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.

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Thursday, November 15

Evolving A Blog: Social Media ROI


The debate seems endless. The argument circular. And the affirmation echoes apparently tied to technologies like Google PageRank, Technorati authority, Alexa traffic, Feedburner subscriptions, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, return visitors, comment counts, and any combination of the aforementioned.

We may as well be counting column inches and trying to convince clients that public relations can somehow be equated to paid advertising space of roughly the same size; count total mentions in tier one publications (whatever those are); or assign erroneous values to stories that are positive, neutral, or negative despite knowing that negative stories carry eight times the weight.

While these measures might be valid in some cases, they are not valid in every case. Neither is the abundance of technology-based measures being pushed in social media. They are the measurements of activity and/or popularity, which is often contrary to the proven concept that the true purpose of any communication is to change opinion or behavior. So the question remains...

How do you measure the return on investment of social media?

Simply put, social media measurement depends on the ability of the communication to meet defined objectives. In other words, much like public relations, the intent vs. the outcome is the ROI.

Even the evolution of this blog works well as an example because its purpose has shifted three times since its launch in 2005 (we had run several experimental “ghost” blogs prior to launch). Each time, regardless of rank, authority, etc., it met its objectives.

I’ve broken the transition into three shifts for simplicity, even though these transitions were not hard changes. A parsed overview follows...

Copywrite, Ink. Blog 2005 – Augment Instruction

The initial purpose was simple — augment my classroom instruction with observations, including comment on communication examples in real time; develop handouts for classroom discussion; and evaluate the potential business applications of blogs for select clientele.

While the objectives were not earth shattering, they were met. In addition, as I was the only communication person in market experimenting with blogs, it led to a speaking engagement for the local chapter of IABC. (Today, that first PowerPoint presentation is a snapshot of social media history, back when 90 percent of bloggers were ages 13-29.)

Copywrite, Ink. Blog 2006 – Education And Promotional

While the original purpose did not change, this blog began to evolve from its early academic function to a dual-purpose communication vehicle. On several occasions, prospective clients had visited this blog from a Web site link and selected us based in part on what they read. We knew because they mentioned specific posts.

• Augment educational instruction for public relations certificate students at UNLV.
• Evaluate and experiment with new technologies so we weren’t asking our clients to test them.
• Promote select experience, especially because it changes too frequently for other communication vehicles.
• Reinforce our mission to produce the most effective communication possible by composing powerful messages across all media.

Meeting these objectives expanded our knowledge base about blogs and others trends in social media, including spotting convergence earlier than most after of a chance discussion with AT&T. In addition to the above, it provided a communication vehicle for non-news direct to the public. (Unlike some in public relations, we don’t spam the media with non-news).

We also secured several accounts that we may not have secured without the benefit of the blog because our strategic communication skill sets became more visible. It also helped expand our out-of-market clientele base.

Copywrite, Ink. Blog 2007 – Education, Experimentation, Engagement

As a sub consultant for advertising agencies, public relations firms, etc., we really cannot afford to share as much as I would like because, frankly, many accounts we work on are not our clients, but accounts served by our clients. Sharing insider information is unethical.

However, by the end of 2006, we noticed that there were ample case studies materializing on the Web where CEOs and communication professionals seemed baffled by the outcomes, despite the fact they seemed obvious to our team. So we shifted our objectives once again by taking strategic communication principles well beyond the classroom and into the real world with a bigger audience.

• Augment educational instruction to prepare students for a communication landscape that has changed.
• Experiment with new technologies, gaining insight and understanding in how they may impact communication.
• Engage in the conversations presented by colleagues to assist in deepening the fundamentals of social media without losing the proven principles of strategic communication.
• Demonstrate experience and a value proposition by presenting insight into living case studies that represent best and worst practices rather than talking about “us” all the time.

