Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media Strategy, Blogging and Content Creation, Social Media Marketing

The Inefficiencies of the Reputation Economy

social media abacus 300x195 The Inefficiencies of the Reputation EconomyNothing gets bloggers more excited than a discussion about blog rankings. Many conversations I had at South by Southwest touched on this subject.

Jason Falls asked Guy Kawasaki to move his Social Media Explorer up the list on http://alltop.com (a great resource to find first-class blogs, by the way).

Mack Collier told me that his longstanding weekly posts listing the Top 25 marketing and social media blogs are routinely his most popular.

Valeria Maltoni had more comments on her post about top women bloggers than any of the other 800+ posts she’s written.

Why?

New Media Lacks Scoreboards

You know where you stand in old media. Flawed though they may be, entire industries have been built around measuring and ranking traditional media like television (Nielsen), radio (Arbitron), and print (Audit Bureau and others). I can use Google to find the top 10 TV shows, top 10 daily newspapers, top 10 magazines and an almost limitless supply of other data points about who’s garnering the most eyeballs.

New media has more data, but less insight.

Technorati estimates that there are hundreds of millions of blogs, but there isn’t much reliable information about which are best, or even biggest.

Technorati itself uses “authority” to rank blogs based on how many other blogs link to them (somewhat similar to Google’s Web page ranking algorithm). A viable metric, but more a barometer of influence among bloggers than readership.

Feedcompare.com allows you to compare the number of people that have “subscribed” to blogs using RSS, meaning that they are notified via an RSS application or email each time a new post is added to the blog. If you use Feedburner to power your RSS feed you can also display the number of RSS subscribers on your blog (as I do in the top right corner of this page). This is an indication of popularity but not of actual audience, since just a fraction of all blog readers will subscribe to the blog (just like a fraction of single issue readers of a magazine will subscribe).

Compete.com, Quantcast.com and Google Ad Planner use various methods of tracking the behavior of a subset of Internet users to estimate and project the overall traffic of Web sites. As chronicled by the aforementioned Jason Falls on his blog, this data can have wide fluctuations in accuracy. Further, it is fundamentally useless for all but the biggest blogs, because there aren’t enough visitors for reliable estimation.

In the marketing realm, there are a variety of multi-faceted rankings that strive to recommend or rank blogs based on quality and/or size. My three favorites (in addition to Mack’s list) are AdAge Power 150, Alltop, and Junta42. But they combine the flawed data points mentioned above with human-powered scores. A good, but not perfect, methodology.

And social media listening software like Radian6, Techrigy, Scoutlabs or Spiral16 typically has blogger influence scores, but those are complex, fee-based packages more suited for comprehensive social media outreach programs.

Give Me Data, or Give Me Death

If you’re not a blogger, you may not care about a lack of reliable scoreboards for blogs. Although if you’re trying to find influential bloggers to engage with on behalf of your company or client, this topic may be important to you on a daily basis.

But for bloggers, having a way to keep score is important and affirming.

The time it takes to blog regularly cannot be justified in any direct way financially, unless your blog is so popular that you’re selling a lot of ads (a tiny, tiny slice of the overall blogosphere). Indirectly, blogging helps a ton in terms of credibility and developing your thinking, but it doesn’t pay the bills per se.

Your comments are fantastic and a great way to stay engaged with readers, but they aren’t a measuring stick, either.

That’s why blogging can be a lonely proposition. When you first start blogging, it feels like you’re writing in the dark, wondering if anyone will ever see your work. If a laptop falls on a blogger’s head in the forest, and nobody is around, will you hear her scream?

I believe we’ll be seeing plenty of answers to this problem cropping up soon, and just as social media and social networking have advanced and improved, a new “reputation economy” will rise up to meet the challenge of blog to blog comparisons.

Perhaps Hubspot, who have done a great job with their Twitter Grader, Website Grader and Facebook Grader applications, will create a Blog Grader. That would kick start this reputation economy, and set the bar for additional developments.

