Towards Better Metrics
Today I had a great call with Justin Herman, whose job (roughly speaking) is to help agencies across the Federal government use New Media well. These days, there are lots of smart folks at the different agencies using Twitter and Facebook and other services in smart ways, but it’s not very coordinated and they’ve only been able to informally share the best ways to actually make use of these tools. Justin’s part of a growing group of people who are fixing those inefficiencies.
As you might expect, given ThinkUp’s history as part of Expert Labs, and its original goals of being particularly useful for government agencies, there’s been a lot of interest in how the platform is going to evolve. And one point in particular jumped out when talking to Justin; It’s something Gina and I have spent a lot of time thinking about.
Metrics for social media suck. Web hipsters love to pick on sites like Klout, but even if you believe that Klout has a place in the ecosystem (which I do), it’s simply not a meaningful measure of how a person or institution is succeeding on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. In fact, I’d say none of the current crop of analytics tools speaks to what’s meaningful, or joyful, or truly wonderful about using social networks well. And when I say none, I’m including ThinkUp in its existing form as well.
It’s really, really easy for any of us to get a little line graph that goes up and to the right, showing us we have more followers or more retweets. We only ever get more followers, right? How often does your follower count go down? I think it’s pretty rare. Yet we still track that kind of info on its own as if it were meaningful.
It’s not meaningful. It’s just the easiest, most obvious thing for programmers to retrieve from a social network, or for marketers to point to as a measure of success.
And while we’ve been rethinking how we communicate progress and success in meaningful ways in ThinkUp, it’s really gratifying to see that the community of social media experts that we spent so much time working with in the Federal government is re-evaluating their ways of measuring success, too. Sure, some folks are always going to want to tell their bosses that they got more followers on Twitter.
But what we hope to build in ThinkUp, and what it seems like more and more audiences want from the tools they use every day, goes way beyond simple dashboards. We have to find consistent ways of telling the story of why we use these networks. There should be a fun, satisfying way of saying “hey, I may not have as many Twitter followers as Lady Gaga, but I found a great way to connect with my followers today” so that others can learn from your work, or simply celebrate your success.
We’re hard at work on that vision, but hearing it reflected back from one of the first audiences we’ve worked to serve is a really gratifying sign that everyone is moving past measuring what’s easy and on to sharing the stories of what’s really meaningful.