Tools for measuring my blogging activity: what can I learn? Am I achieving “impact”?

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!

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!

Search terms

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!

Shares

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.

Clicks

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:

  1. A highly significant interaction with a small number of people
  2. Bringing information to a target audience, who engage with it in a moderately significant way
  3. 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.

 

 

What is a re-blog?

I’ve been blogging for  years, but this is a feature of WordPress that wasn’t available on Warwick Uni’s own blogging platform. I like it as a way of engaging with other bloggers whose content I like (like re-tweeting and blog commenting all rolled into one!), plus it’s a way of providing content to anyone following my blog, when I find something of interest from somewhere else and don’t have time to write a lot myself.

It feels a bit like cheating, to me, because of the lack of effort, but if someone re-blogged my content with proper attribution (which WordPress does) and a friendly introductory comment, then I’d be happy. I note that in order to read the full post that I’ve re-blogged, you have to visit the source blog in any case, so it ought to drive traffic to the blogs of people who I’ve re-blogged.

I noticed that my re-blogged content did not appear on my LinkedIn updates (Aside: Who sees what in my Linkedin updates is increasingly a mystery to me!), even though my fresh blog content does seem appear there. But a re-blogged post does get tweeted and it appears to anyone subscribing to my blog through WordPress, of course.

Note to self: think about tweet appearance when commenting as I re-blog!

The elements displayed in that tweet are:

Title of blog post: my twitter handle: beginning of my comment: shortened link

All in all, a re-blog is a simple way to engage with social media.

Time is precious: record how you have spent it.

I’ve tried a couple of tools out lately.The time-tracking tool I’m using right now is from Yast, and it’s free, unless you want to pay for additional features, of course. I also installed an app on my smartphone, called Gleeo a while ago: it’s a freebie and it works well, but I don’t always have my phone handy and I didn’t like the way it displayed how I had spent my time.

I’m also a list-maker and when it comes to time management, I rather like this recent blog post on “Ask a Freelancer“, but my lists are just pieces of scrap paper that float around my desk looking untidy when they are actually crucially important! I’ve always had a list for things to do in the immediate future (today, or this week at least: really urgent stuff is asterisked), and one for longer term aims (in the next month or two). Sometimes I have one for very long term aims, too, and once a week or so, these get updated. I’ve also learnt, when taking my own notes at a meeting, to use asterisks to denote things that I need to do: these can get transferred onto my usual lists, or just get done in one go so that they never appear on the main lists.

However, I much prefer looking at lists of things that I’ve done, as opposed to lists of things “to do”. Reflecting like this helps to keep me focussed on priorities because if I know I’ll look back at how I spent my time then I’ll make an effort to impress myself! That’s why although my Yast account has my professional projects listed, it also has projects called “housework” and “knitting”: these things are important to me and I like to allow them into my day since I work from home, but I also record my time, to keep them under control.

By recording the time I spent on my priority activities, I can have the satisfaction of looking at a day well spent. I like the way Yast displays my days’ and weeks’ activity back to me. I don’t beat myself up when I have empty days (sometimes I just forgot to set Yast recording), but I do congratulate myself for days that are full of the colours of projects that I believe I should be working on!

What is your top time management secret?!

The Launch of Twitter’s Analytics Service and Thoughts on Free Alternatives

jennydelasalle:

As ever, Brian Kelly is on the ball when it comes to measuring social media reach. Thanks @Briankelly!

Originally posted on UK Web Focus:

The Launch of Twitter’s Analytics Service

It was via a tweet I received last week when I first heard the news about the public launch of Twitter’s analytics service:

Today, opened its analytics platform to the public TLDR: Images get more engagement

This tweet was of particular interest as it not only provided news of the new service and a link to a post in which the service was reviewed but also a brief summary of findings from the analysis of the posters’ use of Twitter with suggestions for best practice: “Images get more engagement“. The longer version explained how:

Finally, what Twitter Media and News staff had already told people who are listening is backed up by what they’re showing me: including pictures, maps and graphics in your tweets will raises your “engagement” numbers, at least as measured by people resharing tweets, favoriting them, @mentioning or @replying…

View original 525 more words

Use Twitter well, as a researcher, and report on your success

Here are two examples I’ve come across:

1. Tweet directly

I heard a great story from a researcher who tweeted event information directly at 72 of her contacts, and then they re-tweeted her message to a potential audience of around 50,000.

Note that she used Twitter to direct-message people who could help her to promote her work. The “potential audience” of 50,000 were all the followers of the people who tweeted or re-tweeted about her work. I really like this story, as a way to impress line managers with your effective use of social media. It’s simple, it’s got numbers (line managers like those!) and it demonstrates that you go beyond just tweeting into the void at whoever is following you. It’s using your network contacts properly!

