How do you know if your blog is making an impact?

business case for blogging

About two years ago, I was really down on my blogging.

I would work hard on something that I thought was really smart and provocative and it would just fall flat.  And then I would put out something dumb like “The 20 Funniest things you can do on Twitter” and it would go viral.  It didn’t make any sense.  It was disheartening.

I felt like my hard work was going nowhere. Maybe you feel that way sometimes too?

No matter how much you stare at your Google Analytics, it’s not going to interpret for you whether anybody cares about your blog.

Even comment sections aren’t much help.

A rule of thumb is that only about 2 percent of your readers leave comments. That’s a generalization I have found that holds up across many types of blogs. Readers may be too busy, too shy, or just not interested enough to comment. So you need a LOT of readers before you start getting comments.

Drastic action

In addition to only hearing from a vast minority of your readers, there is a big difference between a “comment” on the topic and real “feedback” on how you are doing as blogger – if you are making a dent in the way people act and think.

I realized that if I was going to make truly meaningful connections with these strangers popping in on my blog and figure out if this thing was having any impact, I was going to have to make an effort to get to know them better.  So, I started to call up my readers.

I made a goal to call at least three of my blog readers per week over a period of a couple of months and by far the overwhelming lesson I learned was yes — I was having an impact, in so many unexpected ways.

I’ll never forget a call I had with Caroline Di Diego, a businesswoman and entrepreneur who had left so many interesting comments on my blog. She told me in great detail how one quite obscure blog post I had written had changed her outlook on business and marketing. Although the post had run two years ago, she could still recall its lessons and it still impacts her even to this day.

This conversation meant so much to me, because I had been particularly proud of that blog post but it had not been a popular post in terms of how much it had been shared. In fact, I was so disappointed by the reaction to this thoughtful post that I wondered why I was blogging at all.

A re-energizing impact

Caroline’s reaction — and the reaction of so many others — gave me a new energy, a new commitment to blogging, because these conversations made me realize that even though I might not hear it every day, I am having an impact.

I recently recounted how one physician who averaged just 4.5 readers a day found out that she had impacted a life.

My point is, if you’re working hard on your blog, it may be difficult to know if you are really having an impact unless you reach out and actually talk to people about it.

What has your experience been?  Are you making an impact and how do you know?

Illustration: I added the WordPress logo to a Bigstock.com illustration

 

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  • Hi Mark, I find this challenging as well. Sometimes you go to networking events and people talk about a blog post you wrote that they read. They talk about how they implemented some action and got improvements to their business. That’s great but I only heard this feedback by meeting the person at an event.

    We focus a lot on getting people to share out an article. If feedback is really important to us maybe we should have something on blogs that is an easier way to give feedback. For example, a question at the end getting feedback on the value of the post. We don’t get comments but we’ll get people to click a button -> Valuable, Not Useful, Entertaining etc. (e.g. Facebook open graph action buttons)

    Ian

  • radiojaja

    Great post Mark! I have had similar experiences, but obviously on a smaller scale! That moment when someone you meet mentions a post you published, especially one that was published a while back, is very special indeed.
    It blows my mind when people I have never met recognise me and have nice things to say about what they have read. Truly makes it all worthwhile. Its not the readership, the traffic or the views, its making some impact that is all important.
    Thanks for helping me through my ‘downs’ on blogging with work like this!
    P.s. Love the new look to the subscription email!

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  • RhondaHurwitz

    This post had an impact on me … going through a blog dry spell, but this is a totally new way for me to think about it.

    Also reminds me of a recent experience; I ran into a woman from my town who has an event planning business. Her business is going well, and we were chatting about it. Get this: she told me that I inspired her to start the business, and gave her the confidence to go for it, in a conversation we had had while waiting to pick up our kids at a party 5 years earlier. I didn’t even remember the convo! But to her, it was just the encouragement she needed at that moment. So, you never really know the impact you have on others:)

  • Good suggestion Ian. I think one of the most valuable traits of being a blogger is “faith.” Sometimes you just don’t know and you have to keep plugging. Thanks for the comment!

  • jennwhinnem

    Mr Mark, you are famous to me (for one) for your battlecry of “don’t get caught with your stats down!” I like this idea, and I wonder, how are you capturing this feedback? Are you measuring it in any kind of formal way?

