140 characters of engagement

I’ve just gotten back from the 140 Characters Conference in LA where the message, loud and clear and 10 minutes per speaker at a time, was that it’s the quality of your followers that matters, not the quantity.

More reinforcement:  Twitter’s new list function is already prompting “mass unfollowings” (thanks to Mary McKinnon/@bestwebstrategy for this link).

Picture 5 The first #140conf in New York in June was all about the unique communities that Twitter inspired.  The dominant sponsor was Hootsuite, personified by a large owl walking around hugging people.  Ann Curry duked it out with Rick Sanchez.  Wyclef Jean showed up, late of course, but illustrating the importance of authencity.  Attendees bonded over the duct-taped power outlets.

Five months later, it appears that Twitter has…matured.  The speakers in LA weren’t giddy.  The lead sponsor was Kodak, represented by CMO Jeffrey HayzlettPicture 2, a glossy brochure touting Kodak’s “convergence media tactics” and coupons for 15 percent off Kodak products. You can’t have either duct tape or power outlets in the Kodak Theatre (where the Academy Awards are held) so the crowd was often bigger in the lobby than in the auditorium.

I still had fun at #140conf LA – it is Twitter, after all – but the biz talk was pervasive:  strategy, goals, objectives, processes, systems, results, the four Ps and the four Es, one of which was, of course, engagement.

Continue reading “140 characters of engagement”

Total unique visitors and paid content

Because it’s easy to gather and it looks like circulation and readership, the number of monthly unique visitors continues to be a key indicator of online success for news orgs.  This is really dangerous, especially if used to develop news business models.

The total number of monthly UVs just doesn’t give any information about how engaged audiences are.  Let’s say you have 100 million monthly uniques, as paidContent.org reports the new Steve Brill Journalism Online venture is aiming for.

This number doesn’t tell you whether those 100 million of those visitors visited once or 10 times, or whether they went to one page or to 20.

You really need to know the level of engagement to sell online advertising.  And, you really need to know how engaged people are if your business model depends on paid subscribers or content.

According to paidContent.org, Journalism Online is counting on about 10 percent of its news affiliates’ audiences to pay for content.  Sounds like a realistic, reasonable number, right?

No, it’s faulty business logic.  Simply assuming a small percent of any total audience will do anything is really dangerous, and something that savvy entrepreneurs know or learn in Marketing 101.  “There are 100 million people living in this area of the U.S.  If I build a better mousetrap that costs $1, and if only 1 percent of those 100 million buy my mousetrap, I’ll have a million dollars!”

First, not all 100 million care about trapping mice.  Others won’t pay even $1 for it.  Still others don’t live near a store where they would be sold, and wouldn’t order it online or by other ways.

Estimating audiences is an art and a science.  Estimating the audiences for paid content involves more art than science, but I hope news orgs will start with understanding what online audiences want.  It doesn’t do much good to set these types of numbers based on what the news orgs need to desperately meet their revenue goals.

Traffic spikes aren’t always good news

Here’s a good point about interpreting high traffic spikes.  It’s from Google’s Brett Crosby, as reported by Online Media Daily.

If you get a sudden bump in visits due to a breaking news event, don’t celebrate until you look at the time of day of the spikes, the timing of your competitor’s posts, and your bounce rates.

Your competitor might have posted before you did.  And if your competitor had better coverage, your bounce rate would probably reflect it.

Then, use attitudinal research to gauge whether the traffic spikes led to building audiences in the long run.  For example, you can survey people to see whether they think your site “always has the latest news about [a topic] before anyone else.”

Be sure to include a healthy sample of non-users and light users in your surveys.  It will be more time-consuming and expensive – and perhaps painful.  But listening only to your current users through online pop-up surveys won’t give you the insight you need to grow online audiences.

One formula for evaluating comments

Razorfish, a digital marketing agency, has developed a scoring system for evaluating how a company is discussed in Facebook, YouTube and other social media.

From Online Media Daily:  "The basic formula for deriving a brand's SIM
Score involves dividing "net sentiment" for a brand by the net
sentiment for its industry group. (Net sentiment = positive + neutral
conversations – negative conversations/total conversations.)
"

If tracked over time, this index can illustrate broad trends in your social media progress.  However, implementation could be difficult and time-intensive.  You have to ensure that "positive," "neutral" and "negative"  are clearly defined and applied consistently – no small task. Also, what's a "conversation?"

This formula weights comments from everyone equally.  This may not be appropriate in social media communities where there are individuals whose comments are more influential than others.

In any case – however you do it – do count and analyze your comments regularly and consistently to track your ability to maintain and grow a social network.