Measuring true engagement and impact of authentic stories 

Sometimes we can’t explain why a piece of content took off. And sometimes we can’t even tell that a post took off because its impact can’t be truly measured.

And that’s OK! Seriously. We don’t have to overanalyze everything. But it’s OK to review metrics and continue to figure out new ways of measuring impact and influence.

I’m a huge advocate of measuring content performance and engagement. It can help us figure out what content the majority of our community (aka audience) reads.  

But it doesn’t measure true impact. We can have one reader and the blog post or other piece of content had a life-changing impact (let’s hope it was positive) on them. Publishing the post was totally worth it.

Other posts might have a huge amount of page views but all visitors were just fly-by readers who barely scanned the opening paragraph. But, yay, we got a gazillion views. :(

I use metrics to see trends. 

  • Is traffic continuing to go up over time? 
  • Is the number of email subscribers growing?
  • What social media networks send the most traffic? Do I need to engage more on one or the other?
  • What are the most popular posts? Do I see a trend?

Looking for trends with most popular posts is super helpful. I look at them as their own pieces but also take them as a group to see what stands out.

For this blog, for example, I found that posts with personal stories tied to authentic storytelling are the most popular. 

Other popular posts are ones where I offer an opinion that’s not necessarily mainstream but close enough that many can identify with it as common sense. 

Since I know those things I try to shape content around those two areas whenever possible. When it’s not possible, I won’t necessarily let that stop me from publishing a new post. 

And then there are offline metrics: People tell me offline how they appreciated one post or another. Sometimes those posts didn’t drive in the top traffic numbers. 

That’s OK. I use metrics to guide what pieces of my stories to share. Sometimes the results are immediately measurable and sometimes they aren’t. 

Either way, I’ll continue sharing stories that I hope are relevant to my readers. 

Blogging: How it’s not always about the latest content on your blog

August 2015 was the best month to date on my authentic storytelling and content marketing blog. Woohoo! Thanks, everyone, for stopping by.

I thought this would be a good time to see what people are reading on here and talk about the importance of the timeless nature of stories. Yes, it can be super successful to hop on breaking news when you have something of value to add to the situation, too. Let’s take a look at the top 10 most-read articles this month and when they were published.

  1. Stories that are similar to our own bring out emotions (Oct. 1, 2014)
  2. How to hire me to speak at your event  (July 3, 2014)
  3. How to edit Facebook Places (May 30, 2014)
  4. Honored to be the No. 1 social media healthcare influencer on the HIT99 list (July 31)
  5. 105-year-old hospital volunteer asks for Retweets while advocating for volunteerism (Aug. 11)
  6. Why I’m writing a book (Aug. 18)
  7. Why speeches are more like performances (Aug. 7)
  8. My one-on-one interview with death row inmate Dustin Honken (May 17, 2014)
  9. How I’ve grown my Twitter following – without buying followers (Jan. 11)
  10. #H2HChat Example: How to get people to your Twitter Chat (Aug. 21)

In August, I published 18 articles on my blog, including this piece. So much for sticking with weekly posts. Ha.

Many of them brought in some good interest and interactions. I received numerous messages, too, on posts that don’t show up in the month’s Top 10. So there was some good interaction even for posts that didn’t pull in the top numbers for readership.

Of the Top 10 posts in August, less than half (four total) were actually published during the month.

The top post discusses my son’s death and was published in October – (so about 10 months ago. Coming in at number 2 and number 3 were posts that were also published last year. One discusses how to hire me to speak at your event. Number 3 is a piece that explains how to edit Facebook Places. That post was never even displayed on the homepage in any manner. It draws in a lot of search traffic since people are searching for solutions on how to edit Facebook Places. It’s actually harder to do than it might seem.

The most-read post this month and that was actually published this month comes in at number 5 and highlights the social media story of a 105-year-old hospital volunteer.

A couple more posts published this month follow, but at number 8, is the republished newspaper story of the interview I conducted with a death row inmate a few years ago. Some documentary production crew was working on a show on the inmate, so perhaps that had something to do with it. Other media outlets have also recently linked to it.

august 2015 traffic referrals to siteSome of the older stories are showing up high because they rank high when people search for their topics on Google. That’s called organic search.

