I often hear bloggers bemoan that you don’t have to have a large readership to have influence and while this is true, a small readership doesn’t automatically equal influence either. In fact, having a readership of any description doesn’t mean anything useful unless something happens with that audience.That something could be anything – shares, comments, emails, clicks but in order to know if you have influence you need to first look closely and find out what those reader actions are and when they happen.
How do you measure the influence a blogger has on their audience? Do you look at the bare blog statistics such as unique monthly visitors, number of twitter followers, or Facebook fans? Do these “stats” give you the whole picture or is there more to influence than just the numbers?
The natural assumption might be that Blog A with 5000 unique visitors is more popular than blog B with 500. If you are interested in getting your brand to more people it is a no brainer which blog you would engage, right?
No, wrong. (Didn’t see that coming, did you? ;))
Numbers don’t necessarily equate to influence – this should be entirely obvious but in a marketing world obsessed with reach, many brands are still entirely focused with this getting this data and bloggers have bought into it too. Let’s look at Blog A above – those 5000 unique visitors could come from anywhere in the world, they could come in via search and they could stay on the site for any amount of time at all. Numbers are just number, eyeballs… unless you can break those numbers down and understand who they are, why they come and what they do when they are there they offer you know quantifiable data upon which to make any kind of marketing decision. (If you want an introduction to breaking how stats work then check out this post on Understanding Metrics).
This is really important for bloggers too. If you just chase the eyeballs then you might have some short term wins, passing off large stats to brands who don’t understand social but in the long term you aren’t doing yourself any favours because you won’t be able to back it up. If you are an Australian blogger wanting to work with Australian brands you need to be building an Australian audience. Forget the Amercian memes that drive you droves of traffic for a day and do nothing for building your community, forget optimising for SEO as a core strategy (by all means do it a bit, but don’t use it to stack your stats) You don’t want huge quantities of search traffic unless you have a mechanism to convert them over to subscribers or bring them into your community. You really do have to think small initially and build up a community – the bad news is, building a robust community takes work, time and often a stroke of good luck.
The good news is that if you spend the time nurturing a community your influence will multiply and you will be able to demonstrate to future clients (yes, they will become clients – not just brands) the nature of your audience and the type of influence you have. You will also have such a deep personal investment in that audience that you will only select blogger programs that truly complement your content and enhance it in some way.
Bloggers can have huge influence but even when this is true they won’t have influence about everything…though that’s probably a topic for another time.
If you’re a blogger I’d love to hear what you think about influence and whether/how you are measuring to tie down where your point of influence lie.