Don’t underestimate the visibility a blog can provide an analyst

An interesting exercise is to compare the relative web traffic between the largest advisory analyst firm (Gartner), the largest IT market research firm (IDC) and a very visible analyst who has his own blog. Using the site comparison feature of Compete here is the graphic showing Forrester analyst extraordinaire and social media poster boy Jeremiah Owyang’s (bio, Twitter handle, blog) personal blog Web Strategy by Jeremiah, Gartner.com and IDC.com:

Traffic comparison Gartner.com IDC.com and Jeremiah Owyang blog 

Click here or on the graphic to enlarge. The top blue line is Jeremiah’s blog, the green middle line is Gartner.com and the bottom orange line is IDC.com. There is not a single month in the past year where Web Strategy by Jeremiah did not receive more unique visitors (an average of 136,000 per month) than Gartner.com and IDC.com combined.

Not an apples-to-apples comparison… and that is the point 

Of course, comparing two very different types of websites, a blog vs. corporate sites, is not an apples-to-apples assessment. Rather this illustrates how a savvy analyst can leverage a personally branded blog to obtain unique access to a broader audience than he could even on the regular research website of a $1.2bn but very traditional analyst firm. This is because the analyst blog is easily assessable to the firm’s non-clients as well as clients. An analyst’s research on a traditional firm’s regular website is accessible only by clients which obviously limits potential readership.

Besides providing an analyst access to much larger audience which could enhance their credibility, a widely read blog also provides an expanded set of research tools. Gartner and Forrester analysts traditionally rely on data points gathered from client phone-based inquiries. While valuable, this is a data set restricted to only the firm’s clients and further restricted to those that make the effort to set up inquiries. This tends to create a skewed view rather than a broad-based landscape. An analyst with a widely-read blog that gets a fair number of comments or participation in polls or surveys on the blog gets a much broader set of data points to complement the information received from clients.

Another aspect of this wider exposure is that the various audiences are overlapping which gives the analyst both an additive opportunity and a reinforcing aspect. Someone who is a firm client and does the occasional inquiry, sees the analyst speaking at a firm conference, and also reads the analyst’s blog consistently will possibly be more influenced by that analyst than an individual only exposed to one form of communication.

Of course, Mr. Owyang is off the charts when it comes to unique visitors to his blog. However, a more typical analyst can also use a personal blog to expand visibility. For example, Forrester analyst Ray Wang (bio, Twitter handle, blog) who covers the considerably less sexy ERP market has received between 4,000 and 7,000 unique visitors per month on A Software Insider’s Point of View this year. This is certainly multiple times the traditional visibility he gets through inquiries, client reads of his research on Forrester.com, and firm conference speeches.  Because Ray’s blog probably has an audience of enterprise IT managers and vendors – sorry, but who else would care about ERP? – he is reaching a large audience of relevant enterprise decision makers through his blog. Not bad.

Beyond blogs there are a growing number of other social media that a savvy analyst can exploit independently from her or his employer. This visibility adds up providing a greatly enhanced footprint in the market for the analyst.

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR teams should take into account analysts’ social media traffic when calculating the “Visibility” component of their analyst list ranking methodology
  • AR should give different weights to the various types of visibility because not every Twitter follower or blog reader will necessarily be relevant to the vendor

Bottom Line: Social media gives smart analysts an excellent independent platform that complements their presence on their firms’ websites. AR needs to take this into account when determining analyst list ranking and ultimately for setting the priorities for which analysts should receive personalized outreach.

Question: AR – Do you evaluate analyst social media traffic when considering an analyst’s market visibility?

8 Responses

  1. Carter,

    In my “SOSM” (Strategy, Opinion, Sales, Mrketing) model of analysts value to vendors, Opinion is just one of the variables.

    Yes, you should pay attention to analysts who have a high SOV (in social media but also in mainstream media) -but align this implicit ranking with your objectives. If your constituents and AR programme are only caring about sales impact, then maybe chatter is less important.