2. Monitor your twitter high-hitters & report on media attention

I also noticed that the JISC headlines which land in my inbox feature a section for “Our media coverage” and a section on “Our social media activity”. It’s a very nice example of an e-mail newsletter altogether, but the “Our social media activity” section attracted my attention, because of the way it presents tweets. They look something like this:

 

Retweeted by 94 people with a potential reach of 84.7k
‘Forget 24-hour drinking; students want 24-hour libraries’ http://bbc.in/1knWz0M (via @BBCNews) pic.twitter.com/qnXLEJvnCT

 

(from JISC’s May 2014 headlines)

I like this because these measures are easy to find in Twitter analytics, so that any researcher can see his/her tweets with the widest reach. JISC presumably tell folks this in their newsletter because there may be others who also find them interesting, and they are using Twitter as a filter & highlighter for you.

By monitoring your own high-hitting tweets in this way you will soon learn what your audience is interested in re-tweeting. Have you got the right audience? (If not, start following people who you would like to have follow you!) Can you tailor your message to attract their attention? (If indeed, attention is one of your goals on Twitter.)

You could also look out for “faves” and replies on Twitter, but I note that JISC is not doing so in this context.

Such a record of high-hitting tweets & of media attention might be something of interest to other team members, to line managers & possibly even research project funders if it’s part of your impact strategy to reach a broad audience.

Of course, I follow a lot of twitterers and only see a fraction of what they tweet so I know that the “potential reach” is just that, and the actual reach is likely to be considerably lower. Still, with a wider potential reach, you ought to have a wider actual reach, and those who have re-tweeted have considered your tweet to some degree. Although it is very easy to re-tweet without investigating, so I still wouldn’t claim too much without more context.

How do you get more context?

In the story of the researcher with her direct message tweets, these were about an event. So she will have a lot more information about the success of that event, I imagine.

The number of hits on the link(s) in your tweets could also indicate a more participative Twitter audience, but if it’s your website you’re promoting, then I’d rather look at the number of visitors to that site in total, as a success story to report to line managers (bigger numbers!). You could check how many visitors came there via Twitter, to see if your efforts on Twitter are paying off, but just those who click on the links you tweeted will be a smaller number than that figure, since people might also “MT” or “via” your tweet with their own shortcut links.

A journal article that you’re promoting will have altmetrics: if your publisher doesn’t collate these, your institutional repository might, or you can use ORCID and ImpactStory to do it yourself.

You could possibly do some kind of calculation that for x tweets in the course of a year, your ROI (return on investment) has been x visitors from twitter to your website/blog/article(s), although this is less simple, and it’s the simplicity of these examples that I like.

Attention metrics for academic articles: are they any use?

Why do bibliometrics and altmetrics matter? They are sometimes considered to be measures of attention (see a great post on the Scholarly Kitchen about this), and they attract plenty of attention themselves in the academic world, especially amongst scholarly publishers and academic libraries.

Bibliometrics are mostly about tracking and measuring citations between journal articles or scholarly publications, so they are essentially all about attention from the academic community. There are things that an author can do in order to attract more attention and citations. Not just “gaming the system” (see a paper on Arxiv about such possibilities) but by reaching as many people as possible, in a way that speaks to them as being relevant to their research and thus worthy of a citation.

Citation, research and writing and publishing practices are evolving: journal articles seem to be citing more other papers these days (well, according to a Nature news item, that’s the way to get more cited: it’s a cycle), and researchers are publishing more journal articles (wikipedia has collated some stats) and engaging in collaborative projects (see this Chronicle of Higher Ed article). If researchers want to stay in their “business” then they will need to adapt to current practices, or to shape them. That’s not easy when it comes to metrics about scholarly outputs, because the ground is shifting beneath their feet. What are the spaces to watch?

How many outputs a researcher produces and in which journal titles or venues matter in the UK, because of the RAE and REF excercises, and the way University research is funded there.

Bibliometrics matter to Universities because of University rankings. Perhaps such rankings should not matter, but they do, and the IoE London blog has an excellent article on the topic. So researchers need to either court each others’ attention and citations, or else create authoritative rankings that don’t use bibliometrics.

Altmetrics represent new ways of measuring attention, but they are like shape-shifting clouds in comparison with bibliometrics. We’re yet to ascertain which measures of which kinds of attention, in which kinds of objects, can tell us what exactly. My own take on altmetrics is that context is the key to using them. Many people are working to understand altmetrics as measures and what they can tell us.

Attention is not a signifier of quality (As researchers well know: Carol Tenopir has done a lot of research on researchers’ reading choices and habits). Work which merits attention can do so for good or bad reasons. Attention can come from many different sources, and can mean different things: by measuring attention exchanges, we can take account of trends within different disciplines and timeframes, and the effect of any “gaming” practices.

Attention from outside of the academic community has potential as “impact”. Of course, context is important again, and for research to achieve “impact” then you’ll need to define exactly what kind of impact you intend to achieve. If you want to reach millions of people for two seconds, or engage with just one person whose life will be hugely enriched or who will have influence over others’ lives, then what you do achieve impact or how you measure your success will be different. But social media and the media can play a part in some definitions of impact, and so altmetrics can help to demonstrate success, since they track attention for your article from these channels.