Social media referrals – when people see a link on Twitter, Facebook, etc. – made up about a third of all traffic. I did play around with some promoted Twitter posts, too. (Basically, I pay money to Twitter and Twitter shows my Tweet to more people.)

Some of the older posts are ranking higher because I re-share them on the top networks from time to time. Just because they are older doesn’t mean people aren’t looking at them again when I share them once (or twice) again.

Referral links from other websites (not social media) made up around 20 percent of all traffic and direct traffic (when somebody types in the blog’s address or has it bookmarked) almost made up 28 percent.

Creating new content on a schedule is a great way to keep sharing knowledge with our readers. It certainly helps build a following and community. Once you get going, don’t be surprised when older posts continue to still rank high.

It’s great to see that blogging truly is about longevity and not just in-the-moment publishing. Our content can last and be relevant for a while – as long as it is.

 

I don’t need better content. I need more relevant content.

That doesn’t mean I think content marketers should skimp on quality. They shouldn’t. Quality is super important. And yes, there’s plenty of crummy content out there. There’s also plenty of good and even great content out there.

There are plenty of folks creating quality content. Quality content as in it’s well written. There are no typos. Correct grammar is used. It might even be a great story. Hats off to quality content creators.

But something isn’t quite right with the content. It’s not relevant at all. It’s even wasting my time. It’s causing me to be annoyed and might even get me to ignore similar headlines, Tweets, whatever the next time. Irrelevant content is what causes sidebar blindness, for example.

It’s not relevant to me. Sure. Maybe I’m not your target audience. But I still saw this high quality piece of content, which bored me.

High quality content is now a requirement. Good enough is no longer good enough.

And the thing we should focus on now is to produce highly relevant for our communities.

First, of course, we need to figure out who that is and what kind of content (aka stories) they would be most interested in.

And just a reminder: Audiences are hardly ever the content producers bosses. Usually.

So, let’s figure our how we can spot and then share those highly relevant and authentic stories that people want and can’t wait to be served up.

I know some content producers who regularly deliver content that I can’t wait to consume. I will read their posts because they have built that trust and relevance over time.

They don’t waste my time so they get my time.

Getting on a blogging schedule will help you stay on track 

It sounds so simple and common sense, doesn’t it? Like many things, it’s easier said than done.

From my experience, the most sustainable way to stay on a blogging schedule is to get going and work way ahead. 

I decided to publish at least once a week on here. I write a post for the next Monday, then the next week, and so on. I do that until I’m scheduled two months out – so about eight posts.

Once I get that kind of head start, I sometimes start publishing more than once per week. I suppose I could schedule even further out – but it seems a bit overkill to me.

Here’s why I love being scheduled two months out:

  • I don’t have to rush posts routinely.
  • Even if I take two weeks off I’m still good for a few more weeks.
  • It allows me to focus on relevance in my stories over quantity. 
  • It makes me feel organized.

I would recommend to all the new (and old) bloggers out there to get on a schedule. Write posts as ideas come up and then schedule those posts – one per week.

Certainly, some  of us can come up with reasons why scheduling posts is against some unwritten blogging rule.

I usually ask for them to show me where it’s written down. Ha.

Scheduling works and takes the stress out of blogging more in the moment. There are exceptions, of course. In the case of timely stories, don’t schedule them weeks out. Publish them now.

Transparency: Post your ratings for all to see

I really don’t buy anything online anymore, book a hotel or do anything that costs me money or time without reading the reviews. I know many others do the same. That’s likely why review sites and embedded reviews (think Amazon, for example) have become so popular.

We trust other people’s opinions – especially if we hear the same opinion over and over. Social proof: When everyone likes a product, we think we are more likely to enjoy it as well.

Some people have hired others to file fake positive reviews for them. That’s not good, of course. Once you are caught your credibility will have tanked. But, asking people to give fair reviews is a great way to remind those who love your service to leave a public review.