In evaluating the parsed objectives above, you might notice that they cannot be measured by Google PageRank, Technorati authority, Alexa traffic, Feedburner subscriptions, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, return visitors, comment counts, and any combination of the aforementioned.

On the contrary, the measures are based on how well students are prepared for social media; how much we understand new media trends as they relate to communication; whether we deepen conversations on select topics; and if, as a byproduct, we are able to develop and nurture long-term relationships with clients and colleagues by sharing knowledge.

It’s about that simple, or perhaps, that complex.

One blog. Three different communication purposes. All successful based upon the stated objectives. And not even one purpose is tied to “activity” measurements. In fact, if we begin to measure success based on activity and not intent vs. outcome, we risk allowing the message to manage us rather than us managing the message.

More tomorrow, despite breaking the short post rule once again. Ho hum. Now I have to go wait in line at the DMV. Measuring "activity" there is futile too.

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Wednesday, November 14

Smoking Strategies: David Maister


Beginning straightaway with the title of David Maister’s new book, Strategy And The Fat Smoker, he shares the pointed observation that most professionals, especially managers, already know what to do for long-term success (and why to do it), but are too easily swayed by bad habits, short-term temptations, and misaligned measurements.

It’s a classic definition of the difference between intelligence and wisdom: smart enough to know, but not wise enough to do.

We already know that our business goals are best served by developing long-term relations with our clients and customers, but we’re too easily distracted by chasing any and all new business because the short-term transaction is so very, very tempting. In advertising, it translates into runaway creative without the benefit of communication purpose. For social media, it might mean link love and buzz vs. the pursuit of tangible business outcomes. In our personal lives, it might be super sized fries for lunch, every day, because packing a sack is too darn inconvenient.

We already know what we could be doing but until a crisis occurs, we’re forever stuck on the short-term treadmills that take us nowhere. Well, most of us.

You really don’t have to endure a crisis to actualize a better business strategy. As Maister, a recognized authority on the management of professional service firms and former faculty member of Harvard Business School, notes: all businesses talk about outstanding client service, teamwork, healthy work environments, and investing in the future. But so few really do, largely because their statement of objectives does not match the outcome they want to measure — increased revenue and profit margins.

We know it’s true, despite the fact that very few companies tell the truth, plainly stating that they are most interested in chasing cash and, nowadays, Web traffic. And, most that don’t talk about it are usually delusional or just plain liars. No wonder there is a disconnect between businesses and their customers.

Where Maister will likely strike a chord with some is in pointing out that applied wisdom leads to sustainable success. He presents a case for how individuals, managers, and organizations can put what they know how to do into action. However, we can only hope that someone inside every fat company can use the various tools, techniques, and thought processes to convince the executive team that a diet is warranted.

While some will find the shifts between individual and organizational strategy, as well as some personal experience tossed in, a bit jarring at times (along with frequent references to his other books), it’s not enough to detract from the value that can be gained. Maister expertly paints an accurate, if not frightening, picture of business as usual today.

“It is not uncommon for me to be told even by the most senor people that their firm’s impressive financial results have been accomplished by a management team which has consistently created an environment of fear and insecurity,” writes Maister. “The simplest explanation for the prevalence of this ‘abusive behavior’ is the simple fact that, in the right situation, it works!”

However, he distinguishes that such short-term work-under-fire tactics are exactly that — tactics that will eventually lose their effectiveness and eventually elicit resentment. In contrast, proactive, passionate, and positive management teams energize and excite people about what they do, which in turn becomes tangible in the way the workforce interacts with clients. Long term, applied wisdom will lead to better financial results.

He’s right. As I’ve often advised agency owners, especially those who have an account executive background, negative reinforcement can teach mice to press a bar for cheese, but it never did anything for creativity. And even with mice, too much negative reinforcement will eventually immobilize them.

My net assessment of Strategy And The Fat Smoker is that it provides some much needed advice for the increasingly fast-paced world of random transactions, especially those that occur online. Business, especially communication, is poised for a shift toward relationships that mean something, whether that means people to people or product to consumer.