  • Agree 100% Tony. I have written many times in this space that “traffic” is the worst metric you can have as a blogger, especially when such a high percentage of those visitors are tourists who never come back. Impact is what we’re after : )

  • Mike Rudd

    Great post here Mark! I have gone thru phases of this myself especially when I launched my book http://www.marketingfunwithmike.com/hot-dog-marketing-book Do people care? Am I wasting my time? Etc. But I stayed positive worked thru and I started to see it when my book reviews came in, my page views on my website were 5x times what I thought, and last week I did a post on running my half marathon this past Sunday for a charity and I received over 20 entries of people’s favorite charities. Tons of interaction, tons of nice notes from readers. It brushed that little devil off my right shoulder saying that no one was reading. Thx for good inspiration this morning!

  • Well and Indeed.
    Mark to say you have had an impact upon me would be and is an understatement. I know the post that caught me and my attention so very clearly. “Why are the social media elite ignoring us” This post was so influential in many ways. I was unfollowing you as this post came into my twitter stream, I read it, couldn’t believe it was by you, refollowed you right away again… and then things began.
    We talked on the phone. You gave me ten minutes on the #SoSlam One Day Wonder World of Things Social Media, and that was a very encouraging experience indeed.
    I was messing around trying to find my way in blogging. I choose you as my example and I blog 4 days a week, and write one article on Fridays.
    I don’t expect lots of comments, because I see you don’t get that many compared to the following you have. So I don’t expect them. I do deliver my content with assurance that someone will read something and it will help them, like you helped me.
    I have other motivations for blogging and expectations yet to be seen, but you rocked my boat and set me on my way.
    My gratitude is not expressed often, but today I lay out the thank you’s with all the gusto I have. YOU HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE TO AND FOR ME!
    Sincerely Billy Delaney

  • Wow, what a great story. Wish we had a device to hear about all of the ways we’re having these “secret impacts!” Thanks for sharing Rhonda!

  • Ha! I forgot that one : ) I don’t capture feedback in any way. I guess as long as my internal barometer is trending “positive” I’ll be motivated enough to keep chugging! Always a delight to hear from you Jenn!

  • Awesome Mike. Thanks for coming by and sharing today!

  • Thanks for this very uplifting comment Billy! I appreciate you!

  • Ever since 1995 when I began blogging I find enthusiasm, and gratitude as I share my life, and online experiences grow. Thank you Mark for your inspiring, and motivating questions!

  • Done!

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  • Mark, somehow I suspect you won’t ever wonder again if your blogging makes a difference. If you do, call me and I’ll set you straight. 🙂

    I don’t know how you do it, but please keep on doing it.

    Sincerely,
    Eric

  • Mark,
    Isn’t it remarkable how little we know about what truly makes an impact on others? Although, as you noted, I only recently discovered the impact that blogging can have on the beliefs or actions of another person, I have long recognized that we all have the ability to influence others by our words and especially our deeds. That means we are always perceived as role models if we have even the smallest degree of stature in someone else’s eyes. I am constantly humbled by even now, meeting former medical students, whose names I may not even recall, and being told that I had a profound influence on their subsequent career choices or their desire to express a high degree of humanism in their practice of medicine.

    To me, what this means is that the brand of blogging and social media that you have taught us is the RIGHT way. Express your true self, admit your foibles and be kind.

    And thanks for writing this post. I needed to be reminded that there really may be folks out there who care when I publish a post (and when I don’t). Because even if you only impact ONE live, it’s worth it.

  • Hi Mark,

    As you mention most of our readers never comment and even those who do don’t always give you the kind of feedback that makes you feel like you are gaining traction.

    I figure the place to start is to identify why we are blogging and what we hope accomplish. Are we looking for leads, book deals, financial compensation?

    Once you have the answer to that question you can start to figure out how to track/measure it.

    Bloggers are insecure sometimes. We all want to feel appreciated and believe that our work/effort has meaning.

  • So great to see you back in the comment section Dr. Rae. I was beginning to worry about you! : )

  • I’m here to serve. Will do my best to keep it coming. Thanks for the very nice comment Eric!