Next week I’ll be sharing two simple, effective stories of twitter use and reporting on its use.

Challenges for a Brit, living in Germany

I bought a new computer recently, which provided me with plenty of challenges!

My new computer is one of those old fashioned ones that comes with separate parts: my old lap-top is not ideal for working full-time at home, so I decided to get the sort of thing I had in the office, in the past.

I could have tried to buy a hard drive in the UK and have it shipped here: the Internet is great at that. But I like a challenge, so I went to a local shop and picked up a perfectly good hard drive with Windows 7 installed already. I thought it’d be just a case of buying a new language pack to convert it from German to English. I mean, why would Microsoft miss the opportunity to sell me something?! But no, it seems that since they’re now pushing Windows 8, I can’t upgrade to the version of Windows 7 that has language packs… hmm. Just as well I took all of those German lessons last year!

Well, it’s not so bad: I mean, I do live in Germany and I really ought to learn the language, so having my operating system in German will just help me to learn! Well, yes but it slows me down: although I understand most of what the computer is saying to me, sometimes I have to get the dictionary out, and even when I already know the words, my brain processes the information more slowly!

I did order a QWERTY keyboard from the UK, and an ergonomic one at that: I do a lot of writing and I touch-type. German keyboards are nearly the same: they are QWERTZ, and it’s really annoying for me, because I don’t notice until I try to type a “y”! Of course, because my OS is in German, I have to keep reminding my computer that my keyboard is English. It automatically tries to switch it to German for me, from time to time. Helpful if you’re truly bi-lingual, no doubt. And I do sometimes try to write stuff in German, which further confuses my computer!

Because a lot of my work involves MS Word and Excel files from clients, I also chose to purchase MS Office. I couldn’t do it on the Internet, because the Microsoft website kept recognising that my OS was in German and no matter what I did, the German language version landed in my basket. Fortunately, the telephone sales people were able to help me out (in English!) and I got the English software: phew. No doubt I should have been braver and tried to speak German, but I find computer things quite stressful already!

Every time I download software now, I have to tell it that I want English language. Which means that I have to navigate through the menus in German to find the hidden depths where they let me select English. I’ve actually left MS Explorer in German, and find it interesting/educational to get news headlines in German on the MSN homepage: it is of course, also news about Germany. You realise how much of a bubble the news media create for each country, once you’ve escaped one of them!

So that is a few computer and language challenges, but there are a few other big differences that I noticed from the beginning:

Look left, then right!
I don’t drive here (public transport is excellent in Berlin), so I don’t have to remember which side of the road to be on: the other day I was a passenger in a car and it felt weird to be on the wrong side (in my eyes). I still take longer to cross roads: I look about 5 times, just to be sure that I’ve looked properly. Actually, I do that when I visit home too now, in case I’ve become accustomed to continental ways and I’ve not noticed!

Cash
The currency is different, of course, and it took me ages to get used to the coins, and not fumble for ages to pay the exact right amount at the till. My tactic of just handing over whole euro amounts to cover the cost did not work: people here are always asking for the exact 2 euro 38 cents, or whatever!

I also had to get used to carrying cash all the time: even though I do have a euro bank card (which took me a while), it’s not so common to pay by card here, to the point that you might not be able to pay (i.e. can’t buy what you need) if you don’t have cash.

Drink & Food (priority order!)

 a mug of tea next to box of yorkshire tea bags
Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I import Yorkshire tea bags!

I miss brown sauce (though it is available from specialist shops here), bacon (no, black forest ham is not the same!) and I also found that I’m having to adapt all my favourite recipes. For instance I now use honey in place of golden syrup, although there are other syrups I might try out: I love the bio shops here with all their variety of foods, and no doubt I’m becoming healthier, as I adapt.

Weather
I love waking up to sunshine almost every morning. I really was taken by surprise at how much sun there is here. I loved the snowy winters: Berliners are great at clearing it out of the way and getting on with life, although by the end of the winter you do get the feeling that we’re all essentially hibernating until the warmer temperatures arrive!

What took adaptation for me, was that the sun actually made my rosacea really bad. It turns out that I have a sensitivity to sun that I never knew about when living in cloudy England! I have taken to wearing a hat all the time, so that the shade protects my nose (how English I look!). And factor 50 sun cream, and anti-biotic gel at night… now my skin looks normal again. Phew!

Landscape
The one and only time I’ve really felt homesick, was the sight of a hill-farm country scene on my packet of Yorkshire tea. I didn’t even live in Yorkshire, I don’t understand cricket and I lived in a town all my life, but somehow that scene is quintessentially English and it got to me… Awww!

These are just a handful of the things that use up my emotional energy and brain power! Experiencing such challenges does help one to appreciate what many Library users face, such as all those international students and academics from other countries. It makes life richer, but also slower and sometimes a bit daunting or frustrating!