This post assumes you’re a Feedburner user. If you’re not, here’s the short version: Feedburner gives you a bunch of free tools to enhance your site’s RSS feed. You can read more and get set up (for free) here.
Everyone brags about their Feedburner subscriber numbers. Too bad those don’t really tell you squat. The subscriber count tells you how many folks once stopped by and clicked the ‘subscribe’ button.
I’m on a panel titled “Branding in the Social Age” at REBlogworld this week, so I’ve been thinking about this more than usual. Subscriber data is fun – I feel validated when I add a few new subscribers. But subscribers are really the hits of feed tracking: All noise, no substance.
After all, how many of those subscribers actually read your stuff?
What you really need are engagement metrics. You need data that measures how your subscribers react to your blog posts. Luckily, Feedburner provides ’em. Here are 3 that I use:
Reach shows how many people have viewed and/or clicked an article in your feed. It can also show folks who see your articles via a feed aggregator like Technorati.
If subscriber count measures quantity, then reach measures quality. The higher your reach, the better job you’re doing communicating and connecting with your audience.
Item Use shows you, on a post-by-post basis, how many people viewed and clicked through on every article. Nifty.
With this stat, you can tell which blog posts compelled your readers to click through, and which ones didn’t.
If you’re producing a podcast, Feedburner will show how many people downloaded each episode, too.
If you’re providing your full post via your feed, expect to see fewer clicks. Readers can see the entire post in their feed reader without clicking.
If you’re just providing post summaries in your feed, you should see more clicks. Readers have to click to see the whole post.
Finally, if you really want to geek out, check out the Uncommon Uses report.
This report shows you things like:
- Someone’s custom feed reader script they wrote, just to add your content to their site;
- Custom pages on bigger sites, like the my.alltop.com examples above;
- Weird little Twitter tools like Powertwitter that read your site and then ‘Tweet’ new stories to followers.
Useful? I think so. If people are taking the trouble to somehow syndicate your content, that’s another level of engagement. They’re spreading your brand to new corners of the web.
And, if you see a sudden spike in uncommon uses after you publish a story about a scone that looks like Elvis, you might want to find more person-shaped scones.
Select, don’t accumulate
A long time ago, I wrote how you should select, not accumulate customers.
The same goes for subscribers. Using Feedburner, you can figure out how many true fans you’ve got, and make sure you give them more of the stuff that made them fans in the first place.
That’s the key to social media branding.