I was in a situation recently where I was asked to determine how we would measure success for a new blog project for one of our clients. Though the client was generally in favor of blogs there was still a bit of skepticism about their usefulness and ultimate payoff for business purposes. I was peppered with questions about:
- establishing how much traffic the blog would generate
- how many comments the blog would receive per post
- how many RSS subscribers we could expect
- how many links would be generated by other bloggers
- how many links would be sent to the client's website
- how much revenue could be generated with the blog
Fortunately these questions were in an email so I had some time to think about the best way to respond and I ended up with the text below. Since the blog is brand new for this client there is really no way to predict what kind of success the blog will have. I also knew that wasn't going to be a satisfactory answer. I believe statistics are very important for a business blog but my concern was that the client was going to weigh this infant blog down with expectations that would kill it before it was really up and running.
All of this got me thinking about what an unsuccessful blog would be. After all, that's what they were really asking. They really wanted to know when they should pull the plug on it and consider it a failure. I know of a few other bloggers and blog advocates in corporations who are dealing with this same issue right now so here's a template version of my response to the client should you find yourself needing to defend the development a blog in the future:
Dear [company representative]
You have asked some very important questions about determining the success of the new blog. Given the relative new nature of blogs within [company], we don't know what kind of numerical impact the blogs may have on website traffic, content distribution, or the business as a whole. We are tentative to even speculate on what the numbers might be. From a marketing perspective, blogs are another venue for [company] to provide meaningful content to [target customers] who are looking for [company's services].
Though we don't know what the numbers of success looks like yet, we do know what an unsuccessful blog will look like. An unsuccessful blog will have zero readers, no comments, no RSS feed subscribers, no posts that can be found on the first page of a Google search, no links from other bloggers, and no new awareness of [company's] attempt at positioning itself as the best [company's services] resource online. If it is unsuccessful under this definition after six to nine months, the blog should probably be closed due to inactivity and lack of interest.
Thanks for the email. Please let me know if you have any further questions.