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January 5th, 2011

Counting Interactions Wherever They Occur

In a conversation the other day the decision was made to de-emphasize blog comments as part of a strategy we were putting together. For the program that was being tweaked comments simply weren’t an important metric or sign of that program’s success. The blog would still be open to any comments that came in and responses formulated around them, but with the way things were going they weren’t going to be something that was used to judge how things were going or otherwise a focus going forward.

It brought me back to the halcyon days of 2005/2006, when the number of comments you had for whatever type of blog you were talking about was one of the ultimate signs of success. If you didn’t have comments coming in at a steady clip the thinking was you had a dead blog. It was all about the conversation, the give and take.

That was never really true, though, especially not for programs that were just starting out. Too many times the Illuminati of the social media world at that time gave a new corporate blog about a day and a half after it launched before it was judged either a success or a failure, with little time for a company to find their voice and get some mileage behind them before a final verdict was handed down from on-high. And incoming comments were a big part of how that judgment was decided upon.

It’s tempting to look at today’s social world, where instead of comments coming in there are links shared and a conversation happening on Twitter and Facebook, but that’s really just the latest iteration of the same question that had to be answered back in the early days:

What if the conversation happens elsewhere?

Even before the days of “social media” as we understand the term now, the internet has allowed for disparate groups to gather themselves around a common interest. What that means for corporate online communications programs is that those groups that are being reached may decide they’re not going to participate in the comments on the blog but instead pull over the content that’s being published and have a discussion for themselves on a forum of their own.

And you know what? I’m good with that.

It goes back to the phrase I used a while ago: “positive action.” I’m not actually concerned with how the content that is produced or published is interacted with. I just want to be able to measure those positive actions that are taken, wherever they occur.

Every program is going to make this decision based on what the goals that have been setup and agreed upon are. And this isn’t me saying that comments don’t count and so let’s just throw them to the side. But it is clear to me that no matter how many posts published elsewhere on 10 ways to effectively run a social media campaign – posts that recycle the same handful of bromides that have been circulating since those days of yesteryear I referenced at the outset – there is no single measure by which a program can be judged a success or a failure.

If everyone is on board with what the goals are and regular progress measured against those goals then the program will do what it needs to do. If progress isn’t being made than it’s time to reevaluate and made adjustments. That is, always has been and always will be true.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

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