Friday, November 16

Revisiting Metrics: Social Media Equation


“… most bloggers who have not yet established a large readership and built a solid base of well-tagged content for search engines get very distracted by all of these measurements and allow themselves to become [too] focused on these metrics …” — Alan Jobe, noting that, even so, it is still important to be aware of them.

Jobe’s comment came shortly after I asked BlogCatalog members what they thought of prevailing social media metric measures, which I asked along with presenting my I/O=ROI concept yesterday. Only a few answered, but they were the right ones.

I trust Jobe’s observaton as a seasoned blogger with two blogs, including one of my favorites, The Thin Red Line, where he reviews books. I also tend to agree with his point as well, which leads me to clarify my theory.

My dismissal of Google PageRank, Technorati authority, Alexa traffic, etc. as measures does not suggest that metrics are not part of the social media equation. They just don’t belong in the measurement column and an SEO blogger told me why.

Chris, who writes Matts Nutts, a blog dedicated to SEO and blogging (among others), understands the the various technologies better than most. And he pointed out that the aforementioned metrics can all be manipulated to get what you want. As such, they are not measures. (Chris does look at return visits, page rank, and [meaningful] links.)

I have a good example. One week ago my Technorati authority was 201; today it is 176. If this a true measure, someone might conclude our blog is in trouble (some bloggers might even panic). But the truth is that my authority was unintentionally inflated as part of David Meerman Scott’s 150 bloggers “I’m in the book!” link list. One hundred and eighty days later, those links fall off, except for the handful of participants we have since engaged on other topics.

This is the one flaw with the short-term transaction like “link love” and tagging long lists of people for no reason other than implied payback link. It serves as a short-term metric inflator, which makes Technorati a less than ideal ROI measure.

Coincidentally, my friend Geoff Livingston did something similar with his and Brian Solis’ book, Now Is Gone, but it never took off as a “I’m in the book” link list. (I’ll be reviewing their book soon; check it out on our Amazon widget.)

Of course, I am not saying that Technorati rank can be ignored as a comparative tool. All I’m saying is that this metric, like most, is better suited somewhere else in the equation. As Kevin Palmer, BuzzNetworker and Pointless Banter, offered …

“I totally agree the content has to be solid. But I see when I put an extra effort into improving one of these numbers how much it impacts traffic and thus the amount of readership I get. I question if I write too much and don't promote enough.”

This makes a lot of sense to me because it fits with strategic communication and drives home the point that some metrics, currently counted as measures, aren’t really measures at all.

They do, however, indicate reach. I think it's an important distinction for bloggers and social media professionals to make when speaking to new entrants: most metrics, on their own, are not indicative of any true value just as the number of billboards doesn't mean you have a good product and the number of political signs doesn't mean you have a good candidate. So I/O = ROI works.

Still, nothing is that easy. Mark Stoneman, a historian who authors several blogs, including Clio And Me, asked what about other variables like resources. He's right, we need something else to help I/O = ROI make sense. Perhaps this...

Social Media Equations For Business/Professional Blogs

Intent times (value proposition plus effective communication times reach) equals Outcomes.

Outcomes divided by Investment (budget plus time plus experience) equals Return (cost per outcome).

Ergo, social media metrics are part of reach and not the outcomes.

The reason is pretty simple. You can gain just as many links and traffic with a social media crisis or plea to readers as you can with something that reinforces your brand. Given that, metrics cannot be an accurate measure for business. For individual bloggers hoping for more readers, the equation may need a term adjustment.

Social Media Equations For Individual Blogs

Passion times (niche expertise plus good content times promotion) equals Readership.

Readership divided by resources (budget plus time plus knowledge) equals Influence.

In other words, pursuing social media metrics (reach/promotion) before you demonstrate expertise and solid content, as some bloggers do, only damages influence over the long term. As the old adage goes: good advertising is the fastest way to kill a bad product.

Oh, if you are wondering why I qualified individual bloggers as those who want readership vs. any blogger, it's because not all bloggers want readers. For example, I have a private and secure blog that no one outside of our extended family will ever see. The point being is that its success cannot be measured by social media metrics.

Likewise, for many bloggers, having fun is enough and sometimes that is the best measure of all. And that's why I/O = ROI works for them too.

Digg!

8 comments:

Geoff_Livingston on 11/16/07, 1:40 PM said...

Rich:

I was extremely cautious of starting a link meme with the list. The reason for that was the criticism prior efforts had received. As a result I posted in August "Marketing Now Is Gone" to specifically state my intentions in advance of publishing the list.

In that post (http://www.livingstonbuzz.com/blog/2007/08/13/marketing-now-is-gone/)
I wrote:

Bloggers as Sources

More than 60 bloggers were cited in the book, and I will launch the book blog by both listing them permanently as sources, and by a listing here. My intent is simply to honor them and provide business readers additional source material. Several bloggers contributed to a list of related books, which will also be provided to Now Is Gone book and blog readers for further research.