  • Beautifully said, Nothing more to add to that lovely comment other than to say thank you!

  • Interesting points. I KNOW the blog has created a voice of authority for myself that has led to business opportunities. No question. So I guess there is a higher-level need regarding whether I am getting through and making a difference on a human level.

    It’s also little things like when I do something a little extra — a joke, a graphic, a particularly difficult blog post — I wonder if people noticed I truly have no idea. Google Analytics does not measure the laughs per joke or the number of times a post has been emailed to colleagues. I want to reach through the screen sometimes to see if there is anybody out there — Hey, what did you think about that today? Should I do more, less, or different? Did I make a difference?

    The only way you can get that feedback is by talking to people really. Thanks for the comment Josh.

  • Thank you Mark, I was glad to be back this AM.

    Unfortunately, I’ve been spending my time dealing
    on software platform issues with Twitter, and now
    once again with Disqus.

    The message received from Disqus when I went to
    respond to your message below this PM is that they
    are no longer supporting IE 8 the browser I am using,
    and plan to continue using since updating to IE9
    requires a change from XP to Vista which I find
    unacceptable, and decided when my computer was
    upgraded not to use, and refuse to consider.

    I’m finding programs I’ve grown accustom to — making
    changes time-consuming, and unacceptable.

    Hope you do not mind my private venting to you being
    sent to Disqus

    I’m looking for less time-consuming platforms to spend
    my energy, and my focus…

    Enjoy your evening ~Rae

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Disqus
    To: [email protected]
    Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 3:29 PM
    Subject: [businessesgrow] Re: How do you know if your blog is making an impact?

    Mark W. Schaefer wrote, in response to Dr. Rae:

    So great to see you back in the comment section Dr. Rae. I was beginning to worry about you! : )
    User’s website

    Link to comment

  • Lisa Burkhardt Worley

    Thanks for your blog! I realized my blog made an impact when i attended a friend’s birthday party. There was a woman there who I had never met but she had read my blog and related to it. At that point, I realized I had a responsibility to post regularly because people who I didn’t even know were counting on it!

  • Thanks for the mention, Mark. I do remember our conversation about your “obscure” post and that it had a great deal of meaning for me. Curious, do you remember the post we were talking about?

    Yes, it only takes one person…where you have made a difference in some way to their lives, to make everything worthwhile. And it’s wonderful when someone like you can reach and touch so many. Congratulations on the ongoing success of your blog.

    Cheers CASUDI

  • How reassuring!

  • Wonderful Lisa. I feel the same way. My blog is a responsibility I take seriously. I know a lot of young people read it and I have an opportunity to set a good example. Many thanks for adding your story!

  • Well … I guess i didn’t make THAT big of an impact : ) LOL!!

    The post was the “Easter Island” analogy, which I might try to re-work into the dialogue again some day. I thought it was a new viewpoint but I find when I introduce serious thinking the blog post often bombs! You helped me keep going. Thanks for that.

  • : )

  • This is inspiring but I have to ask the hard question: how the heck did
    you get the phone #s of your subscribers? Did you ask them if they
    wanted to talk to you? Most of my subscribes are just gmail and hotmail addresses!

  • I remembered the “Easter Island” analogy and searched SEARCHED on both Google and your website but nothing came up! I tried again today and still nothing. I really would like to read it again to see what exactly rang my bell!

    It’s interesting why a post does not reach, and one of mine on Collaborative Philanthropy could elevate much pain for the #nonprofit and yet…..I sometimes I think it is because I am not famous enough. So it would be interesting for you to re-post your “Easter Island” analogy and now that you are famous ~with two best sellers under your belt and a global blog that doesn’t quit ~ will it have the traction today it did not have then? Not famous enough is an interesting ongoing discussion as you know!

  • If you have their email address, you simply write them and set up a time to talk! For many people I already had an email relationship any way. It would be too inefficient to just call them out of the blue so I would set up a time to talk. Hope that helps!

  • Here’s the blog post you were looking for. It’s still obscure!!! : )

  • Mark, thank you for writing this post. Although
    my site has a small readership, and not many posts generate multiple comments,
    I’ve gotten personal feedback and responses through email that proved that I
    can make an impact. Readers have told me they’ve shed a tear, been overwhelmed
    with appreciation, and have even re-blogged my words on their (bigger) site. I
    feel privileged to have written and published posts that can bring that
    reaction. I guess in the end, the numbers don’t really matter.