(photo by Ansik)

  • http://www.dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com/ Indra Gardiner

    Hey Jason -

    I agree that we need better ways of actually measuring the traffic, sharing and influence of a blog. Your examples of Jason asking for a better position on Alltop or Mack’s Top 25 list are really nothing more than using contacts for influence and popularity. There is nothing metric driven in either of those examples.

    I see lists almost daily that while sometimes helpful are often seriously aggravating as it is obvious that the list maker has his or her personal favs (or small world of blogs that he/she has time to read) and voila – they make the list. I am guessing that there are dozens of other good blogs that the writer just doesn’t know about.

    I look forward to more impartial ways of measuring a blog’s value.

    I would also add that from our agency’s perspective, every new business prospect tells us that they read our blog. It helps them see our expertise and culture, so even if only 100 people read our blog, if it’s the right 100 I’ll take it!

  • http://www.dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com Indra Gardiner

    Hey Jason -

    I agree that we need better ways of actually measuring the traffic, sharing and influence of a blog. Your examples of Jason asking for a better position on Alltop or Mack’s Top 25 list are really nothing more than using contacts for influence and popularity. There is nothing metric driven in either of those examples.

    I see lists almost daily that while sometimes helpful are often seriously aggravating as it is obvious that the list maker has his or her personal favs (or small world of blogs that he/she has time to read) and voila – they make the list. I am guessing that there are dozens of other good blogs that the writer just doesn’t know about.

    I look forward to more impartial ways of measuring a blog’s value.

    I would also add that from our agency’s perspective, every new business prospect tells us that they read our blog. It helps them see our expertise and culture, so even if only 100 people read our blog, if it’s the right 100 I’ll take it!

  • http://blog.ecairn.com/ laurent

    Jason,
    We got 50x traffic on our blog from our ‘top 150 SMM blogs’ compared to other posts.
    One of the issue I see with ‘absolute ranking’ like technorati is that we’re usually looking for a way to understand where we stand in the niche we belong to. I think ‘relevant ranking’ is better with relevant being a function of the niche. It’s more complex to implement as you may need to break down the blogosphere in many many small little community (~1000 bloggers)

    laurent’s last blog post..New Feature: eCairn Conversation(tm) Dashboard

  • http://blog.ecairn.com laurent

    Jason,
    We got 50x traffic on our blog from our ‘top 150 SMM blogs’ compared to other posts.
    One of the issue I see with ‘absolute ranking’ like technorati is that we’re usually looking for a way to understand where we stand in the niche we belong to. I think ‘relevant ranking’ is better with relevant being a function of the niche. It’s more complex to implement as you may need to break down the blogosphere in many many small little community (~1000 bloggers)

    laurent’s last blog post..New Feature: eCairn Conversation(tm) Dashboard

  • http://www.copywriteink.blogspot.com/ Richard Becker

    Really Jason,

    I think the best measure of influence are those that go beyond the blog. What did they do as a result of reading a post? A analytic tool cannot deliver that because those actions take place off the site.

    Consider a daily newspaper for example. I read the newspaper (online or off). It might inform me, but does it influence me? Not really.

    Best,
    Rich

    Richard Becker’s last blog post..Ghosting Content: Guy Kawasaki

  • http://www.copywriteink.blogspot.com Richard Becker

    Really Jason,

    I think the best measure of influence are those that go beyond the blog. What did they do as a result of reading a post? A analytic tool cannot deliver that because those actions take place off the site.

    Consider a daily newspaper for example. I read the newspaper (online or off). It might inform me, but does it influence me? Not really.

    Best,
    Rich

    Richard Becker’s last blog post..Ghosting Content: Guy Kawasaki

  • http://www.retailemailblog.com/ Chad White

    The number of RSS/email subscribers that I have is the proxy that I pay the most attention to–although lately I’ve been paying much more attention to my number of Twitter followers. Since I tweet my blog posts, that’s become another way to subscribe to my feed. I watch my blog traffic, but I want to know how many people I’ve engaged longer term.

