I don’t care about blog metrics. Oh yeah, page views are *interesting* and it’s always cool to hear that one of my blog readers has been hired. But when it comes right down to it, for me, blog metrics are little more than trivia.
I’ve been involved in 2 conversations about this recently with people wanting to understand my perspective on the dynamics of blogging for work. My opinion is that if you *know* you are doing something good (and sometimes doing it well), your intent in trying to measure it further is what? Look, I get to do some cool stuff because of the blogging; speaking at conferences, doing webinars, people reach out to me that I wouldn’t have known before. That, in and of itself, is enough reason to justify it as a work activity so why measure further? What would I be trying to make a case for? When the goal of the blogging is sharing a message about working at Microsoft and the life of an employee (that’s me), what else do you need to know?
Metrics around blogging are squishy (hard to measure) and I think that although it’s difficult for people in highly measurable roles to deal with that (in which case blogging might not make sense for them), it’s an inevitable fact in a free and democratic medium. With the potential for such a large audience on the internet, we have to come up with new paradigms (yes, I did) for assessing value. I would be hard pressed to convince a recruiter with a hiring goal that blogging is going to yield them x hires over y period of time. Once you blog a message and it goes viral, let it go. If it loves you, it will come back (or something like that…where’s Sting?).
I also think that this is the reason that many marketing folks are challenged by the notion of blogging. First, these are the people that, when they embark on a marketing initiative, need to measure it and have the budgets to do so. Do a big ad campaign, commission a research study to figure out if it drives purchasing behavior and brand perception. The ad campaign costs big bucks so it’s only smart to measure the effects. You spend 9 months on a detailed go-to-market campaign? You want to know if sales were on target post-launch. I can imagine how frustrating it is for people whose job is to control the message to think about blogging as a “marketing activity” or to develop a comprehensive marketing plan when you know full well that part of it gets executed by anyone who wants to. In comes some rogue blogger screwing with your marketing mojo. I get why that smarts. But it happens. Like I said before, if people are talking about my brand (which people are apt to do), I’d rather be part of the conversation.
Anyway, blogging is a different medium than traditional marketing. Think about it this way, if you speak at an event, you are in the business of putting butts in seats. The more butts you attract (sorry), the more people buy conference passes. How easily trackable! But if you yell your message from a rooftop, not only is it less obvious how many people are hearing you but you have no control over (or knowledge of) your neighbor going to work and telling his office-mate about the nut job next door yelling on his roof. How not trackable.
Now I know there are all kinds of blog tracking and metrics tools. The problem is I can’t really get myself to care about them all that much. It takes me away from what I really want to spend my time doing. Let’s say that I post something not directly related to marketing jobs at Microsoft (which we know I do often). This may draw more eyeballs than posting about a marketing job here. It also may get someone to subscribe to my blog and that person might read some of my posts about marketing jobs at Microsoft and start to think about working at Microsoft, might decide to apply to Microsoft, might get hired down the road. You can track activities (like clicks) but how do you track perception change, how do you track what’s going on in peoples’ minds? You can measure “blog authority” on a certain topic but it’s really just measuring mindshare (the part of it that is measurable by clicking and linking), not opinion (for example, the person that linked to you because they want their readers to see how wrong you are). That sounds flawed to me. And it certainly does not measure the person telling their friend what you blogged about. It doesn’t measure the person changing their opinion on something because of what you blogged about.
If I’m just after “traffic”, I could post about Paris Hilton (don’t worry, I won’t), George Bush, whatever topics are doing well on Technorati. But that would be the wrong behavior. I don’t want my selection of topics to be tainted by the influence of traffic metrics. I’m more interested in the value of the exchange than just the number of people involved in the conversation. And I invite my readers (both of you…hee!) to tell me what you want me to blog about.
But let me be clear that my view on all of this is absolutely impacted by the type of role I am in (I’m a rooftop yeller and a conference speaker). Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that every personality assessment I’ve done (you know, the four quadrants) tells me that if assessing metrics is going to take me away from getting the right stuff done, then I’m not interested (I’m a doer/director), but please have someone else do it when it makes sense(where’s our business analyst?). I’m also similar disinclined to write detailed plans but I’m having to work outside of my comfort zone on that one (here’s to progress and personal growth). I’m all about “what can we do right now?” and “let’s get creative and TRY this” and “let’s go!”. Planning is good and I do it, but working outside of plan can be good too.
I’m not advocating for the dismissal of metrics altogether (my team has metrics, it’s just that none of them are associated with my blog directly). In fact, metrics are absolutely key when they accurately address value of activities and as a driver of the right behaviors (neither of which applies to this here blog, in my opinion). I’m actually fascinated by the connection between metrics and behaviors. If I were managing a line recruiting team, I’d be all over those metrics. If I had a broader role in my organization, I’d be all over them too knowing that some of our work is squishy (outreach) and some is metrics driven (engaging candidates that lead to hires). I track some of the metrics for my programs closely. When we do an event, I’m tracking. When we put together a job posting deal, I’m tracking. But when it comes to blogging, hands off! Don’t mess with a good thing.
Of course, it’s all just my opinion on applying traditional marketing concepts to a relatively new medium (in the history of marketing). I feel similarly about the concept of the “editorial process”…if that becomes part of my blogging, I’m dunzo. Luckily it hasn’t. I have to say that I’m absolutely encouraged by the fact that NOBODY here at Microsoft has asked me to track blog metrics or tried to influence my message.
I’m sure some folks feel very strongly about the use of metrics for blogging. I’m not going to tell you that most bloggers share my perspective on this. I just don’t know. I get the metrics question from bloggers and non-bloggers alike (the question usually involves the term ROI). I’d rather think of blogging as a more organic medium and I’d rather remain unencumbered by the specter of statistics when I know what I am doing is good (meaning that the effects of the blogging that are obvious justify the time investment at a minimum). I’m not sure it’s important to know the total ROI. Instead of spending my time “tracking” I can just do more blogging. Of course, you could change my mind with a good argument on the value of metrics. I just haven’t heard it yet.