Navigating ROI can seem like a confusing maze of options

I recently heard that a healthy blog-to-comments ratio is about eight or nine comments for every blog entry.

One of the conventional measurements of social media engagement has been the comments metric. Conventional wisdom holds that the number of comments you get is a good indication of how engaged your readers are. In the quest for ROI, engagement can be an important indicator in the cause-and-effect chain that delivers bottom-line value. However, there are at least three reasons I can think of why judging a blog for its lack of comments is a bad assumption to make.

First, it’s entirely possible that your blog entry was so smart, so well reasoned that you talked yourself around or out of provoking a response. That’s not a bad thing, but if your hope was to create conversation then perhaps it’s time for you to go out on a limb and take a more controversial stand. However, not getting comments from a solid blog entry you’re pleased with does not mean that you have a disengaged, uncaring audience.

Second, it is entirely possible that you just have a more passive audience that’s just looking for an opinion. As an increasing number of bloggers and other content providers start to compete for your limited attention, it’s hardly surprising that only the most outlandish and provocative entries will elicit a response. Back when all we had were e-mail lists and discussion forums, these individuals were called “lurkers.” They were the un-vocal majority as opposed to a vocal minority who would simply vote with their mouse and go elsewhere if they didn’t agree with you.

Third, it’s important to remember that any metric cannot by itself be taken as a sign of engagement. Look at the aggregate data from your Web analytics software. What’s your total readership according to Feedburner? How long do they remain on your site? If the responses via blog comments make sense in the context of the rest of your data, then it’s a safer assumption that you have an engaged audience, but you cannot make that leap of faith based upon a single metric.