    Chad White’s last blog post..AM Inbox: Barnes & Noble’s streaker email

  • http://www.retailemailblog.com Chad White

    The number of RSS/email subscribers that I have is the proxy that I pay the most attention to–although lately I’ve been paying much more attention to my number of Twitter followers. Since I tweet my blog posts, that’s become another way to subscribe to my feed. I watch my blog traffic, but I want to know how many people I’ve engaged longer term.

    Chad White’s last blog post..AM Inbox: Barnes & Noble’s streaker email

  • http://simonsalt.com/ Simon Salt

    Great post, love the laptop falling on the head of a blogger analogy. The idea of Hubspot producing a blog-grader is very good as long as its on the lines of their press release & website grader and not the twitter or facebook grader where they assign a very odd number value to you based on the number of people who have used the grader. Not sure that it would provide authority. At the end of the day authority and influence are measured in numbers, they are measured in ability and reach. As a blogger your influence is measured by the ability of what you write to impact other people and get them to do something or to change an opinion (IMHO)

    Simon Salt’s last blog post..When Did Mashable Lose the Plot?

  • http://simonsalt.com Simon Salt

    Great post, love the laptop falling on the head of a blogger analogy. The idea of Hubspot producing a blog-grader is very good as long as its on the lines of their press release & website grader and not the twitter or facebook grader where they assign a very odd number value to you based on the number of people who have used the grader. Not sure that it would provide authority. At the end of the day authority and influence are measured in numbers, they are measured in ability and reach. As a blogger your influence is measured by the ability of what you write to impact other people and get them to do something or to change an opinion (IMHO)

    Simon Salt’s last blog post..When Did Mashable Lose the Plot?

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  • iKlax Media

    RT @bduverneuil: Reading: The Inefficiencies of the Reputation Economy http://ow.ly/1oZn

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ Jason Baer

    @Indra – Great point. Ultimately, blogging for many people is about who you’re reaching, not how many.

    @Laurent – Thanks for making my case. Bloggers are starved for numerical recognition!

    @Rich – Interesting comment. I agree that driving understanding or behavior is the ultimate goal. Tough to measure, although repeat visits might come close?

    @Chad – Indeed. I see a lot of people not only paying attention to their Twitter followers, but blogging less and tweeting more. Certainly, the immediate gratification is better.

    @Simon – Great point. Influence is the ultimate goal. You should hang out with Rich, seems like you guys have the same take on this.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com Jason Baer

    @Indra – Great point. Ultimately, blogging for many people is about who you’re reaching, not how many.

    @Laurent – Thanks for making my case. Bloggers are starved for numerical recognition!

    @Rich – Interesting comment. I agree that driving understanding or behavior is the ultimate goal. Tough to measure, although repeat visits might come close?

    @Chad – Indeed. I see a lot of people not only paying attention to their Twitter followers, but blogging less and tweeting more. Certainly, the immediate gratification is better.

    @Simon – Great point. Influence is the ultimate goal. You should hang out with Rich, seems like you guys have the same take on this.

  • http://twitter.com/whatsnext/status/1388687585 BL Ochman

    interesting post from @JayBaer on Inefficiencies of Reputation Management http://tinyurl.com/c8jmqv

  • http://twitter.com/inkfoundry/status/1388842956 Carin Galletta

    RT @whatsnext interesting post from @JayBaer on Inefficiencies of Reputation Management http://tinyurl.com/c8jmqv

  • http://twitter.com/conversationage/status/1389175042 ConversationAge

    New media has more data, but less insight @jaybaer http://ow.ly/1pH8

  • http://twitter.com/RichBecker/status/ Richard Becker

    RT @ConversationAge: New media has more data, but less insight @jaybaer http://ow.ly/1pH8

  • http://altitudebranding.com/ Amber Naslund

    Jay,

    Man, this is a topic that continues to consternate me. I get it. I really do. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Theoretically, I understand.

    But the issue with a reputation economy will always be its subjectivity. And actually, I support that. I *like* the idea that each person’s idea of what influences them is different.

    So I can’t help feeling like the numbers game, while it can be an indicator, is nothing more than a shortcut. A way for us to say okay, this is table stakes. If you’ve at least got this many eyeballs, that means that you’re worth my attention.

