Social Media: What Does “Good” Look Like?

January 22, 2010

“What does ‘good’ look like?” is a phrase I hear from time to time at work.

What good looks like in social media is “engagement”.

“Engagement” is a slightly pretentious word. One thing it means is that if someone writes a blog post with an opportunity to comment, then if you leave a comment then you kind of expect that they might comment back.

There were several good examples of “engagement” last week on the BBC Internet blog.

1. Andrew Bowden responding to comments on his post on iPlayer on Freesat

2. Matt McDonnell in comments on his post about Enhanced Search

3. A quick response post from Seetha Kumar reacting to comments on her post on E20

4. And last but by no means least – comment 817 by Andy Quested in the long running comments thread on BBC HD PQ. Andy still keeping his sense of humour:

“817. At 08:49am on 14 Jan 2010, Andy Quested wrote:
Dear Nick Mason (and all) I do try and answer all question and usually do.

Re 728/29, the AV sync signal is an interlace signal and will be displayed differently on different flat screens – there is no motion blur in the signal.

734 – Cranford looked very good – I am not sure what camera they used but it certainly met our HD delivery requirements and directors or directors of photography are free to choose any camera that does.

739 – not sure what I can say to this one at all!

800 – as for Survivors, I have to re-record due to “someone” deciding to override a clash and record a film on my PVR!”

I like and encourage people to respond to comments. I feel it gives the blog more influence and credibility.

But while I can point to good examples, I can’t really measure them. I can say “this is good” but I can’t say by how much, or whether the effort put in is worth it.

Any ideas for measuring “engagement” would be gratefully recieved.


25 Responses to “Social Media: What Does “Good” Look Like?”

  1. Lawrence Says:

    For every “good example of engagement” you give, there are unfortunately many bad examples.

    What about the countless blog posts by BBC execs where they haven’t responded to a single question or issue raised in the comments left on their blogs?

    If execs are not prepared to enter into dialog, then they shouldn’t waste time making their views via a blog that invites comments, and should use some other mechanism instead.

  2. Niclara Martin Says:

    You once said that you would read a blog if I wrote one….does my above REPLY count as a blog.

  3. Niclara Martin Says:


    I notice under your Blog title “Nick Reynolds at work” it says “Talking is working”. I think this speaks volumes. Perhaps you should remember the old saying “It takes one mouth to talk and two ears to listen”.

    Perhaps you could pinch Fraser Crane’s byline “I’m listening”, and put it into practice.

    The best blogs encourage feedback, where the discussion/debate can be “batted back and forward, and moved along” to cover as much ground as possible. What does not help a blog, is where the Author insists on too narrow a field allowable to be discussed. And, what is almost certain to alienate readers is to take too domineering a role, by reminding posters to stay “on topic” at the first sign of meandering.

    I’m very much in favour of blog authors keeping a close eye on their blog and contributing, but, also find blogs where the author “hits and runs”, but allows follow-up posters to debate amongst themselves without too much interferance, “engaging”. In those cases, the Blog Author HAS achieved their goal, by putting a thought out there, and then, letting others “run with it”.

    What is a very definite non-delivery of “engaging” is where the blog author takes a “I am the boss” attitude, and refuses to allow the blog to do it’s job, and elicit debate/discussion. Too often it feels as if Blog Authors really would be happier just to put their pontifications out there in cyberspace, and for everyone to just read it in awe, and not mess it up by commenting.

  4. Niclara Martin Says:

    You wrote….

    “One thing it means is that if someone writes a blog post with an opportunity to comment, then if you leave a comment then you kind of expect that they might comment back.”

    Or if you read a blog and leave three comments, and wait and wait and wait and wait ………for the blog author to even read them, and clear them of moderation for others to see and comment on.

    As I said in my third comment…..

    “Too often it feels as if Blog Authors really would be happier just to put their pontifications out there in cyberspace, and for everyone to just read it in awe, and not mess it up by commenting.”

    and yet, YOU ASKED “Any ideas for measuring “engagement” would be gratefully recieved”

    I would say, that readers would be moved to asked, “WHY should I bother, when the author can’t even be bothered to clear comments to appear for further debate?”

    I think you have answered your very own question about “engaging”, Nick……and failed.

