Thursday, 30 April 2009

Cision discover the perils of comparative blog analysis

Cision have highlighted the perils of comparative blog analysis today. Its 'top 50 bloggers' league table is misleading and unhelpful. There's no need to take my word for it (I am biased after all) so here's Iain Dale's interpretation of the list.

Comparative analysis is misleading

Cision's list is misleading because we know it to be wrong. Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes both publish their monthly statistics online (as do many others).

There are no reliable ways of judging how many people read a blog without accessing the analytics package for each blog. Those that monitor audience figures by sampling (such as Alexa) do so with a very skewed sample. I know this in at least 30 instances because I have been able to compare the Alexa rankings to the statistics. I don't know what methodology Cision used but it's apparently flawed.

Comparative analysis is unhelpful

Why is it useful to know if Guido Fawkes is read by 10,000 more people than Iain Dale (for the sake of argument)? If an article appears about a Cision client on either blog, it's significant. In terms of reputation management, does it matter if something appeared in The Times rather than the Daily Telegraph? Not much - unless there's a specific demographic at play - in which case knowing the readership numbers is of limited use anyway.

The Newscounter method has its weaknesses too, I'm sure. Any single metric that judges a complex environment has its draw backs. But by ranking blogs as critical, high, medium or low, we give a specific enough indication as to whether its an impact on your reputation without producing a tortuous and supposedly precise measure.

If you disagree, do let me know. One of the challenges of measuring PR impact is that so few people agree on the usefulness of one measure over another. Therefore, all measures are approached with a degree of cynicism. A consensus around a smaller number of measures would at least provide the industry a tool to compare apples and pears.

UPDATE: Chris Paul has drawn attention to the methodology used by Cision. It is more complicated than my post suggests although the truth with these league tables is always that no matter how complicated the algorithm, the end result has to make sense. I don't think this league table works intuitively.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Would you join a blogging collective?

Sorry for the blogging silence - it's hypocritical and inexcusable.

I've been working on an idea for a blogging collective. It's not a commercial venture so I've written about it on my personal blog.

I'd be really grateful for suggestions, thoughts and advice:
  • would you join?
  • should it have a theme?
  • do you want like-minded members or very different perspectives?
  • what are the drawbacks?

Monday, 30 March 2009

LFCTV's use of Twitter update

I wrote about LFCTV's emergency on Twitter at the start of March with some praise for what they were doing and some suggestions for how they could improve.

Following Paul Rogers' comment on this blog and my own observations this month, I'd like to update you on how quickly they've developed their use of Twitter and increased the readership.

1. More conversation
I'd previously suggested that the LFCTV team used Twitter to do too much broadcasting and not enough interaction. No more do my @replies go unnoticed though. For example, one of the team tweeted that they were re-writing the managers' profiles on the official website. Alarmed, I replied asking for clarification that Senor Benitez's profile didn't need updating. I got a swift response, killing unwanted specualtion quickly!

2. More personality
They've continued to add personal thoughts and reflections on to Twitter, sometimes even pushing against the official-feel to the website news. For example, the light-hearted banter in the warm-up to the Man United game was realy good and the songs afterwards were even useful for my local pub. The reflection that Adam Pepper's goal should have been higher-up the top 10 list after a vote on the main website was also a nice touch that you can't communicate through a corporate voice.

3, Match news

4. Upcoming programmes
LFCTV had done this much better than I suggested, again with more humour and personality. For example, when two guests were late arriving for a recent show, we read all about it on Twitter, reminding us to go and watch the programme. Great use of multiple platforms.

5. Advertising Twitter
The team have done really well to increase the Twitter audience exponentially thanks to news stories, promotion on the TV channel, ads on the homepage flash screen and a logo at the footer of stories. All this has delivered over 15,000 followers - most of whom are followed back which is more good practice.

Well done LFCTV - innovating across all broadcast platforms. There's an awful lot that others could learn from their style.

And finally, thanks to Paul's complaints abotu leaving a comment on this blog, we've been able to change our moderation policy.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Blogging, Twitter and SEO

There is a raging - and not particularly interesting - debate about the value of Twitter for search engine optimisation. In short, people wonder if Twitter has any value for optimising your website because:
a) it depends on shortened URLs which don't build up link value and
b) Google places 'no follow' tags on Twitter links

The debate is dull because no-one knows how Google works (and those that do won't say) so people are groping in the dark.