    The conundrum, of course, is that a “following” is often a trailing indicator rather than a leading one. So how, then, do we quantify something of value that just hasn’t done enough bench presses to make the wrestling team?

    I’m still searching for the right answers. Hope you’ll be along for the discussion.

    Cheers,
    Amber

    Amber Naslund’s last blog post..Being a Director of Community

  • http://altitudebranding.com Amber Naslund

    Jay,

    Man, this is a topic that continues to consternate me. I get it. I really do. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Theoretically, I understand.

    But the issue with a reputation economy will always be its subjectivity. And actually, I support that. I *like* the idea that each person’s idea of what influences them is different.

    So I can’t help feeling like the numbers game, while it can be an indicator, is nothing more than a shortcut. A way for us to say okay, this is table stakes. If you’ve at least got this many eyeballs, that means that you’re worth my attention.

    The conundrum, of course, is that a “following” is often a trailing indicator rather than a leading one. So how, then, do we quantify something of value that just hasn’t done enough bench presses to make the wrestling team?

    I’m still searching for the right answers. Hope you’ll be along for the discussion.

    Cheers,
    Amber

    Amber Naslund’s last blog post..Being a Director of Community

  • http://twitter.com/myerman/status/ Thomas Myer

    RT @ConversationAge: New media has more data, but less insight @jaybaer http://ow.ly/1pH8

  • http://twitter.com/incslinger/status/ Simon Salt

    thought provoking post by @jaybaer – http://twurl.nl/y7he4h Bloggers you must read, @dharmesh a definite read for you and hubspot good idea

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  • http://twitter.com/elizabethsosnow/status/ Elizabeth Sosnow

    RT @jaybaer If a laptop falls on a blogger’s head in the forest, and nobody is around, will you hear her scream? http://bit.ly/IaGfC

  • http://twitter.com/LisaMLoeffler/status/ Lisa Loeffler

    From ConvinceandConvert.com blog @jaybaer “Blogging helps a ton with credibility & developing your thinking…” http://tinyurl.com/c8jmqv

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  • http://twitter.com/scotthepburn/status/1428405843 Scott Hepburn

    Measure this! Excellent insights into the Inefficiencies of the Reputation Economy, courtesy of @jaybaer: http://is.gd/pYXs

  • http://www.spiral16.com/blog Whitney

    Jason – thanks for mentioning Spiral16 in your post! You make some great points here.

    I think the biggest problem with Web numbers is there are too many ways to measure, and you can argue that each method is as important as the next. Often times when doing case studies for S16 that I use a variety of different statistics to determine the importance of a site. Usually a mash-up of numbers gives me an accurate picture of what’s happening.

    I tend to take measurements on a case-by-case basis, as out of context page views, influence rankings, unique users/visitors or inbound/outbound links can all mean different things.

    It also helps if the blogger knows exactly what stat they’re looking to compare. Grabbing random percentages to make yourself look more influential is like a false Italian church facade – it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Whitney’s last blog post..Video tour of Twitter HQ

  • http://www.spiral16.com/blog Whitney

    Jason – thanks for mentioning Spiral16 in your post! You make some great points here.

    I think the biggest problem with Web numbers is there are too many ways to measure, and you can argue that each method is as important as the next. Often times when doing case studies for S16 that I use a variety of different statistics to determine the importance of a site. Usually a mash-up of numbers gives me an accurate picture of what’s happening.

    I tend to take measurements on a case-by-case basis, as out of context page views, influence rankings, unique users/visitors or inbound/outbound links can all mean different things.

    It also helps if the blogger knows exactly what stat they’re looking to compare. Grabbing random percentages to make yourself look more influential is like a false Italian church facade – it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Whitney’s last blog post..Video tour of Twitter HQ

  • http://twitter.com/rjleaman/status/1546049038 Rebecca Leaman

    reading The Inefficiencies of the Reputation Economy – @jaybaer Convince & Convert http://ow.ly/32Zn

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  • http://twitter.com/synthesio/status/2343918983 Synthesio

    Entire industries have been built around measuring and ranking traditional media like television (Niels.. http://bit.ly/IaGfC

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