We had an interesting conversation with a prospect for our new CGM Dashboard software. As usual we explained that it was specifically geared for consumer generated media parameters such as comments, trackbacks, nature of comment, type of comment etc. there was a lot of head nodding and hmmming and then at the end the PR guys said "but what’s the bottom line? When I go into my boss he expects to see a dollar sign like an ad value equivalency or something. Don’t you have that formula? "
After counting to ten, biting my thumb, walking around the building twice and taking about a dozen deep breaths, I politely explained that this was NEW media, not OLD media. That if he was looking at blogs like just another medium to pitch to and collect clips from, that he wouldn’t have any bottom line at all. Then I suggested he go back and reread the Cluetrain Manifesto.
It's always amazing to me when people try to justify their existance in the 21st century using tools with the mental equivalent of an oil lamp to guid them. The reality it that if your boss wants “ROI” from blogs, he/she better start by defining what kind of “return” they thing they’re going to get. Sure, there are stories about folks that start blogs and all of a sudden sales increase – that’s a pretty measure of success. But it doesn’t happen very often, and it you better have a really enticing blog if that’s your expected return. Using Howe’s Conversation Index is a great way to measure the success of your own blog, but it’s not going to tell you if your overall blog strategy is working.
If you’re pitching other people’s blogs hoping for a “mention” you’ll be very lucky indeed to see any return at all. Bloggers are interested in ideas, concepts and controversy, not pitches, new products or hype. Not that there aren’t a lot of organizations that would be helped by having a blogging strategy that engages customers and influential’s but then the return is the level of engagement, the number of comments and track backs and perm links to and from your information, not the number of “hits” -- And no, there aren’t standard “multipliers” or “reach numbers” for blogs. I’m sure that now that Nielsen owns intelliseek and buzzmetrics we’ll see something soon, but at the moment, other than a very few blogs that publish their own “circulation figures” (and unless and until they’re audited I wouldn’t believe those figures) .
And if you’re wondering what the “ROI” is for blog monitoring – instituting a program to make sure your reputation isn’t suffering at the hands of the Blogerati, just ask Michael Dell what he lost the week his stock dropped 20 points as a result of an unhappy customer ranting in cyberspace that exposed to Wall Street Dell’s Achilles heel – lousy customer service. Most people would agree that it’s worth many thousands of dollars to know that your billion dollar reputation isn’t at risk.