Then there’s the offline component. I’ve seen more and more offline mentions of online reviews in recent years.

Here’s one example from a hotel in the Boston area. They posted this in the lobby:

posting reviews

Here’s an example from an business in Iowa:

posting reviews online - Iowa example

Both of these are great because they connect offline and online channels. The times where both are operating in a vacuum are long gone.

The first one highlights a four-star rating, the second reminds people who love the business to leave reviews. Well done.

It’s probably best to embrace reviews, encourage fair ones and use the negative ones to learn from and improve. If a customer leaves a negative review – for example saying that parking was bad – maybe parking really was bad. Perhaps there’s something we can do about the parking.

At the least we should respond to reviews – positive and negative ones – and offer our insights as necessary. Then, when it’s appropriate do more of what’s working and less of what’s not. Changes are OK!

We can’t keep the old and do the new

You hear the cliches:

We are innovating, taking it to the next level, etc., etc.

Many organizations and people want to be on the cutting edge – without being on the bleeding edge – of innovation. Those organizations say they want to go with the times and adjust to consumer behavior.

I love the new and innovative. I try not to chase too many shiny objectives – at least not for too long. I mention this here, because when we truly want to be innovative, that also means that we may potentially – most likely actually – have to give something up. We have to let go of something else. And to give something up, we have to be really sure that where we are going is worth giving up whatever we have.

But, I’ve heard this often over the years: We are doing this new thing but/and we are not letting go off the old thing. Because you know the old thing is still kind of  working and we’ll just keep it around and experiment with the new thing.

I’ve heard this from organizations in a number of different industries, including nonprofits, media companies and others.

Then – after a week or two – the new thing isn’t working to the extent the old thing has been working for decades and we declare that the new thing was just a shiny object and we are going to stop chasing it.

The thing is, most new things won’t work the day after they were implemented and they certainly shouldn’t be compared to something that worked for a long time and that took a long time to get to that working stage.

Plus, whether or not something is working depends on your definition of working.

Often, for new things to work, we have to let go of something old. Sometimes that’s an actual legacy product, or it’s a workflow and sometimes it’s people with outdated skills.

Perhaps, instead of focusing on old or new, we should focus on whatever tool gets us to accomplish our vision in the most meaningful way.

Let’s use the example of a media company: If the media company’s vision and purpose is to publish a daily newspaper it’ll be hard – if not impossible – to ever think about other channels in a truly meaningful way.

But, if the vision and mission is to inform our communities about the most relevant happenings to them, we’ll figure out a way to best do that. It might be a newspaper, or it might be something online or who knows what new channel might be invented before too long.

The same holds true for just about any other organization. We can give up an old technique if the new technique helps us reach our vision. For that, our vision has to be big enough. If the old technique is also the vision and purpose, it’s impossible.

When is it OK to swear in blog posts and on social media?

You know that an answer filled with just foul language could have been my response here, right?

But foul language doesn’t belong on this blog. I can make my point without it. (And it’s not like I haven’t been around my share of cursing. I did grow up as a football player, you know.)

WTH headlines are common. Yes, that’s cursing. So, are other acronyms. Using words that are similar to cursing but not quite the right word are still swearing as well.

I won’t name any names or point fingers here but I’m seeing more and more cursing happening out there on blog posts and in social media. Maybe it’s how people talk offline, too, and if that’s the case I applaud them for being their authentic selves offline and online. For me cursing in copy can usually be eliminated and doesn’t add much to stories anyway. They are extra words that can be cut – for the most part.

So, why are we seeing more cursing in blog posts and when should we curse – if ever? At least I’m perceiving there to be more. Sometimes, I even see it from established brands. OMG (That’s not swearing, right?) It’s probably just an evolution of language and what’s accepted – even if not by all.

I did ask my social media friends about when it’s OK to swear. You can see the responses at the bottom of this post. They ranged from:

  • Never
  • Do it if your audience does it
  • If it’s you, go ahead
  • Do it occasionally

That’s the beautiful thing about social media and blogging. Everyone can have their own opinion – and others can either like it or not like it. Now, we have seen people get attacked by digital lynch mobs, but perhaps those cases will decrease over time. Interestingly, digital lynch mobs, in my perception often use foul language.

