I’m interested in tools that measure/monitor social media activity, partly because they can potentially be used by the authors of such activity (ie I can learn something useful for myself!) but partly also because of the prevailing wind of performance measurement by numbers. What do the numbers tell me?
I’ve previously looked at Twitter & tools for measuring that. But now I’m looking at my blog, and I’m starting with what WordPress can tell me about it, what I think is worth measuring and how it can direct my future social media activity. You can get a flavour of my discoveries by just reading the stuff in bold!
German measuring stick: somewhat easier to handle than English retracting metal tapes!
Number of views
The WordPress dashboard features a graph of recent activity, but also a “Site stats” link on the left-hand menu. Clicking on this presents me with a nice clear blue bar-chart with a snapshot recent view numbers, on a daily basis. I’m much more interested in the monthly view: this is where I can check trends and see how consistently my blog is doing. In general, because there is more content over time, I should be accruing more views over time. I ask myself, what if it doesn’t? Would I stop blogging? Yes. Am I happy with the number of views I have, and the growth rate? Well, I don’t know what to compare it to, but perhaps I could compare it to my most viewed month.
I can look on the bar charts for anomalies and WordPress also tells me my “best ever” day, in terms of views, which has clearly influenced one particular month. Such a spike seems worth investigating: why did my blog suddenly accrue more views on that day? I think I know why: it was a great blog post title and it accrued a lot of Twitter activity in terms of re-tweeting, including by influencers on Twitter. This was partly because I was blogging about a presentation by one of those influencers, and also because I made a point of tweeting at him to tell him, so that he re-tweeted! This sort of context could tell me how to accrue more views in future.
I’m also aware though, that views can be anything from a long sit-down and read with a cup of tea, to a glance and click away…
Referrers to my blog
Below the graph and headline numbers, I can see referrers to my blog: I clicked on “summaries” to investigate these, and once again I can choose the time period to view. I chose “all time” and I would estimate from the numbers that nearly 50% of views come from search engines (I looked into this and the vast majority of these were from Google), and about another 40% come from Twitter. Another significant referrer is my old blog, and I can see the URL of an event I presented at, too. I got 4 views each from comments I made on influencers blogs. These stats tell me less about the success of my blog, and more about the influence of my other activities.
Given how many blog views come from Twitter, it seems to me to be worthwhile continuing my presence in Twitter. I’m sure that I could build on Twitter’s effectiveness in driving traffic to my blog, by more direct tweeting at influencers. However, I’m not only seeking views of my blog as pure numbers!
I’m particularly pleased to see the number of views from the event I spoke at, because I know the audience from that event: these are people who I know I want to reach! So I can consider further speaking engagements as a wise investment of my time, in terms of driving traffic to my blog (especially if, as with that event, it is widely publicised and links are made to my blog and/or online profile).
What the stats don’t tell me is why people followed the link and what they thought when they did: is my blog reflecting well on me? I think so, because after that event I had a number of enquiries, but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that the event was effective as a way of raising my online profile.
Commenting on influencers’ blogs is considerably less effort than speaking at an event, and could also extend my reach to those with shared interests. What if I were to try writing less on my blog, but commenting more on others’ blogs, as a part of my mini-strategy? In this way, I could get more views for content already written, but would people lose interest in my blog if I post less often? This is perhaps worth trying!
For me, this was a fairly disappointing area, because although I can see that lots of views come through search engines, most of the search terms are apparently “unknown”. And indeed, glancing through those that are known, many of them involve a search for my name or my blog name. I can take from this that my blog name is worth hanging on to!
This is interesting, because it suggests a level of engagement with my blog that goes beyond viewing it: presumably those who share it have at least scanned through the content! Their sharing might also bring more views. My most shared posts appear to be the ones that I consider to be most academic. Looking at the service that was used to share my post is also quite telling: Facebook is significant, with twice as many shares as Twitter, and I’m not a big user of Facebook. Perhaps I should be? I could investigate whether being active on Facebook makes a difference! But I confess: I’m not sure I have time to do that in the near future.
Followers & Comments
I can also see numbers of these on the main Site stats page, and I know that commenting isn’t a big deal on my blog. Perhaps it would be if I commented more on others’ blogs? Looking at top commenters is also not especially useful to me, since there aren’t so many, although I like that I can see at a glance if I am following the commenters’ own blogs. This is a space to watch if I do choose to comment more.
The summaries of these interest me, because a click also seems to be an interaction level deeper than a mere view. What are my blog readers clicking on? This might signify what they are interested in, and thus indicate what I could blog about in future. Lots of people have clicked on the link to my LinkedIn profile, which supports what I found in the search terms. There are clicks to Twitter: to a picture tweet of my leaving cake from Warwick. I already know that some of my blog readers are former colleagues! This makes me think though, are picture tweets more effective at attracting attention? Not one I can investigate in the near future, but definitely food for thought.
The clicks also reflect what I blog about, because there are lots of clicks to the site where my book chapter can be found, and to the BBK series at Humboldt Uni, since I have blogged about some of their seminars.
Reflecting on my goals, on impact and other sources beyond WordPress
My goal when blogging is partly to raise my profile, so that potential employers and customers know who I am and what expertise I have. Beyond that, others might be interested to read what I have learnt or benefit from my experiences, and I’m happy to share. I know I’m successful in that when I meet people who have either read my blog, or know of its existence, they tell me so. I don’t get so many comments on my blog but I do get them in person. Perhaps I could gather such anecdotes if I were going to report on my blogging activity to others.
In judging my own success at this, I ought to reflect on how much time I spend on my blog, and consider the return on my investment, in comparison with other profile-raising activities. That’s why I’ve started using some time management tools, so that I can add that dimension into my reflections.
What if I was explicitly trying to achieve “impact” through my blog? I would like to simplify “impact” into three varieties:
- A highly significant interaction with a small number of people
- Bringing information to a target audience, who engage with it in a moderately significant way
- Outreach to a wide-ranging, various and large population
Perhaps the first two varieties belong together, since they are essentially about things that are measured in a more qualitative way. WordPress’ stats report gives me clues about where to look for more qualitative information.
What is “highly significant” about an interaction will of course be open to interpretation and vary widely from one field to another, but I feel it’s beyond the scope of my blog. It is perhaps something that I could achieve through the sum total of my activity over a long period of time, or indeed through interactions with an individual.
What I mean by “moderately significant” is that the information given is actually read and interpreted or used by others, in some way. Perhaps my blog content gets re-purposed into some other librarian’s guide for students, or it at least prompts such a guide to be written. The only way I’d know about this is if someone were to tell me, or possibly if they linked back to my blog and people clicked on that link, and I watched referrals. In the meantime, I know that I re-purpose my content myself, so that’s a good start!
Which brings me to the “Outreach” notion, which is what I think most of these stats really indicate. It as a possible foundation for my second flavour of impact, and in any case, my profile does have a significant impact on my own life and career! What the WordPress stats do for me is they indicate the success of my blogging in achieving outreach, and they pointout where I should look for qualitative clues about deeper impact.