  • I love that idea. Really, have to try that.

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  • Wow Mark I must have made an impact…

    Did not expect to see my private eMail to you, and Disqus to be posted here. As you can see… all is well here once again 😉 ~Rae

    P.S. Feel free to delete the “private eMail” message since I have no idea how this ended up as part of this discussion!.

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  • A wonderful and relevant story Joe. Thank you.

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  • Hi Mark, I’m still under 20 posts as I write this, but I know a few people who read my blog (thank you Twitter!) so I can ask them for feedback: is it useful, is it readable, what should I focus on to improve? Getting a useful answer is harder 😉 but it does happen occasionally.
    Since I’m on WordPress.com I can’t tell if likes from fellow bloggers are meant to say “thanks for visiting my blog”, “great post”, or worse: “I appreciate your efforts, keep trying…” So whenever I visit other people’s blogs I try to come up with a sensible comment instead of ‘liking’ or leaving. But I don’t have a limitless supply of time…

  • Understood! However, as a beginning blogger, finding a few people to support (and they will support you in turn) is a great way to build your audience. It does take time and patience! Thanks for commenting Claudia.

  • Very important post, Mark. You speak in The Tao of Twitter about the impact that Twitter can have on your life, but often we don’t see the impact of the writing in our blogs.

    Great idea to call your readers to get their feedback on your writing. I’m certain that you are having a bigger impact than you realize. You’re right about a small percentage of visitors taking the time to leave a comment. I hope people do take the time to let you know what an inspiration you have been to them.

    My most touching experience happened when I had been blogging for about three months. I had written an article about Locavore, an app and website that helps you find local farmers’ markets and co-ops. The article got very little traffic.

    I discovered through Google Alerts that someone sent that article to her parents who own a farm. They had been trying to find a co-op in their area for years but had been unable to find one. Because of my article they were able to join the co-op which made a huge difference to the sustainability of their farm.

    Although this reader never left a comment on my blog, she made me realize very early on in my blogging career the impact that my words can have.

    Traffic has very little relation to impact. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Tremendous story Carolyn! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this.

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  • You’re welcome, Mark. Great topic. It’s important to let writers know that their words can mean more than they realize.

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    Excellent post Mark, I think this is one of those posts that needs to come out now and again as a reminder to stick with it. Many times we are making an impact and don’t even know it, but isn’t that the ultimate gift. Kinda like making an anonymous donation. Do we always need to know…

  • What I love about this post, Mark, is just how much it demonstrates the importance of how significant off-line connections are in helping to make a blog success. Build it and they’ll come doesn’t always work.

  • I’m getting a little depressed at my lack of numbers. I’ll keep writing, but my goal was/is to break out…oh well….

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  • Great post.

    Simply building a blog and posting doesn’t seem to work alone. I have found that integrating it into other media, such as Twitter, interacting with other users to provoke interest and feedback seems to work well to generate a readership.

    Richard

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  • Capità Tiranya

    Hi.

    You are absolutely right..

    This is my poor blog:

    http://kboriesmatineres.blogspot.com.es/

    Bye.

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  • Hello Mark, I loved your post. I also think that when you write you have to believe in the relevance and impact of your words. You basically need to have faith that when you put your heart and mind in your post, it will touch others in a powerful way. They may not tell you about it, as a lot of times we fell silent when something touches us profoundly. Silence does not equal indifference. Most important changes happen in us when we suddenly become silent. In blogging, as in everything else, I think one has to be honest, passionate and care about what matters.
    I just want to add that you blog is very powerful and has a lot of impact on others. Thank you!

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  • Oeendree Mukherjee

    A great reading! It feels so good to know that we are making an impact! However, it is frustrating to figure out how we are gonna know whether we are making an impact on our readers at all!
    Thank you very much Mark for this post! I started my blog in 2011, but I am a regular blogger only for last six months or so! Kinda confused regarding the topic dicussed here! Hope to chalk it out soon!
    <3 from: http://www.thedocndiva.com

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