It’s a personal decision for sure and it might even help some brands to swear. If their audiences appreciate it, it’s good for them. In general, I don’t see any room for cursing in my blog posts – at all. It doesn’t make the story any stronger just because somebody in it cursed. If I want to highlight something even more, I might bold it in the sentence. I know, living on the wild side, right? :)

What might be worse than (excessive) cursing in blog posts? When people want to show they are cursing but are using this technique:

“And then in this $*%@ ….”

If you do decide that cursing is for you, at least say what you want to say, but I most likely won’t reshare your content.

Social media discussion on cussing

cursing 1

comments from facebook on cursing

Nile Flores also previously wrote about this: Profanity, Blogging, and Business – How Your Readers May Perceive You

#H2HChat Example: How to get people to your Twitter Chat

I love Twitter chats. They are a great exchange of ideas and conversation around a topic of interest to the participants. There are many chats and some days I wonder when we’ll hit the Twitter chat bubble. Maybe there won’t be one, but some topics certainly have an abundance of chats.

The other day, I was participating in one and a very similar one was happening at the exact same time. Either way, Twitter chats are here and when used correctly are a great tool for organizations, brands and people alike.

One of the chats I try to participate in is #H2HChat, which stands for Human to Human. Bryan Kramer coined the term to show that all (marketing) communication – whether B2B or B2C – is ultimately Human to Human (H2H).

I love how the H2H crew reaches out to people and reminds them of the chat. If I’m not reminded of a chat or stumble across it by mistake, I likely won’t remember it.

Once you are on their mailing list, you receive an email reminder of the chat. I know, because I’ve gotten one before. Super helpful! I see a higher percentage of my email than the tweets I could see in theory. I follow like 12,000 people.

Suzi McCarthy sends out reminder Tweets to people – like me – who might be interested. This is a smart way to remind people. And take a look where she’s sending people – a registration page – which will remind me further that the chat is about to happen when it’s about to happen:

IMG_3492

Once on the registration page, we get the low-down on the chat, participants, topic and more. Super useful:

H2HChat Shareology Edition Driving Ultimate Performace Between the CXO and Everyone Else with BryanKramer on 8 24

 

h2h chat popupThe Save your Seat button prompts a popup to come up and allows you to get an email reminder.

Save your Seat is great terminology – even though everyone can join even without a reservation.

It’s a top notch way to promote Twitter chats.

Three more ways to share and promote Twitter chats

Some organizations have also started  posting previews to upcoming chats on their blogs. Here’s an example from a healthcare chat. After chats end, some organizations post recaps that are specifically formatted for the blog reader. Here’s an example from my participation in a Content Marketing World Chat. I basically – for the most part – gave the same answers during the chat. I then published the wrap-up post right at the end of the chat. As you can see, it’s not just embedded Tweets. It’s written as an actual blog.

Creating Facebook Events  for a chat is another way to remind people of the upcoming chat.

Twitter chats can be a great way to connect, but it’s important to get people there. These are just a few ways to accomplish that.

Why I’m writing a book

Most of the thought leaders out there – if not all – have written and published books on their topics.

For example, at last year’s Content Marketing World conference, all speakers had either written or were writing a book.

I’ve been kind of ignoring the urge or necessity but people ask me quite regularly:

When will you write a book?

I kept thinking:

Can’t people just read my blog?

LOL.

Of course they can, but there’s something about a book that is different. Even digital versions are more tangible than 200,000 words spread across many posts.

Books have a certain level of prestige.

By way of example…

I decided to move forward with the book while out on a run, got the commitment from a top-notch editor and announced in the kitchen at home that I will be writing a book.

My seven-year-old’s response:

“Like a real one? Cool!”

I’ve received other similar sentiments since.

Very exciting times and I’m hoping to get it published by the end of the year.

Of course, it’ll be around authentic storytelling.

You can sign up below to be in the know when it comes out.

Now, onto getting the thing done …