Strategy And The Fat Smoker is an important first step for managers and leaders to look in the mirror and take action before the crisis. And based on the Watson Wyatt study highlighted in October, I suspect Maister’s book will be on the shelf none too soon.

In the interim, I highly recommend his blog, one of the few I frequently read without ever becoming irritated by the content. But then again, as a strategist in principle if not always practice, I prefer it over the noise that sometimes overshadows good work elsewhere.

It’s good enough that I’ll refer to and reference his book often. It's just another observation: with social media, almost no review is limited to a single post, but instead becomes infused in the principles of the writer. With Maister's principles so close to my own, it's easy.

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Tuesday, November 13

Deepening Conversations: New Media


Social media sometimes appears to be an inch deep and a mile wide. At least that is the way it looks to some because social media, or new media, is still in its infancy. As a result, it’s often easier to build an extension to the wafer thin model than dig deeper, proving or disproving what is being considered today.

Regardless of the sessions attended or exhibitors met at BlogWorld & New Media Expo, this point became especially apparent when Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang asked their session participants if they felt they could have been a speaker — the vast majority of attendees, predominately bloggers, raised their hands without hesitation.

This isn’t a reflection on BlogWorld as much as it is an observation that many new media speakers need to deepen their topics. It’s part of the art of listening before engaging in conversation. With that in mind, I’ll highlight three sessions and save exhibitors for a deeper review another time.

Participatory Journalism

Paul Gillin, author of The New Influencers, invested ample time speaking about social media influencers (and the influencers of the influencers) and participatory journalism — which he considers the future of journalism — everyday people contributing their unique and sometimes conflicting perspectives on any given event. This media model is not all that dissimilar to the example he provided about Northwest Voice or perhaps indicative of two videos recently highlighted by Amitai Givertz, Prometeus – The Media Revolution and Epic 2015.

While Gillin is right in that traditional media is struggling to stay relevant (and funded), someone might ask if this is what we really want — a world dominated by collective opinions that make up our self-selected existence, with no one, and I mean no one, working to find the truth beyond their own biased sense of reality. It seems to me this story was already written by a gentleman named Yevgeny Zamyatin. His book, which influenced both a Brave New World and 1984, presents a dystopian society where numbers, not unlike Web addresses, replace names. The concept of transparency takes on physical form in an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass.

Peeping Cults

And what of that world? It’s not so impossible, given the same conversation thread slipped into a Leo Laporte-led discussion on “the cult of blogging,” which featured hasty guest replacement Justine Ezarik. (Scheduled speakers were not there. Om Malik hurt his back and Mike Arrington “forgot he was speaking.”)

This is not a criticism about Ezarik. She is one of many bloggers turning to multimedia to expand their presence in a new media world. Originally a photo blogger, Ezarik presents her life as an open book and has captured an audience as a result. She’s not alone. Plenty of people are willing to live in glass houses. If that isn’t enough, check out Mogulus, which is currently in beta.

Still, most of the discussion during that session descended into developing fan bases by adding multimedia to blogs. It also touched on privacy issues, detractors, and Laporte’s justifications for not allowing comments on Twitter while not recommended other people follow suit. Interesting, but not too deep given that most of the audience was beyond focusing on passion. Not deep, because at one point, Laporte was surprised he still had a half hour to fill.

Touching Ground

That said, if there was one session that deserves props (noting that I did not attend several sessions presented by many people I read online), then it was Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang who did not disappoint.

I won’t recap the presentation; Jason Falls, who I was privileged to meet and sat next to, did a fine job (skip that goofy measurement stuff though) as did Lisa Barone at Bruce Clay, Inc.. So instead, I’ll expand with a few thoughts:

1. In the rush to tell businesses that they might listen to and engage their customers, social media experts sometimes forget to listen to and engage their customers, which are those businesses.

