn't even be using Facebook now if you hadn't walked me patiently through the site and it's capabilities! Thanks so much!

 
At 9:51 PM, Blogger Jennifer Laycock said...

I've added my two cents to the mix Mack. Thanks for inviting me to the conversation.

http://www.searchengineguide.com/jennifer-laycock/how-do-you-value-social-media.php

As you know, I come at things from the search background and have always felt like I'm fighting an internal battle in our industry to change the way people view the value of social media.

In the search realm, social media is valued as a quick and easy way to build links. Unfortunately, that results in a lot of clutter, a lot of crashed servers and very little created value.

It's very interesting (and encouraging) to me to read the perspectives coming from other areas of the marketing world.

 
At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Doug Jones said...

Monitoring (and interpreting) my stats are now what's giving me problems. I need tools to help. I've researched those available (and there are a lot out there) and some of the promising ones are Artemis, Glyphius, and Nemeas. I'd love to hear from someone with experience with these products.

Thanks,

Doug Jones

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Jill said:
"A gradual increase in subscribers, hits, links and comments may be a sign that your blog is on the right track but what is a healthy level of growth? Should bloggers expect these numbers to double every month or is 10-20% growth more realistic?

I realize growth in these areas will likely depend on the amount of time that's invested in content development and outreach efforts but I'm interested to hear your thoughts on what level of growth is healthy and sustainable."

Jill I think there's a lot of trial and error involved, as well as your seeing what stats are important to your blog. For example, several months ago I began to focus more on my subscriber numbers rather than actual traffic to this blog, as I noticed that my regular readers seemed to be shifting to feed readers instead of visiting the blog via bookmarks or what have you.

And sometimes the metrics don't move together. For example, if I started posting 5 times a day, my traffic would probably quickly rise, but the comments per post would probably fall, and I would have less time to spend reading other blogs and on Facebook, MyBlogLog, Twitter, etc., and my community would probably suffer.

But for me, I look for continued subscriber growth, as well as the number of comments and links that each post gets. I don't focus on 'total number of links' as much as I used to.

Hope that helps!

 
At 11:40 AM, Blogger Tish Grier said...

Hi Mack! Well, I'm finally going to work up a blog post on this--

You've got some great thoughts regarding company blogs and I think there are ways of cultivating influence within a niche, esp. if your product is very niche oriented. If you niche-blog, you might not see lots of reader comments, and even very modest traffic growth. This doesn't mean you're *not* successful--rather, it may mean that you're successful in a particular niche. That's where google page rank comes in. If you're page rank is pretty high (mine's 5) but your traffic is low (on average, between 35-50 readers per day) you can bet you're doing *something* right.

Also, it can be hard to track reader subscriptions, as there are many different kinds of rss readers and they don't all aggregate. So, the better way to know who's coming in is to watch one's stats, see who's coming in on various rss readers, where they're coming from, etc. This is esp. fun when traffic is low, as, in its own way, you become acquainted with your "readership" by knowing that so-and-so from such-and-such comes in on a particular rss reader.

Still, one must always consider *intention* before starting a blog. if you're thinking only of creating customer evangelists, you better have very high quality, as the "customers" of the blogosphere are a very particular bunch (and I mean that in a good way.) What this means is that one's intention might best be expressed as wanting to give good information and to link out to good information vs. creating customer evangelists.

oh, I'll post the link to my blog post on this when it's done :-)

 
At 4:59 AM, Anonymous Valeria said...

Thank you for sharing such useful information. I have my own blog and it relly helps driving traffic to my website. Social sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and similar are pretty useful too. I did not like Twitter originally, but it does work as a marketing tool.

 

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