However, I can report this:
a) that I have a wordpress plugin that reproduces my Tweet on my blog. I did this because I update Twitter more often than I blog
b) on some occassions, those Tweets have (unintentionally) added keywords to the page. As a result, people have searched for an unexpected combination of words which has revealed my blog at the head of a small part of the long tail.

For example, I recorded my concern about Conservative donations and mentioned large Tory donor Michael Ashcroft. A couple of days later I Twittered about Allen Stanford's arrest. My blog was therefore prominent on the search results for "Michael Ashcroft and Allen Stanford" to satisfy anyone looking for information about the two men.

I can't recommend this as a strategy per se: the volumes are too low to be able to research the keyword frequency. But there are circumstances where Twitter can help your SEO strategy.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Blogs: How can they be authentically provocative?

Rowland Manthorpe has asked:
"I do find it difficult to stimulate comments. I don't want to go all "look at me, I'm being provocative [six exclamation marks]", but at the moment I'm struggling to find an alternative strategy. Any ideas in that direction?"
As per my last post, I don't have all the right answers. But I do have some thoughts and would like some others.

On my own blog I've tried to be provocative in three ways:

1. Not pulling my punches.
If I don't like something, I say so - strongly and probably more strongly than I would in general conversation. So, for example, a dislike of comic relief becomes I hate Comic Relief. Of course the post-proper allows my to nuance the arguments but the point is made more strongly than 'on balance, Comic Relief is a little under-whelming and whilst I like the public effort, I'm disappointed that it doesn't increase charitable donations by more'.

2. Seeking out opposing views
To promote my post on Comic Relief, I found blogs that were talking about Comic Relief most of which were naturally supportive because they were tales of people who had done something positive to raise money. I expected people visiting my blog from those sites to be hostile and they were.

3. The hundred hits rule
I've not ever received a comment on a post with fewer than 100 hits. That's not to say that you need 200 hits to get 2 comments (that's partly because the 2nd comment should always be yours - replying to the first). Or that 300 hits get 3 comments. And blog posts with 1000 hits often have somewhere nearer to 20 comments.

I'm facing two particular challenges at the moment:
  1. Writing things that stimulates other people to write about the issue - critical to making your blog take-off
  2. Being provocative in a positive way. I set up my blog to be positive yet always write from a negative standpoint. More to be done.
However, I do always engage with commenters wherever possible so that when they start out negative, I can at least try to identify common ground and where we really disagree. See, for example, my exchange with Denis Cooper.

I'd be grateful for any other ideas on how to be provocative . . .

Monday, 23 March 2009

Blogging disclaimer

I should reiterate my blogging disclaimer.

I've been free and easy with dispensing "advise" about blogging as if I were some sort of "expert". It isn't - and I'm not. Blogging is a form of writing just like any other with certain attributes. Just like writing a good essay is different from writing a good newspaper article, writing a good blog is different again.

However, social media does not have the longevity of newspaper writing, the science of marketing books or the same rigour to marking essays. Because the medium is changing so quickly, there are no rules. Only things that have worked in the past.

I'm writing my own blog - and blogging about it - to show you what I learn, building on my professional experience of what I've learnt helping others. But the medium is developing so rapidly that no sooner have rules been written than they can be destroyed.

So my disclaimer is that:
a) I know no more than my own experience
b) Rules are only developed from experience. They should be violated in order to innovate and enjoy writing

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Matthew Taylor's blog: what's it all about?

Matthew Taylor was confronted by a former colleague who suggested that his blog was all "me, me, me". It's true that blogs are inherently self-centered. But Matthew being the sensitive person that he is and his accuser being the sort that's committed to proper examination of the evidence, I thought that I'd do a quick analysis of what hs blog is all about.

I put the last five posts into wordle to produce images of the main words. These are the subjects he's blogged about in the last few days:

Now of course that excludes common words so I repeated the exercise, including common words:

So whilst 'I' figures prominently, it's not that prominent.

The ippr hasn't yet demonstrated its commitment to social media as part of its mission to be at the "forefront of progressive debate" to "build a fairer, more democratic world" so it's not possible to do a comparison.

Thoughts on whether the ippr is well suited to critiquing social media engagement and whether it can fulfil its mission without engaging with people through social media can be made in the comments section below!
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