2. Measurement begins before any social media effort is launched as that is the best place to begin benchmarking. Measurements are not necessarily tied to Alexa traffic, Technorati authority, Google page rank, etc.

3. Entering social media is more likely to succeed for businesses that employ it as an extension of their business strategy much like Owyang did for Hitachi.

4. Using a marketing megaphone makes about as much sense as standing on a street corner and waving your arms. Try adding value to the customer’s conversation.

5. Successful social media remains grounded in strategic communication. The language may have changed, but the concepts and theories are largely the same.

6. Social media tools and technologies will continue to change for a very, very long time. And that means the best reason to employ technologies like Linkedin or Facebook or mySpace is because specific customers, your customers, are there.

7. As always, it is always better to find the right people than worry about finding lots of people. This concept is already being infused into traditional marketing. Ratings and circulation are becoming less important than engaged consumers.

All in all, Brogan and Owyang succeeded in bringing the value that I was hoping to find at BlogWorld. Instead of the selling the idealistic notions about social media that will one day lead to the One State collective, they remain grounded on what needs to be done more often — offering a depth of conversation — well beyond those tempting snacks.

Social media is not always about what can be done. Sometimes it’s about why something needs to be done for each specific company. Few things just happen by following a formula. Great works need a plan.

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Monday, November 12

Honoring Veterans: Veterans Day


"On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain." — Dwight D. Eisenhower, President

Before my grandfather (16th Infantry, 3rd Bn, 1st Inf Div - Berlin) died a few years ago, he left behind a legacy for others to carry forward with the Berlin Veterans Association. Originally, he served in the Army Air Corps until it became part of the Army Air Forces, which were later disestablished by Congress (thus creating the U.S. Air Force). Among other assignments, he was stationed in Germany during the Berlin Blockade (Also know as the Berlin Airlifts), one of first major crises of the Cold War.

While our family has several veterans and we honor of all them today, I would like to bring attention to the Berlin U.S. Military Veterans Association, the organization that consists of men and women who served with Les and/or were connected to him by serving in Berlin. Their service, like the service of all our veterans, need not be forgotten.

Another organization worth mentioning today is U.S. Vets. U.S. Vets is the largest non-profit organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk veterans, and a nationally recognized leader in the field of service delivery to veterans. I have been close to this program on a number of occasions as a state commissioner with the Nevada Commission for National and Community Service (NCNCS), which administers AmeriCorps programs in Nevada.

Every year, U.S. Vets helps more than 1,100 homeless veterans return to full time employment. It has one of the most successful homeless rehabilitation models in the country and I’ve been personally touched by their work on more than one occasion — including when a plumber, working on the kitchen sink in my home, shared his homeless story with me. As it turned out, he was graduating from the U.S. Vets program a few weeks later.

And finally, we also extend our heartfelt appreciation to Soldiers’ Angels, which is launching a new holiday program for troops who are currently deployed around the world. (They also have several programs to assist veterans.)

I learned about Solders’ Angels after speaking with Rick Calvert, creator of BlogWorld. We wrote a short piece on how BlogWorld had donated a booth to Soldiers’ Angels on our community blog last week.

Last week, I had planned to share some insights into BlogWorld today, but that can wait until tomorrow. Today is better served by observing and honoring all those who have served so their efforts and sacrifices to this country and other countries are remembered always. Thank you, and bless you, one and all. Our veterans.

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Sunday, November 11

Blogging For Hope: Jane Sweat, JerichoMonster

Stop Verbal Abuse


Barbara Sweat (aka Jericho Saved/Jane), who publishes the JerichoMonster blog, never intended to become a popular television blogger (“Best TV Blogger,” in fact, after winning a recent contest held at Hey! Nielsen, where she took first place).

