Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Want to have a successful blog? Then create value for your readers.

My recent post on measuring social media effectiveness led to some amazing comments, including this one from Chris Brogan:

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.

Ya see, this is the thing that troubles me a bit about the discussions of how we can help businesses 'measure the effectiveness' of blogging and other forms of social media. When we do so, we tend to look at say blogging as a tool to grow business. We look at how we can measure if blogging is contributing to a business' bottom line. We look at how blogging can directly benefit a company.

But look at what Chris focuses on, comments. Why? My guess is because Chris knows that if his readers comment, it's a sign that he's creating content that they find value in. So why can't businesses and marketers have the same goal? Why shouldn't the top measure of the effectiveness of a company's blogging effort be the amount of value created for the blog's readers?

Because the great thing about blogging is that blogging makes things happen indirectly. I think Hugh MacLeod said that first, but it's the truth.

If you are a company, think of what you might want to accomplish from your blogging. Maybe you want to boost your website's Google PageRank? Maybe you want to boost online awareness in order to boost sales? Maybe you want to boost your company's reputation in your industry?

These are all direct benefits that a company might want to gain from blogging. But these benefits only arise if you FIRST create value for your readers. So if the key to getting what YOU want is to first give your readers what THEY want, why not focus on giving your readers value first?

Let's simplify things and say your goal for your blog is to have it raise your online awareness among customers. The path to arrive at that destination might look something like this:

Create valuable content on blog--->Visitors comment on and link to posts--->More visitors discover blog, readership grows and community is created--->Online reputation grows as blog readers blog about company and value its blog is creating

Your company reaching its blogging goals are dependent on you first creating value for your blog's readers.

If your company wants to be successful in its blogging efforts, approach the process as successful bloggers like Chris do. They strive to DIRECTLY create value for their readers, knowing that they will benefit INDIRECTLY. That's the power of being second.

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Chris Brogan said...

Interesting way to look at it. I agree that value drives quality drives value of other kinds.

It'll be interesting to know what others say about this.

Gavin Heaton said...

Comments are great, but don't measure influence. I find that blogs are starting discussions that are generating a great deal of offline conversation. This is perhaps where the real influence of blogging is meeting business practice. But there is still substantial reticence about commenting or blogging.

At a talk the other night, I was told about a whole series of ongoing discussions that have been spurned from my blog. Not one comment came from that group (online), but the offline sharing and discussion sounded very powerful.

Now, I would never have found out about this otherwise. Similarly with the AoC, I found out recently that it has been put onto the reading lists for some marketing courses. This was random ... eventhough we have lots of "listening posts" online, we don't have the resources to do this offline. I am sure most bloggers are in the same boat.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Mack, Chris, and Gavin!
I agree with all of you on different points.

Blogging to me is a product delivered to an audienced, comments don't measure influence, though they measure engagement and visibility. People who take the time to comment are invested in a product.

What they are is relationships. They bring me as much information and as many new thoughts as I bring them.

Many bloggers I know don't get visible comments, but have, as Gavin said, plenty of conversation about their posts going on in emails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings. In the end, influence comes down to who is making the comment and who is listening no matter what the venue . . . that a blogger inspired conversation is the key.

My experience as a publisher is this. Much like Chris says, if we deliver value consistently, readers will return with fiercely loyal brand trust.

Maybe that trust is the real influence . . . whether it's talked about on the blog or not.

Numbers never did a good job of representing hows and whys only whats. As a friend of mine says, "We just can't get those customers to behave." . . .

But we can get to know them intimately, in whatever style is our own.

Thanks Mack for the love,


Mack Collier said...

Gavin that's a great point. We can find value in a post even if we don't comment. And you're right, for many readers, especially those that haven't commented on a blog before, leaving a comment can be a bit intimidating.

Mack Collier said...

"Blogging to me is a product delivered to an audienced, comments don't measure influence, though they measure engagement and visibility. People who take the time to comment are invested in a product.

What they are is relationships. They bring me as much information and as many new thoughts as I bring them."

Great point, Liz. This is why I think companies could benefit so much more from blogging if they approached blogging as their readers and fellow bloggers do. I think Dell is a great example of a company that's starting to 'get' what blogging is really about. Richard Binhammer and John Pope are constantly engaging readers on THEIR blogs, either via comments, or email, or even on Twitter and Facebook.

And, it seems they are having a lot of fun, which is the whole point!

Anonymous said...

If we go back to the discussion that only a small number of customers/readers actually engage, or comment in this case, then even a few comments are a great indicator that a blog post has brought value.

I can also relate to Gavin's comments. Many of my customers and clients are not into the blogosphere, but they like to read my blog in email. They are not commenting online, but they are definitely reading the blog. In fact, when I go and speak locally, I get attendees telling each other that they should go check out my blog! To me, that is a great indicator of value-added.

Thanks for the conversation on this, Mack. You rock! :-)

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

That's it, Mack!
The blog post offers value which is the reason we come. The comment conversations offers a compelling reason to engage . . . relationship which turns into trust.

Value and trust . . . isn't that what makes loyal customers?

This is a fabulous conversation, I agree!