Blog Metrics: Measure the Conversation

measuring-tapeWhat is the best measurement for a successful blog? Is it number of unique visitors, returning visitors, page views, incoming links, or Technorati ranking? Do any one of these typical measurement tools by themselves tells us what we need to know: who is engaged? Non-profit organizations want to engage stakeholders through social media and ideally move them to act on their behalf. We know that, without engagement, people are not moved to act.

Blogs are a particularly challenging platform for creating engagement. It’s easy to passively read a blog. How do you know if you’ve engaged?

Three metrics for measuring “blog conversation” are: number of unique engaged readers, average number of engaged readers per blog post, and number of posts that engaged readers in blog conversations.

1. What is an unique “engaged reader” and how should we count them? A blog reader that has commented at least once on your blog is engaged. When you count your “unique engaged readers” on your blog,  you can measure of the breadth of your engaged base. What does that mean for your organization?

  • The engaged reader cares enough about the topic to participate. This defines the commenter as  a “critic” in the Forrester Social Technographics paradigm.  He/she also cares enough about your organization to participate and add to the blog post.  *This is a potential volunteer, donor, activist or ally.*
  • The number of engaged readers adds weight to your organization’s credibility. You can call upon these readers to mobilize for a cause, or utilize this statistic for fundraising purposes.

2. Why measure “average number of engaged readers per post?” This tells you, in general, if your blog posts are engaging your stakeholders. Avinash Kaushik developed what he calls the “conversation rate” in his thoughtful piece on blog measurement statistics here. (Beth Kanter built upon Kaushik’s four blog metrics and wrote about this paradigm using her own blog measurements here.)

It is simply # reader comments that are not the author’s/ # posts. Discount pingbacks if they appear in the comments section. For example, I have a total of 23 comments that are not mine, divided by 25 posts.  This is an average engaged reader of less than one per post. Not a great statistic, but I’m just getting started.  My goal is three by the end of June, and I’ll let you know if I make it.

Why should non-profits care about this statistic?

  • It gives you a sense of whether or not you are engaging your stakeholders enough for them to put down what they are doing and comment.
  • It tells you whether or not your posts are generating interest in a conversation, which is really your goal. By involving your stakeholders, they are also contributing actively to the success of your organization.
  • *The higher this statistic, the more likely that you will be able to mobilize your readers to donate or act on your group’s behalf.*

3. Number of blog posts that engaged readers in “blog conversations.” Not every post will engage readers. It is a good idea to step back every quarter and look at the number of posts that engendered real conversations — where a back and forth discussion occurred between your organization and its readers.  How can we measure this?  I suggest initial segmentation by: total # of posts/ total # posts with more than one comment.  You can further segment by: total # of posts/ total # posts with more than X number of comments.

Why should you care about engaging in blog conversations?

  • Your goal should be a conversation that moves the post to another level and gives the commenter a real sense of contributing to the organization’s thinking and success. More than one comment per post leads to real conversations.
  • *Programming starts with conversation.* If you are considering new programs, evaluating old ones or looking for any type of organizational feedback, you need to know that you people will give it to you. The higher number that this statistic is, the better feedback you will get on any conversation you want to initiate. You have created engaged blog stakeholders who are eager and interested in commenting and conversing with you.

To sum up: Use these metrics to understand the depth and breadth of the stakeholders visiting your blog. Utilize this information to raise funds, mobilize.  mine your stakeholders for valuable feedback and ideas, and understand their needs.

I’ve tried to come up with some easy-to-use metrics for a non-profit to measure blog conversations and engagement.However, I’m not a professional statistician or analyst.  If you have other additions or suggestions, please feel free to tell me and I’ll add them!

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4 responses to “Blog Metrics: Measure the Conversation

  1. I think that some people view blogs as a “passive” medium — great for overall brand awareness and thought leadership, but not really meant to move people to action. This post, however, gets me thinking that is not the case at all. Now I see how 1.) Active engagement, especially over time, will increase the likelihood of action through mobilization and donations. 2) “Programming starts with conversation” is a brilliant look at the flip side of that — moving the organization itself to action. Also 3) all of these things create more content — and participatory content at that, which then lead to an even higher level of engagement. The ultimate goal might be to see how many people then donate or mobilize *without you even having to ask*.

  2. Thanks Debra

    SEO and PPC are so useful because the ROI is so measurable. While those in the profession know the advantage of having a wide reach (and long tail) this is often hard to measure with metrics reportable to our clients and available to us in order to evaluate our emperical success.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue in one of the many media available to us in SMM!

  3. Excellent way to measure the value of a blog for a non-profit. It does, of course, require someone’s time to make it happen, look attractive, etc.

    You can guess where I’m going here – some will take the logical jump to say “in tough economic times with the few non-fired staff working their backsides off, do we really have time to do this? Can we afford the time it takes to do it?”

    Other than (yawn) “can you afford not to do it?” what are the most persuasive reasons to spend the extra capital (both money and time) on it?

  4. communityorganizer20

    Charlie, Lisa, thanks for the great comments. Lisa — donate and mobilize is probably the ultimate goal for a non-profit. Blogs could bring people to do this, and the challenge is for me to think about what types of posts would best motivate. Or is it what does the organization need to do first so that the readers are ready to donate and mobilize?

    This addresses Jeremy’s point on “do we really have time to do this?” Jeremy, your point is very well taken and a compelling question that I must answer in a researched post. I get this question a lot and I thank you for bringing it up here.

    Love the conversation!

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