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The Metrics on Blogs

TORONTO -- How do you measure the blogging ROI? That's not an easy question to answer, according to Steve Rubel, one of the world's most influential bloggers.

At the inaugural Mesh Conference here today, the Edelman PR senior vice president discussed the impact of blogging on corporate PR activities.

Rubel's blog, Micropersuasion, is currently the 67th most popular blog in the world according to Technorati, though Rubel himself downplayed the significance noting that no one talks about the 67th-ranked golfer in the world.

Traffic alone is not necessarily a key metric for a blog's success. Rubel said that it's not a numbers game. The new model, he said, is shaped like the letter T.

"Where the long cross is reach and then a small subset of audience that is narrow is where you develop a deep level of engagement with that audience," Rubel said. "That's the new model."

From a PR and advertising point of view, Rubel explained that we are moving from the metrics of how many unique impressions are generated to how many links are coming in and how many conversations are being generated.

Traffic as well as search-engine ranking can also be effects of blogging and may be measured as such.

"Ultimately it's back to sales and did people buy more product," Rubel said. "We have some work to do in the metrics there.

"Customers want metrics and they want it in a way that doesn't exist yet, sort of like 1995/96 was for online advertising. We're not there yet."

Rubel argued that in three years there will be metrics, more case studies, processes and a new budget created for generating conversations.

"We'll see indexes like the most talked about brands in the world."

Rubel offered a few suggestions to the Mesh audience about what they could do as business people to tap into blogosphere.

The first step that Rubel advises is to know where the people that you are trying to attract hang out.

The second step is to develop the infrastructure to listen to the conversation, RSS -based tools and the like to figure out how to listen.

The third step is to actually engage the audience in dialogue.

When engaging the audience in dialogue, credibility and transparency is key, as Rubel noted with his own case study from Edleman PR's blogging campaign for Wal-Mart.

Rubel told the audience that Edelman ran a blogging war-room for Wal-Mart where they identified the most pro- and anti-Wal-Mart bloggers and engaged them on a daily basis with information.

In a number of instances, bloggers were not attributing the content that Wal-Mart (via Edelman PR) was providing, which served as a hotbed of controversy, according to Rubel.

"We learned that we need to tell the bloggers you need to say where you got this from," Rubel said. "I have no reservations about what we did. We learn as we go."

The most important thing for companies to recognize when dealing with blogs and bloggers is that communication is transparent and ethical.

"What are the terms of service for the community and figure out how to integrate yourself in a way that is polite and acceptable," Rubel cautioned. "Otherwise you'll get booted."