Originally, she was inspired to blog because of her love for the CBS series Jericho, which became the fastest television show cancellation reversal in history after fans sent more than 40,000 pounds of nuts to CBS (among other things). Her blog was one of many that increased awareness about the cancellation protest. A short second season is expected in January.

Sweat is still a dedicated fan, but her blog has since evolved from covering one show to covering many shows and topics. Now, she frequently interviews fans, bloggers, journalists, critics, production crew members, and celebrities.

Recently, she also participated as one of the 10,000 bloggers who contributed to the Bloggers Unite social awareness campaign organized by BlogCatalog. The challenge called for an end to abuse. (The blogger was allowed to choose the type of abuse.)

“I felt and feel that verbal abuse is a very important topic to discuss even though it may be uncomfortable,” says Sweat. “Exposing all types of abuse allows bloggers to reach people who may feel helpless and hopeless. Using JerichoMonster, I felt, was a way to reach people who may visit my blog, never expecting to find a topic about abuse, and who might not otherwise search for this type of information.”

Sweat says the topic is especially relevant because she had endured verbal abuse from her mother all her life. As the words and labels embedded themselves, she recognizes that they began to shape her feelings about the world and, more importantly, herself. They no longer speak.

Sweat’s Bloggers Unite post chronicles how verbal abuse sometimes escalates from put-downs under the guise of jokes into disparaging comments that aim to control, manipulate, and intimidate, leaving an impact on the victim forever. It also alternates between facts about verbal abuse and two fictional characters developed by her and her friend Beth.

The characters, Edna and Margie (who are two “elderly sisters” purported to live in Jericho), were created for Amy Vernon’s “Jericho Guest Blogger” experiment at the Remote Access TV blog. Although the characters are most often used to make observations about the fictional town as if they were part of it, Sweat thought that Edna and Margie’s conversation could drive the point home about abuse. The “voices” are their voices and the stories are very real.

“I can recall my mother, for example, telling me that I was worthless,” said Sweat. “It hurt … but if you look at the person who is verbally abusing you, you may find they are the ones who feel even more inferior.”

Sweat’s post earned second place in the Blog For Hope Post Competition, sponsored by Copywrite, Ink. in cooperation with BlogCatalog. Among the prizes, Copywrite, Ink. will be donating any proceeds from Bloggers Unite “Verbal Abuse” T-shirts to the Family Violence Protection Fund. The post helped inspire a simple design that aims to dispel the myth that names don’t hurt people.

As her writing partner Beth added: verbal abuse is one of the most overlooked forms of abuse. While there are no physical signs and it leaves no bruises that can be seen, it can damage self-esteem, especially in children when their parents and siblings represent their most trusted sources of information. Parents and siblings tend to be believed.

“It was an honor to help blog about such an important issue,” said Beth. “And I was very glad that I asked to participate in the Blogging Against Abuse contest."

Sweat says they were encouraged to blog about abuse after learning about Bloggers Unite at BlogCatalog, where she has been a member for six months. She also said that she originally joined BlogCatalog to learn about social media and how to drive more traffic to her blog.

Since, she has discovered a community of bloggers who share advice about a number of blogging issues. Participating in Bloggers Unite campaigns is especially rewarding to her. And, from what she says, she is not the only one.

“It has definitely made a difference to people who read my blog, and it has made a big difference to me,” Sweat said. “Being allowed to share my experiences has been very cathartic. I really hope those who abuse others will find the post and break the cycle.”

Sweat and her writing partner included a number of sources where victims and perpetrators can find help, counseling, and support. The judges commented that their post has the potential to touch everyone because everyone, at one time or another, is the victim of verbal abuse. In addition, we sincerely hope Sweat learns that the next step in healing is forgiving the perpetrators, which removes the power and influence of the abuser.

It also greatly aids victims in their ability to heal. And, as I sometimes remind people, we are neither the labels that others assign nor the behaviors we sometimes exhibit. The power of choice resides within us all. Excellent post. Congratulations again, Barbara.

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