Inspiration forHow To Think Like A Social Media Marketing Genius Presentation by Beth Kanter
For the past two years, I've been doing an annual Blog benchmarking process that attempts to do a ROI analysis. Figuring out the Return on Investment for your blog can't be done with a single metric. I look at several metrics proposed by Avinash Kaushik These include author contribution, audience growth, conversation rate, and authority Then I look at the amount of time in my work flow and reflect on productivity. The last step is difficult: Translating tangible and intangible benefits into a dollar value. I do that with a grain of salt.
The most valuable part of the blog benchmarking process is the reflection process and linking insights to making improvements. This is the stuff that can't necessarily be counted, but if you ignore it completely you really miss out on the opportunity to improve the quality of your blogging, which presumably increases the blog's ROI.
At the end of 2008, I did a "Best of Beth's Blog" analysis using PostRank. It takes your RSS feed and applies engagement metrics, analyzing the types and frequency of an audience's interaction with your content. Each blog post is given a score from 1 to 10, representing how interesting and relevant people have found your content. The more interesting or relevant an item is, the more work they will do to share or respond to that item so interactions that require more effort are weighted higher. PostRank scoring is based on analysis of the "5 Cs" of engagement: creating, critiquing, chatting, collecting, and clicking.
Of course, you can't really translate a high engagement score into a dollar amount or look at it in isolation without relating to your blogging goals. Measuring engagement in social media as part of an ROI process is tricky, if not a bit controversial. Read "What Is The ROI for Social Media" by Jason Falls which includes an interview the queen of measurement, KD Paine. Here's the ah ha insightful quote:
Katie hit the nail on the head near the end of her round table discussion when she said, “Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, ‘Are we getting what we want out of the conversation?’” And, as stubborn as it sounds Mr. CEO, you don’t get money out of a conversation.
I'm also having some problems with lumping all the engagement measures together, although it's good for a quick and dirty analysis. Is the number of comments the sole measure for success of a blog? Some education technology bloggers, like Tony Karrer suggest looking at the number of views and delicious saves as does Sue Waters in her post, Life is One Big Top Ten. Chris Brogan recently provided some insights about bookmarked blog posts and how they can help increase traffic. And notice that he doesn't just take a list of most bookmarked content, that's only the first step. He's done the reflection process about why a blog post get bookmarked (what's the format or criteria) and what happens when a lot of people bookmark a blog post.
Recently, Chris Brogan did an analysis of most linked to content using Yahoo Site Explorer and while it isn't clear whether it includes links to yourself it sparked an insight for me that different blog posts might have different objectives. Maybe I'm getting into the carpet fibers too much, but something like this:
- Comments for conversational
- Outbound links for influence
- Bookmarked saves for value of content
- Twittered - for velocity
Nina Simon discussed why commenting metrics shouldn't be the only metric to use to help you reflect on your blog and make improvements.
Conclusion and Questions
Here is what I'm leaning towards for a benchmarking process:
- Raw Author Contribution: Frequency of publication and number of words. Setting a goal for publication schedule and consistency and looking back to see if you've stuck to it. Analysis of words in posts. If you use wordpress, Joost Blog Metrics can give you these numbers easily. What is the optimal publication rate for your blog that builds readership?
- Reader Growth: This is content consumption and there are two different types of consumers and you're looking a monthly trends over time. You can look at Unique Visitors Trends from Google Analytics (grain of salt about looking at numbers only) and the Feed Subscribers Trends from Feedburner. What you want to know - is the number of visitors and subscribers going up and to the right. If not, why? If yes, why? One thing I'd like to separate but can't is subscription delivery - via email versus RSS. I get great information by asking those who unsubscribe via email why.
- Reader Sharing: This is bookmarked content for later retrieval and some way to look at Twitter mentions (not sure if that is even valuable). You can find out about bookmark saves from PostRank numbers, although the program doesn't make it easy to calculate. Also, you need to reflect on the type of post and your goal.
- Conversation Rate: This is the commenting and conversation. You can get the most commented posts from PostRank. If you use wordpress, Joost Blog Metrics you can get a comment to post ratio. But you have to ask yourself, what did you learn from the conversation? What's the value of that? If I just took raw numbers, this blog would be all about giving about books and software because those tend to be my most commented posts. The value of comments to me - ideas for future posts and deepening my own learning. Ha, try to measure that or translate into a dollar amount.
- Authority. This your influence or authority rank and it is problematical. I've used my Technorati rank [it has issues] and just compared against myself for year before. But for some reason, my Technorati rank hasn't updated in six months. What's up with that? Another way to do this might be number of links to a post using Yahoo Site Explorer. Best use of this is to analyze the types of posts (content and format) that get linked and the impact of that linking (through referrals in Google Analytics)
- Cost (what!). For me, this is all about my time since my hosting costs are minimal. So, this is an opportunity to do a work flow analysis of your blogging and think about how to make it more productive.
- Return on Investment; This is where we do the math and attempt to make a business cause. You know, compute the cost of your time and subtract it form your income. To me, that's not useful. You need to look at both tangible and intangible benefits and translate them into some value.
- Is there any value or meaning to looking at traffic trends via page views?
- How do you understand the impact of using Twitter to share your blog post links or if other people Re Tweet or share them?
- Is there a formula or set of sharper reflection questions?
- I'm doing this an individual, how would you use an analysis like this to help with planning or making the case for social media (blogs) to your executive director?
- What are tools or techniques are there to collect data, summarize it, or reflect that are efficient?
- How do you use qualitative information and perhaps survey data from readers effectively? Do you need it?
What do you think?