  5. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    A fair point Lawrence but it’s early days and it takes a while for people to understand the importance of responding to comments. Also some people ask the same questions again and again even when they’ve had an answer – which is a waste of everyone’s time.

    My apologies for the delay in publishing these comments.

    Niclara – I am looking for ideas for measuring. I have plenty of examples of both good and bad practice. What I need is numbers.

  6. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Niclara – your reply is a comment not a blog. But I think I would still read a blog by you (depending on what it was about of course).

  7. Niclara Martin Says:


    I am seriously interested in your definition of Social Media.

    You say…”What good looks like in social media is “engagement”. You then, go on to talk about Social Media as if it is ONLY blogs, and the “engagement” between blog author and those who read the blog.

    Of course, Social Media covers far more than just blogs, but you seem to avoid discussing other means which you are not comfortable with.

    Message boards CAN be a wonderful form of “engaging” with a wider audience. I would say that the technical BBC Digital Messageboard was a superb example of “Giving the customer what they want”. A simple idea, superbly executed. A board where ANYONE could ask ANYONE else for information/advice about a problem they may be experiencing with their television/radio. Of course, the wonderful Hosts of BBC oversaw the board and chipped in when it was necessary for some “inside” advice on BBC technical aspects.

    It was a form of Technical Question and Answer forum which allowed some very knowledgeable posters to aid BBC in answering queries for viewers who had problems. What was superb was that often you didn’t even need to ask a question because it had already been answered and it was there in it’s own “thread” for you to read over, and resurrect if you didn’t understand the responses.

    THAT was true “engagement” of the form which many companies would love to have….the ordinary man in the street providing the technical know-how, without the company having to expend too much time fending off those questions themselves, but all under the banner of BBC.

    I then think of the “open” blogs which BBC has replaced that worthy board with, and reading the frustration from posters (bloggers not messageboarders), at the lack of “engagement” from blog authors and BBC, think it is obvious that BBC are failing their blogging community, and those who read so many of their blogs, in a way the BBC Digital board, for example, did not.

  8. Niclara Martin Says:


    I should also say….go back to the now “deleted” BBC Digital Board, and see how many posts were “hidden”, and you will be AMAZED.

    I’ve provided you a link to the “Deleted” board and you can see for yourself (and here’s where the figures you asked for come in), that on the first page alone there were roughly 330 postings and NOT ONE “hidden”/”deleted”. I feel as confident that you call trawl through further pages and will be hard-pressed to find any posting “hidden”.

    The REASON. Posters to that board were there to seek advice (and here’s the important point), and for some other posters to GIVE advice. THAT is true “engagement” with other posters and with BBC in the form of the truly wonderful Host (Martyn – you know the Host you didn’t know existed, although you were working “alongside” him).

    If BBC want true “engagement” with their audience/posters then a return of the Digital Messageboard where posters can have MOST of their queries answered (without having to wait for someone from BBC to deign to return with information), but HOSTED by someone like Martyn who WOULD go and find out information ONLY when everyone else failed to supply the answer, would appear to be an obvious improvement on the current “free-for-all” which is BBC Blogs network.

    By the way I very rarely used the DIGITAL Board, but I can see what a superb model it was.

  9. Niclara Martin Says:

    Nick coming back to your quest for figures. I thought a simple exercise would be to look at one of the most recent blogs on BBC Internet blogs.

    The one where Danielle wrote about HD picture quality. It received 1,105 comments, which is a phenominal response (as even you would have to agree). However, I think you would also have to admit that the VAST majority of those comments were extremely negative. I think you would also have to admit that there were far more “Where is Danielle/Andy/Nick/Mr Blobby?” comments than you would have liked to see. There were also a high number of fairly offensive comments, and there were also lots of comments where feelings were running high. There were also a high number of very intelligent and articulate comments, and the end result of this “engaging” blog was that almost every poster to that blog felt very dissatisfied with the outcome of it.

    The problem in a nutshell is that the blog was written, and when it got too hot to handle, BBC staff found themselves in the position of running for cover (yourself excluded Nick).

    I think that blog did so much to highlight what is wrong with the non-“engaging” attitude of most BBC blogs. The post and run attitude. When that happens it simply fans the flames of frustration.

    It may have received a huge number of hits but it would score very lowly in SATISFACTION for the posters as far as “engagement” was concerned.