This was not a collaborative process. The book was researched at night and written in a journalistic tone. Relevant blog posts were cited as they pertained to the topic of the moment. Some bloggers may feel they were cited in a tangential way and have more to offer. The night they were cited (one of many evenings last Spring) it may have been tangential, but their material seemed most relevant at that moment.

Further, there was no extra effort to include every marketing blogger on earth. This was not a “catch-all of the Todd-And 150 link-to-me” strategy. The book was written in a very linear fashion.

The 60+ bloggers have already been communicated with, and we asked them if they’d like a free copy of the book. Many (but not all) said yes. Again, I am honored to have cited them. Hopefully they will find the book to be valuable for businesses and recommend it. And yes, if they write up Now Is Gone, I’ll be happy. But there are no expectations. They deserve a book as sources. That’s it.

END QUOTE

I hope this clarifies what we were trying to do with the Now Is Gone list. Those source (of which you are one for full disclosure purposes) are now housed permanently as a tab on the Now Is Gone website.

Good post.

GL

Rich on 11/16/07, 1:56 PM said...

Thanks for the clarification Geoff.

For everyone else, in case I was not clear, it was not my intent to suggest Geoff had tried to start a meme; I was just mentioning that it did not take off as a meme in contrast to David's book who also did not intend for his to take off as a meme.

Frankly, I think it was cool that Geoff and Brian included and recognized their colleagues for contributions that would otherwise go unnoticed, which is why I linked to that page in my post.

Best,
Rich

Rich on 11/16/07, 6:01 PM said...

Update:

For anyone interested, some fine Linkedin people have added additional points that have helped further clarify the equation.

http://www.linkedin.com/answers/marketing-sales/public-relations/MAR_PRR/132126-6546062?goback=%2Eahp

Best,
Rich

Rich on 11/16/07, 7:28 PM said...

Here is recap:

Equation:
Intent vs. Outcome = Return On Investment (I/O = ROI)

Supporting Equations:

Intent x (value proposition + effective communication x reach) = Outcomes.

Outcomes divided by Investment (budget + time + experience) = Return (cost per outcome).

Definitions:
Intent = business objectives + purpose of communication

Outcomes = changed opinion/behavior (or sales, etc.)

Clarification 1 (per David Peyton):
Return = Outcomes

*(cost per outcome) is only meant to dilute the value of the outcomes by what is vested to achieve them. The outcomes are the benefits, depending on what we assign them to be.

Clarification 2 (per Ryan Turner):
Time = time to development

Clarification 3, extension/addition:
Time as a duration may be a factor, but I have not determined how to adjust for it within the equation; perhaps as a notation that the (value proposition + effective communication x reach) dilutes over time.

Clarification 4, Brand Equity addition:
Brand equity would add weight to the intent. Brand equity would also be impacted throughout the equation.

Alan on 11/16/07, 7:59 PM said...

Thanks for your kind words, Rich. Coming from you that means a lot. What my more metrics obsessed blogger friends, particularly the ones who Talk All The Time about making money from their blogs may be surprised to learn is that I am following a carefully thought out business plan with my blog and ultimately my Real motivation for doing this is to draw lots of eyeballs to my ads.

My plan will take a couple of years to fully implement. But being quoted by you as a 'seasoned blogger' is a real compliment.

(Go write 100 good posts and get lots of people to read them and only Then worry about monetizing your blog.)

RecycleCindy on 11/16/07, 8:57 PM said...

I found this post very useful when talking about blogging. You stated at the end of your article that for some of us, it's about having fun. When I started my blog site, I just wanted to have some fun and share my ideas. I'm not an overly talented person but have have some good ideas. I just wanted to share my recycled ideas with other crafters in hopes of promoting my ideas and my blog site. It seems to have worked and of course, I'm having so much fun with my blog.

David Meerman Scott on 11/17/07, 2:30 AM said...

Hey Rich,

You think your rank went down because those links fell off...

Another measure I like is the number of comments on a blog. You get a lot. So do I. It shows people pay attention. Not sure if there is any way to do this other than by eyeballing the comments fields in posts.

Cheers, David

Rich on 11/18/07, 2:19 PM said...

Alan,
It's well deserved. I think it's great you have a plan.

Cindy,
Thank you. I always try to keep it real. After speaking with many bloggers, I always keep in mind that some people just want to have fun. And there is nothing wrong with that. I have fun too. :)

David,
Oh, I know it did. But it's not a complaint and it was worthwhile; it introduced me too a great number of blogs and it increased reach (there is no question). I only question the validity of such links as an outcome measure.

I look at comments too; and think they demonstrate engagement, like links, but I'm sure they are not outcomes in every case unless the bloggers have tied it to intent in the first place.

For me, the best thing about comments is not the quantity, but the quality and opportunity to deepen the conversation. I'm always grateful for that. A great many posts have come out discussions.

All my best,
Rich

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