  2. Carter,
    In some cases, it also makes sense to take into account analyst visibility through other channels. For example, a number of us write posts for or cross-post to online publications (CNET and Internet Evolution in my case). Speaking for myself, this has the advantage of tapping into an existing audience rather than building one from scratch–which is especially difficult with topics that don’t have as broad an appeal as social media.

  3. [...] blog, Web Strategy, and I am hardly alone – see sagecircle’s article today (”Don’t underestimate the visibility a blog can provide an analyst“) comparing Jeremiah’s weblog hits to those for all of the website hits for two of the [...]

  4. Carter, I would love to see the Forrester blogs charted too. Remember, Jeremiah’s blog was very popular before Forrester hired him.

    Note also, Forrester has team blogs, and they syndicate some content to ZDNet’s blog channel. It would be interesting to see which strategy yields more readers (and more importantly, readers who become subscribers) — analyst personal blogs (with clear association to their current employer), a company blog, an analyst team’s blog on the company’s site, or to try to get a syndication outlet on a well-read site. Each offers different advantages. I see all four happening here.

    Speaking for myself, my readership on my blog and twitter stream has grown significantly since my departure from Forrester. Ironic.

    • Lots of good questions. Too bad they’re so hard to answer :-) You allude to something important when you mention “more importantly, readers who become subscribers.” Especially when you’re talking topics that are of broader interest than narrow enterprise IT–and this includes things like cloud computing and client device directions in addition to social media and so forth–a lot of the readership numbers aren’t likely to be even prospective clients.

      There is still (with some caveats) value to visibility in general but visibility to the right people is more important.

      (I have a couple of main caveats. First of all, the visibility can’t come at the expense of credibility; i.e. being outrageous for hits. The second is that there’s at least a concern that some types of outlets tend to contribute to blurring an analyst’s identity as an analyst although I personally don’t think this is a big issue.)

      • Indeed the q. what to measure. Some in the firm will say that they cater to paid clients – as that’s the model. Feedback I received was “wow, it’s nice you have so many people following you on twitter — so how many of them are paying clients.” This is not an unreasonable challenge given the business model (and the threat that new channels of free or cheap insight pose to the analyst firm model). But Carter raises the very important point that many (including myself) counsel when it comes to blogging — you don’t do it to broadcast information, you do it to invite participation. Done well (as Jeremiah and other do), blogs invite insight-fueling information and conversation — the lifeblood for many analysts who’s areas are not survey-rich (and even for those too).

        I’d suggest that the next level of analysis is the measure of the reactions that people have to blogs. Comments are one great measure, retweets diggs, etc. are others. I suspect that this would reinforce the point. Just count the average number of comments or retweets per individual analyst and correlate to internal quota (data that we cannot see, of course). Which blogging strategy yield more engagement and more revenue?

        I think Carter is making an incisive point about the relative potential weakness of a corporate blog (even one from highly-respected firms). Ironically Forrester published a great piece of research on this very topic. Personally, I think that attitude is a big factor here — is your blogging activity part of your heartbeat or it is an appendix?

  5. I agree with @lludovic …. analyst SOV and social media “buzz” should be one — but certainly not nearly the most — important criteria.

    At least for the enterprise/IT market, I think analysts’ market coverage area(s), market knowledge, analysis accuracy, & influence and credibility with IT buyers and decisionmakers reigns supreme in terms of AR engagement and ranking/tiering.

    If social media presence/SOV is on top of that mix, awesome. But in no way can it begin to replace the substance represented by the above.

    I think people are still too caught up in the social media hype. It’s a communication channel.

    Cheers,
    Gerry

  6. [...] more open world outside, where an individual analyst can outdraw an entire research firm (Carter blogged on that too, with Jeremiah Owyang as the example.) I’ve talked about this issue before and see [...]

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