selfie dogsLast week I talked about how what we consider “authoritative content” has changed rapidly, and continues to do so. And, therefore, why it’s so important for you to consider a multi-faceted PR strategy that is not solely or significantly based on media relations. If you’ve bought into that, then how do you find smarter ways to measure authoritative content?

Image: Thinkstock

First, I’m going to do the possibly douchey thing of quoting myself, primarily to provide context for this post (I don’t want to assume you read last week’s post):

The reason social advertising is becoming so successful is that people are consuming and sharing content, significantly via mobile devices, and significantly via social networks, now more than ever before.

What does this mean for your content?

That no matter how good it is, how it is disseminated and received in social channels has a lot to do with whether or not your story will get play. And stories that get play quickly become to go-to sources. What is that if not the definition of “authoritative”?

So when the nature of authoritative content is changing so dramatically, how you measure the success of your content has to change as well. This means you must be open to seeing different behaviors fueled by your content.

Changing interactions, changing metrics

I shared these thoughts on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, so some of this might sound familiar, if you saw it there.

Back in the day – and I’m talking not that long ago – the number of comments you got on your blog were a big deal. An “engaged” blog was one that drew a lot of attention, comments, back links, etc. So when you’d research bloggers for outreach, that was a huge factor. So those were part of your core suite of metrics.

Then social really started coming into its own. Dynamic comment systems became the norm (such as Livefyre, which is what we have here on WUL), as opposed to vanilla commenting systems. And with that, came the ability to draw readers in through these commenting systems.

This meant that a lot of times the “comments” were really quips, back-forth, etc., taking place in various social networks, that added to your comment count. If you’re still stuck on “comments” as a metric, how valid would that now be?

I will say that I’m not sure LF is behaving the way it’s supposed to, at least on WUL, and I need to look into that. Still, the premise holds good.

Then automation started becoming more acceptable, and Dino Dogan‘s Triberr has had a lot to do with this (if you weren’t aware, I do use this myself, and Kellye Crane & I got into an animated discussion over it a while back). The ability to create “tribes” who trust your content enough to share it, sometimes via automation, has had an incredible impact on the share-ability of your content.

What I’ve been seeing for a while now is a significant dip in actual blog comments – not just on my blog, but on many well-respected blogs, including those of the “A-listers.” I’m not going to start calling people out, because I don’t want my comments to be misconstrued. My point is that they (still) have killer content, yet the behavior of their audience has changed.

For example, take these two posts by Mark Schaefer, indisputably an A-lister.

Btw, if you’ll be in / can get to the DC area on August 27, you should come to xPotomac 15, which Geoff Livingston, Patrick Ashamalla & I are co-hosting. Mark is keynoting and it will be an amazeballs event. The discount code SHONALI will get you 20% off.

While Mark still gets a helluva lot of comments, his audience (as well as those of others) is now primarily sharing that content, thanks to mechanisms as those described above. And that reach is having as big an impact, if not bigger, in terms of visibility, thought leadership, positioning, and business opportunities.

So how do you now measure the validity of this content?

I love what Shelly Kramer said in response to my Facebook query:

“I think that measuring the ‘success’ of a blog based on comments has always been an ineffective measurement. Many times, those commentors [sic] are folks from your own ‘tribe’ or, less delicately, from the endless circle jerk of friends we’ve all made online.

While that’s neat, your friends thinking what you write is awesome is relatively meaningless in the big scheme of things. As in ‘does this bring me business, does it mean that the audience I want to reach considers me a thought leader,’ or ‘does it reach the goals I want to reach vis a vis [sic] my overall content marketing strategy?’

Add to that the fact that the vast majority of content is consumed by people who can best be defined as ‘lurkers’ and people who never leave blog [comments]… measuring the efficacy of content by the number of comments received has never been effective. No matter how much we want to tell ourselves that the fact that our friends think we are awesome, and leave us blog comments telling us how awesome we are matters, it does not.”

The ultimate goal of authoritative content

Ultimately, you have to guide your audience into your version of a sales funnel. That‘s what that content is there to do. It will not necessarily lead to the immediate sale (though it could), but the behaviors that you want to see are those of people who start to become engaged enough with your content to opt in to your version of a sales sequence… because of how greatly they value the quality of information you provide.

As Lee Odden, one of my favorite A-listers, said in this interview for Scripted:

“I think high-quality content is content that satisfies the needs of your reader. It’s thoughtful and relevant. The writing, the design and usefulness of the content has to inspire some kind of action. Content that provides an experience that inspires readers to take action or think differently is high-quality content.”

Bushra Azhar is a master at this. Tell me what this content makes you do. Go on, I’ll wait.

If you’re all kumbaya about social media and content, this may seem a bit mind-bending. And it may also seem a bit crass.

Please understand I don’t mean it to be, and if you have been interacting with me in any way over the past couple of decades, you will know this.

Quoting Shelly again:

“Some ways to measure the efficacy of content include knowing how many times it’s shared via email, seeing it shared by the target audience it was written for (and who you don’t yet know), and by how many leads it drives to wherever it is I want to drive people to convert them from a reader to a business lead.”

The point of content, or anything

You don’t have to take Shelly’s word for Gospel truth. What you consider valid in terms of metrics are just that: what you consider valid. But you have to remember two things, as you’re figuring all that out:

1. There’s more than enough crappy content out there. So unless we are adding value, there’s really no reason to add to it, or to expend the time and energy in creating it.

This is very important to strategy and, therefore, to your metrics.

2. The point of business communications is just that: to be in business. And, I would argue, to grow that business.

So if your content isn’t in some way supporting the end objectives of your business… your so-called authoritative content might not be all that authoritative after all. In which case, isn’t it really a waste of time?