  10. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Niclara – regarding the Digital board on Points of View message board I’ve pretty much said all I’ve need to say on this subject.

    As you can see from this blog post the Digital board was getting tiny amounts of traffic, was not good value for money and in my judgement not a good model for engagement. But the subject of the Points of View message board is not something I’m going to discuss anymore on this (my personal)blog, so any more comments about it will I’m afraid be removed or moderated out.

    Regarding Danielle’s blog post I diagree with you about this post being an example of “post and run”. If you read Danielle’s post it the BBC’s position very clearly. And Andy Quested did engage with quite a lot of comments. So this is not really about engagement – we’ve had a huge amount of engagement over BBC HD on the blog. It’s simply that some people don’t like the answers they’ve been given or disagree with them. They have a right to disagree of course (which is why comments have been left open) but they can’t expect answers to the same questions if they put them again and again, or expect those answers to change simply because they ask them again and again. Some people will be unhappy but many of them have stayed on the blog to ask questions and discuss other subjects.

    • Paul Osborne Says:

      I agree with a much of what Niclara Martin says. The Danielle HD blogs are a good case study for consideration, as most of the others have such a small response to be unmeasurable.

      Did Danielle’s blog provide satisfaction? I would say on balance no. The majority of posters were moved to post again when the answers were either not answering their specific concerns or were calls for responses.

      I disagree Nick – engagement was not about unpallitable truths from Danielle…. engagement is all about acknowledging other parties statements and responding to them. When there is a post ratio of 300:1 then good engagement can’t be achieved- otherwise danielle might as well post a prepared statement on the website – that is not social media.

      The other observation was the “quality” of the posts degenerated when there was clearly a failure to create a dialogue from the blog owner – frustration and moderation just alienated most.

      The last observation is on closure of the thread. Clearly a closed blog is not an “open” blog. This is a good example of a blog becoming a bad blog. It demonstrates that dialogue has stopped, and that the blog owner has not only “nothing more to say” and doesn’t want anyone else to say anything.

      So in terms of metrics on value, satisfaction, openness, and engagement… it is clearly a bad blog. As a comparison with other social media, the BBC blogs are not good blogs. Only Andy Quested’s blogs come anywhere near the usual marks of good social media: candour, affinity, generosity with time, dialogue, balance, responsiveness.

  11. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Sorry – this was the blog post I meant to link to in the previous comment:

  12. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Paul – you’ve missed the context around the post from Danielle. In the same week as it appeared there were no less than 5 blog posts explaining in detail and responding to previous queries about picture quality BBC HD. It would be wrong to judge Danielle’s post in isolation – and on that same post Andy Quested did answer questions and leave comments. The dissatisfaction comes not from questions not being answered (because some were) but because Danielle didn’t give commenters what they wanted.

    As for closing comments on that blog post, I did so because of repeated breaches of the house rules. But there was always a place open for people to continue to discuss the issues (as indeed there still is).

    • Paul Osborne Says:

      I did not miss the context. If your definition of engagement is you telling us on 5 blogs and us not being listened to (in bulk) then there is no point in continuing this exploration of what is good social media.

      We are the audience and the closed blogs left us no channel to converse. Ever thought why breaches of rules seem to co-incide with blogs over which you preside? I don’t see them anywhere else.

    • Paul Osborne Says:

      Nick, I checked to see your open active blogs. I can’t find them, and Danielle has not contributed to a blog for months. Dialogue is not a ratio of 200:1 posts. Indeed that is a very good quantitive measure of engagement. 10:1 would indicate that the blogger is engaging at a level commensurate with the level of interest generated by the blog. (especially if there is a spread of unique posters) 200:1 would indicate that the level of interest was high but the engagement was low. (as in the DOGs blog) If there were a number of follow up posters in a 200:1 blog, then that would indicate that the blog not only was failing to engage, but also there was a higher level of disatisfaction with the blogger.

      So maybe there are the “3 ages of blog” defined by ratios?

      Infancy – 10:1 ratio, high proporation of unique posters, typified by candour and affinity

      Adolescence – 100:1 ratio, typified by indifference of original blogger and growing frustration of posters at failure of original promise of engagement.

