Interview with a pioneer in conversation tracking

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Chris Golda, founder of Backtype

Christopher Golda, founder of Backtype

For PR professionals, commenting on blogs is a great way to get started with engaging in conversations online. But if you’re doing it regularly, how do you keep track of all those comments? In managing your online identity, you want to be able to track what you said and where. One tool that helps you do exactly that is Backtype. Recently I caught up with Christopher Golda, one of its founders. When you comment on a blog and leave a URL (that of your own site, your company’s site or your blog), Backtype will aggregate those comments into one place where you can access them quickly.

Jay: I think comments are an underrated way to measure blog influence. In my experience, folks who leave substantive, thoughtful comments on blogs are more likely than most blog readers to share the content they’re reading through their own blogs, as well as sites like Twitter and Digg. Do you agree? How can PR pros and marketers find blogs with the best discussions going on in the comments?

Christopher: I definitely agree that comments are a great way to measure a blog’s influence, but since conversations are fragmenting to other social media, it’s becoming more difficult to measure. BackType Connect can help you develop a basic profile of the conversational engagement a site gets both in the comments, as well as on sites like Twitter, Digg, Reddit, etc. You can also use BackType to subscribe to search terms and follow the comment activity of known influencers to discover discussions that may require your participation. We’re currently exploring additional ways we can help PR professionals and marketers identify communities and discussions of interest.

Jay: For me, what’s cool about Backtype is being able to track which posts I’ve left comments on and pull them up instantly without a lot of searching. Increasingly, trying to manage a personal presence on a lot of different social outposts online has become a challenge for busy professionals. Do you see the market for services that help us stay organized growing over the next few years?

Christopher: Today, conversations with customers matter a lot more; the best venues for those conversations to take place are the comments on blogs, social networks and other social media. I believe there are lots of opportunities to help professionals do everything from identifying where they should be participating to staying organized.

Jay: Blog comment metrics in The Cision Social Media Dashboard powered by Radian6 come from Backtype, and that serves as the basis for our Engagement score, which takes into account both comment length and the amount of back-and-forth going on between commenters. Have you noticed that blogs that attract this kind of highly engaged commenting tend to score better by other social metrics such as inbound links and citations on sites like Digg and Delicious?

Christopher: We consider citations on those sites to be “light” engagement and less meaningful than if someone takes the time to write a comment. That’s why we look strictly at conversational engagement, so I can’t really say if there’s a correlation between comments and other social metrics, but I’d guess that the more deeply you engage your readers, the more visibility you’ll get in the long run.

Jay: I am just curious, who is the most frequent commenter tracked by Backtype, is it Fred Wilson with 7,200+ comments?

Christopher: We have comments from millions of identified comment authors; Fred Wilson is among the most avid. But the most frequent comment authors we see have commented over 10,000 times with the same URL. A majority of them come from services like FriendFeed (which we only started tracking in early February), Digg, and Reddit.

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