Some Observations on the #SocialMedia Puzzle – #Blog Traffic and #Engagement

Diana’s asked me to do a few posts here this week while she and Sam elope to Vegas. Since I spent the last three days writing long posts for our other blogs, I don’t have anything prepared, so I’m thinking “why not geek out on some blogging today?”

I’m of two minds when it comes to discussing followers and traffic in a public post. One the one hand, it makes me uncomfortable in the way that discussing people’s personal incomes makes me uncomfortable. On the other, sometimes I see things in our traffic numbers that I find curious enough to consult other bloggers about. I’ve been looking at some of those things with Part Time Monster and Sourcerer for a few weeks now, so here comes the discussion.

Part Time Monster has more than 600 followers, and Sourcerer doesn’t even have 400 yet. These are small numbers, I know, but that’s big difference. Despite this fact, Sourcerer is generating the same number of page views on a week-to-week basis. Typically, here’s how our traffic relationship looks.

On any given day, The Monster is a few dozen to a few hundred views ahead of Sourcerer, and the Monster’s traffic is more consistent from day-to-day. But every week to ten days, Sourcerer has a big day, or a couple of big days, and catches right back up. We use thousands of views as milestones to track our progress, and our two blogs have crossed the last four of those milestones within 24 hours of one another.

I don’t think this parity in page views is going to last unless Sourcerer picks up 100 followers soon, but it’s holding so far, and I’ve been a little suprised by it. I’m trying to figure out what it means – whether or not I have enough information to draw any conclusions about differences in engagement at the two sites, especially. What I don’t know, but wish I did, is just how much our audiences overlap. At some point I may scrape our follower lists and compare them just to see.

Part Time Monster performing better in terms of followers is something we expected.  I set the other blogs up in the beginning to support Part Time Monster, and I’ve toned down the affiliation a bit as we’ve developed the other blogs, but the social media setup is the same as it was in the beginning.

When we started this, Diana’s online social network was more established and engaged than mine. I didn’t even have a social media presence until October, and we started my network largely by reaching out to mutual friends who share our interests in writing and nerdy things. So, Part Time Monster publishes to all Sourcerer’s social media and to my Google+ stream, but Sourcerer doesn’t publish to Part Time Monster’s media or to Diana’s personal accounts.

We set it up this way because we figured, at least for the first little while, that me posting to Diana’s channels would feel spammy to our mutual friends. But, since I also have a lot of professional connections of my own, and since I’m using social media specifically to build a network of bloggers, having Diana post to mine is a good way to introduce the bloggers I meet in my wanderings to Part Time Monster. At some point, we’ll establish a more reciprocal strategy and incorporate Sourcerer’s content into the Monster’s social media, but for now, our networks aren’t independent enough to do that.

I think this was the right way to go, and I think it’s one of the reasons why PTM is doing so much better for followers. It’s not the only reason. Differences in content are also a factor. Plus, Diana’s spent a lot more time over the last few weeks than me on WordPress. I’ve been building a real Twitter following and figuring out how to incorporate social commentary into my blogging without having it take over the blogs. I’ve both of those things in hand now, so I should be able to get back to reading, liking and commenting on WordPress more in the next week or two, and that should help.

One more thing that I’m finding interesting is our most popular posts.

PTM’s most viewed posts are all social commentary, awards posts, and things like memes. Contributor posts, including my Tolkien posts, do very well for views, given our size. But any time Diana writes about privilege, especially if she brings social media or something from the popular culture into the discusssion, she’s almost assured a good day. This is also reflected in the “Most Commented” stats.

Sourcerer’s most popular all-time posts break down into three categories:

Comics and posts about fandom-related things like Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and the Hunger Games; awards posts; and posts about political/social issues. Contributor Jeremy is consistently the most popular author if we measure solely in terms of views. If we look at comments, the political posts are the clear winners, and Jeremy’s comics posts are the only other category with significant numbers of comments.

Just by way of comparison, The Writing Catalog, my true personal blog which I am developing more slowly, hasn’t even picked up 250 followers yet, and it’s only generated a quarter of the page views PTM and Sourcerer have generated. My most viewed posts there are all either Zero to Hero, very personal, or awards posts. Every time I post something about my personal struggles as a writer or about my ambivalence toward politics (basically, sometimes I have to sound off on political issues, but I don’t really like engaging in politics), I pick up a handful of followers. For the most part, the only things that get comments on the Writing Catalog are either personal pieces, or posts in which I include a specific prompt seeking input. But when I publish those things, I get comment threads as good as any thread the other blogs. So the followers I do have at the Catalog are paying attention, and when I approach them as a real person with an honest question, they always come through. It’s also worth noting here that the Catalog posts to my personal twitter account rather than Sourcerer’s, so it has the smallest Twitter profile of the three. That might already be significant; it certainly will be once I’ve had six more months to develop Sourcerer’s twitter account.

One more thought, then I’ll be done. Just looking at our posting frequency and corresponding traffic, posting twice a day doesn’t seem to get us much more than posting once a day. Posting 4 times a day does make a big difference, but that’s too many times for us. We don’t have the means to generate that kind of content consistently without getting burned out. And of course, what you’re posting and how you’re promoting it are more important than frequency alone.

So, here are a few conclusions I’m drawing from all this.

  1. People – at least the ones we’re engaging with most often, like social commentary and personal writing almost as much as they like the pop culture analysis. I think the awards posts do so well because they typically contain pingbacks to 5-10 bloggers. So we get views from the links, and we get thank yous from all those nominees. I don’t necessarily read them as popular in the sense that the personal stuff is popular, but I do think they’re worth the effort, because they’re useful for building relationships with other bloggers.
  2. Followers don’t translate directly into views in any predictable way. If they did, the Monster would be several thousand views ahead of Sourcerer right now, but it is not.
  3. Putting together a second post and publishing it immediately is only worth the trouble if you’re talking about something that’s breaking or trending. Otherwise, it makes more sense to hold that second post for 24 hours and be a day ahead. But if you do see your traffic really spiking, and you realize it early enough, it might make sense to think about doing two or three well-spaced, off-schedule posts if you can put something interesting together quickly. Our best combined 24-hour period on PTM/Sourcerer was a day when we posted 11 times between the two blogs. Everyone we knew was snowed in, and we were binging on social media anyway, so we did that to see what it would get us. It got both blogs a day that was almost as good as Diana’s Freshly-Pressed day.

So, what do you think about all this, bloggers? Does it suggest something to you that I’ve missed, and how does it compare to your own experience?

Just for fun while you think about it: Latvian rock cello trio Melo-M performs the Mission: Impossible theme.



Leave a Comment

  1. I follow all three of the blogs you mention. I think I “like” posts or comment on Sourcerer more than the other 2 combined. Not sure why. I wouldn’t say I like the blog more, it draws my into the conversation more. I have found no rhyme or reason for why some of my posts get more views, likes and or comments than others. The ones I like the best or am most proud of usually are not my followers’ favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thanks. I have no clue either. I almost never get the results I expect. For the most part, Sourcerer has a completely open comments policy, but now and then when I post something I think might generate some responses that need to be moderated, I’ll turn on moderation. That’s never been necessary so far. And I’ve gotten lots of attention with posts that I thought were just filling the space for a day and giving me time to do the next cool thing.

      As for why Sourcerer is more engaging to you, can’t really say. But I will tell you that i put a lot of thought into making it so. We post a lot of questions,
      We try to end our posts with invitations to chime in as often as possible. At least once a week, I go and scroll through the last eight or ten posts and see what we’re doing, and if I don’t like the mix, I take steps to correct it. I don’t do that with our other blogs.


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