      Matruity – 200:1 ratio, links from other media have brought in more unique posters, but their posts have generated ill tempered frustration at the lack of good engagement. Increased intervention of spokesperson imposing rules.

      Old Age – 300:1 ratio… seasoned posters calling for response and questioning the accountability of the blog owner. Closure of the blog.

      All of Danielles blogs meet this definition. As far as HD PQ is concerned the BBC considers that this matter is closed. The audience is just providing comment into a void (as with most of the BBCs social media) How can you consider that anything than a failure to engage?

  13. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Paul – you seem to be looking in the wrong places. This is the current post which is open on the BBC Internet blog for discussion of picture quality issues:

    “Danielle has not contributed to a blog for months”. This is not the case. Another post by Danielle has been published today and she left this comment only a couple of weeks ago:

  14. Paul Osborne Says:

    Hi Nick, Danielle’s blog has a ratio of 130:2 posts – not engaging at all. In fact clearly people still want to talk the more important issues (that she doesn’t). Andy’s blog is clearly very pertinent (500 posts about the same issue but a much better ratio) but I guess Andy has been left to be the technical spokesperson in the absence of acknowledgement of the issue from the person we want to talk to: Danielle.

    Anyway, your blog is about defining good… care to reply to the other observations I made rather than the examples?

  15. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Paul – I’m not quite sure which of Danielle’s blogs you are referring to. In terms of your other observations well I wouldn’t necessarily judge this by the ratio of comments. One well judged comment which answers questions may be enough.

    The problem here is defining what we mean by engagement. It’s not the same as telling people what they want to hear.

    Again its untrue that Danielle has not “acknowledged the issue”. She has. She wrote a long blog post about it. It’s simply that some people don’t like her response.

    I think you are confusing “I want Danielle to talk to me” with “I want Danielle to agree with me”.

    Even if people are unhappy with the answers they get, or are unhappy that they’re not getting answers, that doesn’t mean they can break the house rules. Blogs are closed because of breaches of the house rules.

  16. Paul osborne Says:

    Nick your posts show that your definition of engagement is different to the audience’s. My observation, which you seem to discount, is that engagement is not the blogger stating thier views with the challenge of communicating it by further comments until the audience understands it. Engagement is a two way thing – both sides learning from each other, modifying views and perhaps learning something that may influence. None o f Daniells nor your own blogs show that. Ratio is a good measure – one reply from Danielle is not dialogue , and so by my suggestion of a defintion, a bad blog.

    I am saddened that after 16 months of blogging you still regard blogging as a method to change hearts and minds rather than a wonderful tool with which to engage directly with your audience like no other. For what you and Danielle hav achieved you might as well have posted a prepared statement on a website with a link to the complaints channel.

  17. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Well it’s true to say that engaging with the posters on the Points of View board did influence my views about the boards and the decisions that were made about them. The problem was that some people didn’t like the conclusions I drew or the decisions made as a result.

  18. Paul osborne Says:

    You showed total disregard for the copious views offered on the board – zero engagement with the audience. You views were set and then coloured by your unique experience of the boards – one that no-one else has experienced. It was a failure of openness and engagement.

    The result is clear to see your improvements evapourated to nothing, the hosts come and go, and the disbenefits of your plans are still causing dissatisfaction.

    So by any measure you are the last person to be a judge of “first class communication and influencing”. Just acknowledge please – the BBC is not the home of best practice social media – very far from it.

  19. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    I’m afraid you are wrong Paul. I left hundreds of comments on the board and wrote 10 blog posts (hardly “zero engagement”). The opinions I encountered did influence what I thought.

    But I didn’t agree with everything everyone said and some people didn’t like the decisions that I made. My “unique experience” of the boards was coloured by the fact that I was a host, and had access to information and statistics that others didn’t (which I also shared on the blog).

    The traditional BBC way would have been to make a decision in secret, act on it and not tell anyone until afterwards. I did the opposite and opened up my thinking from the very start (even writing a blog post about an internal BBC meeting – a pretty unusual thing to do).

    As I’ve said before I’ve said all I need to say about the Points of View boards, so any more comments from you about this will be deleted.


  20. Paul osborne Says:

    So back to the question of what makes a good blog – is ther any point in me offering any further opinions?

  21. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    No Paul there isn’t because your last comment, which I have now spammed, was yet more personal abuse. You are now blocked.

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