Is your organization chasing meaningless metrics? - Brian Gerald Murphy

Is your organization chasing meaningless metrics?

My friend and co-conspirator Emilie Wapnick of PuttyLike recently posed a question to me,

I’m genuinely curious though why often I’ll write a post full of valuable content. People will share it and tell me how helpful it is. But I’ll get very few comments on the actual post. Whereas my more inspiring posts with less valuable content will result in a ton of comments.. I guess the latter I understand.. But I am curious about the former. Do you have any insights?

I started my response,

I tend to comment most when I’m really touched/moved by a post or when I disagree with some or all of the content. This is most clear when it comes to privilege/oppression but also probably true when it comes to other stuff, I guess lifestyle design when ethics/philosophy/strategy are involved.

I’m also more likely to comment on a blog when I know (even virtually) the author. In fact, I think your blog is the only one I regularly comment on right now, I’m not sure why I comment on some posts and not others.

Comments though, are not the real question. We are asking a deeper question: how do we measure connection with our readers and constituents?

I wonder, with the intense proliferation of blogs, if comments are as valuable, or even meaningful, as they used to be. Are we chasing a metric which no longer matters? One of my clients has 4,000 fans and even when we post articles to Facebook they usually only get a few (if any) comments. Today, people are digesting massive amounts of digital content; they do not have time to thoughtfully respond to (or even engage) every bit of it.

To borrow a lesson from organizing, people donate money for irrational reasons and if you can tap into their heart, they’ll give you money for anything. I wonder if people comment for irrational reasons?

Instead of seeking ways to increase comments, a better question is, “Why do you want people to comment?” Is there a different action they could take to accomplish the same end?

Other meaningless metrics

In the age of social media, we assign value to users on social networks: YouTube subscribers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections. We assume those metrics have meaning, do they? The Save Darfur Facebook Cause has over 1 million fans–they’ve donated an average of eight cents each. Which is more telling, that there are 1 million plus fans or that they care so little? Clicking “Like” is as useful in saving Darfur as 8┬ácents.

Which is not to say that social networks are useless. In the past week, 15% of traffic to my website came through social networks. The question becomes, “What will those visitor do?” Did you come from a social network? How can I empower you to move from passive consumer to active creator? It is the people on those networks that are meaningful, not the network. You are meaningful, your constituents are meaningful. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube… they are connections to people who care (or want to care) about what you are doing.

It is more important to focus on connecting with those people than on chasing numbers. Numbers will disappoint, people will change the world. To find and connect to those people, you may well need to use social networks. However, running up Likes may be an ego boost, but it won’t aide in your mission. Only when you connect offline and online advocacy can you really change the world.

What metrics are you currently chasing? Do you know what specific results they deliver? Leave a comment below. Share this article with your friend, co-worker, or boss if it will be helpful for them.

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