I sideblogged this before, when I first noticed it, but did not expand on it because I just didn’t know what to make of it.
eCairn is a social media consulting firm whose job is helping businesses find leverage points in social media and the blogosphere. In other words, they seek out who are the “Influencers” in various “social media Tribes”. Further, they analyze those tribes as a whole to provide insights into how to sell to them. It’s a fascinating business model, and while I am hardly familiar with the company, they seem to combine both human analysis with a variety of Google-Fu and other automated algorithms to reach their conclusions.
Among many other reports, they just released a study of what they call the Socialcohol Media, i.e. beer, wine, and liquor websites/blogs. The picture above is an influence map of the various drinks tribes, and how they interact. The blue blob on top is what Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit originally dubbed the Cocktailosphere, i.e. the liquor blogs. (See what I did there? No? I’ll explain below) They very accurately note that each sub-tribe pretty much sticks to its own knitting, but nevertheless are interdependant. The purple blob is all the whiskybloggers, who they say form a kind of mortar between us. Congratulations, scotch drinkers, you are the UN of drinking!
Along with this map of how we all interact as a whole, eCairn picks out a list of the top 20 most influential sites in the online drinking community overall. They list The Pegu Blog as number 18, fifth of the top five liquor sites.
Dude, you are the MAN!
Am I? Really?
My initial instinct was to laugh this off. How could I be influential? Then I read the reactions of some of the other bloggers on the list, and saw that they too seemed a bit bemused by the study. Camper English’s Alcademics is number one on the list among cocktailbloggers. He notes that his raw traffic (each of our raw traffic) is dwarfed by Darcy O’Neil’s Art of Drink, which is located several rungs down. Both of them are overwhelmingly better known in the professional bar community than I am. The number one, Jay Brooks of Brookston Beer Bulletin points out that he, Camper, and Good Grape are all ranked above the New York Freaking Time’s drinkblog, The Pour.
Being the curious and intuitive thinker I am, I just haven’t been able to let this go. Do I believe this result? More to the point, can I figure out how it was reached?
Let’s start with that.
Blogging well is a lot of work, so I want to be read as a reward, don’t I? I wrote a post almost two years ago on how to increase traffic and hits through how you blog, rather than just what you blog. It was in turn based on a much more deeply thought out study done by Stacy McCain, entitled “How to Get a Million Hits“. (Warning, that links to a eeeeevil conservative Hunter S. Thompsonesque blogger who has spent time wandering my basement bar, videotaping me pour drinks without warning.)
I heel to a number of the tenets in his post and mine whenever I open my WordPress dashboard. And there are a few that I think were especially important to my appearing on the eCairn list.
First and foremost, I reach out beyond our tribe. Not so much to the beer and wine guys, though I do that sometimes, but to tribes beyond socialcohol entirely. I do this with links to those tribes, and by soliciting links from them. I make this work by writing a lot of posts synthesizing booze and other stuff. I write about booze politics and reach out to political blogs. I write about bar accessories and reach out to the gadget blogs. I write about Basement Bars and connect with men’s lifestyle, design, and artist communities. Booze marketing being what it is, when I write about that, I reach out to the, ahem, Rule 5 community. I link to myself relentlessly, and link anybody who has ever linked me, whenever I get an excuse. (That’s why I linked back to Instapundit above. I told you I’d explain. It is axiomatic in blogging that if you want your server crashed from overwork occasionally, get in Glenn’s good graces.)
Second, in furtherance of the previous goal, I write about a very wide range of alcohol-related subjects. Lots of people write about each subject I cover better or more in depth than I. I don’t see too many cocktailbloggers who address as wide an array of stuff as I.
Third, I just make a lot of links, period. Look around this post at all the orange words. There are 15 external links in this one post, and lots more links back to myself. I’m sure this is one factor that is included in eCairn’s analysis.
Fourth, I post a lot, and I post regularly, and I’ve been posting for almost four years now. Fresh content brings loyal readers, of which I have a bunch. It also makes Google and Bing happy. This blog shows up on a shocking number of first page results for a lot of common cocktail search terms, though I wish my meatspace friends didn’t always sound so surprised when they notice this….
Lastly, my traffic certainly isn’t up there with the big dogs like Wine Spectator and the Times, but I do alright.
So, I game the system a bit. My regular job of killing people for money allows me chunks of time to blog, so I can manage all this relentlessly. I think these are the reasons I am on the list of Top Twenty alcohol social media outlets. But does this mean I am really influential?
Yes and no.
If by influential, you mean bar professionals or big traditional media outlets look to me for insight and guidance, Hell no. Most don’t know who I am. My posts don’t make big waves (a scary analogy to use these tragic days) when they come out either.
But I do see ripples from things I write as time moves on. More importantly, I think I’m one of those bridging sites they talk about a lot on eCairn’s site. I try to bring readers to the cocktailosphere who might not otherwise know it exists. And I send them on to other sites, in our tribe and out, as much as I can. As a relentless SiteMeter watcher, I can sometimes see this happen. A lot more happens beyond my ability to see directly. But whatever the actual extent of the Pegu Blog Media Empire’s influence is, I know there is at least a little, and I’m happy with that.