So your kid’s online, and suddenly they’re being exposed to all kinds of temptations — and you may not always be there to help them make the right choice. It’s time to have The Talk.
Sit them down and explain, “When someone likes like another person’s content very much, they sometimes Like or Favorite it. If it’s very special content, they may decide to reblog it.
“And when the time is right for you, that’s something you’ll probably want to explore for yourself.”
Make sure you talk about not pressuring others to like or reblog your content, and about how nobody should ever do that to them.
And then —tactfully— broach the subject of metrics. How getting a lot of likes, shares, retweets, notes and comments can feel really great… but that it’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing numbers instead of actual connections with other people. And how that can lead you to lose your sense of yourself and your own wonderful, invaluable voice.
“I don’t ever want you to feel your worth as a person depends on how many followers you have, or how many people are liking or sharing your content,” you could say. “Your voice is worthwhile in and of itself. Listen, maybe you’ll have five or ten or thousands of people who love what you have to say. Which is great. Just don’t ever confuse loving your content with loving you.
“That said” (and here a hug wouldn’t be out of place) “as long as I’m online, you’ll always be able to count on at least one like for everything you post.”
Some of the advice I’ve seen around social media measurement boils down to “Don’t pay attention to x. You should be measuring y.”
Don’t pay attention to retweets; you should be measuring follower growth. Don’t pay attention to follower growth; you should be measuring post likes. Don’t pay attention to post likes; you should be measuring FlegmaRank, our proprietary new index based on a secret algorithm that boils eighty thousand different variables into a single integer between 0 and 1.
It’s enough to drive an online campaigner to drink… or, more productively, to the bookshelf. This stuff is why I was so pleased to draw the cartoons for Beth Kanter and K.D. Paine’s Measuring the Networked Nonprofit. And why I loved reading Katie’s Measure What Matters. And (this’ll take you back) Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. (I’d link to it, but he has a more recent follow-up, Web Analytics 2.0.)
What all that advice really should boil down to is this: what do you want your online efforts to achieve? How do you believe they’ll do it? (That is, what’s your theory of change?) How can you measure each stage of the mechanism underlying your theory? How can you benchmark against peers, competitors and past performance? And how can your measurements help you assess your model against real-world results, and adjust accordingly?
Answer those questions, and you’ll know which metrics matter. (They may be the usual suspects. They may not. Chances are they’ll be some of each.) Everything else is noise.
Key Performance Indicator, in case you’re wondering.
I don’t believe in chasing metrics for their own sake. I really don’t.
But for the past month, Noise to Signal has hovered tantalizingly close to 2,000 fans on Facebook, and dammit, I really like it when the cartoon reaches more people. If an arbitrary number can help make that happen, then by god, I’ll embrace that arbitrary number and tickle it under its chin.
So I posted that if we can crack that 2,000-fan barrier tonight, I’ll post next week’s cartoon today:
I have a cartoon that I’m planning to post next week. But if you fine people can convince 18 more people to like the page and crack 2,000, it’ll go live RIGHT AWAY. (Why? Because I like round numbers and because my subconscious is convinced that more Likes mean I won’t die alone and unloved someday.)
And my old friend Kevin Marsh from my Queen’s Park days replied that he might be game for it if I post a cartoon about my subconscious. And here it is.
The offer still stands. Next week’s cartoon awaits just 18 more Facebook Likes.
(In case you’re wondering, yes: I went back and forth over whether to say “shitload”. I ultimately went with it because I think it’s funny as hell when a monk says “shitload.” In many ways, I never really stopped being 12.)
Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb
As I was drawing this one it occurred to me that if you look at nearly any piece of web terminology long enough, it starts to seem vaguely smutty.
Sometimes it doesn’t take any contemplation at all; Facebook should feel downright embarrassed about pushing “frictionless sharing”. (No, I’m not drawing that one – at least not here. This is a family site, bub.)
And don’t get me started on HTTP status codes – although, sadly, it’s the client errors that seem the most compelling. Between 417 (“Expectation Failed”), 405 (“Method Not Allowed”) and 429 (“Too Many Requests”), they tell the story of two tragically incompatible people who should never have hooked up in the first place. “And when he woke up the next morning, she was 410.”
Anyway, to everyone who’s been up to their eyeballs in web analytics this week, this one’s for you.
Oh, sure, it would be neat if your bank (or credit union) counted your social media assets when they calculated your net worth. But you just know they’ll start skimming your followers as a service fee. And they’ll pull your gold card the moment your Klout score drops below 55.
Before we get to the cartoon, two announcements for my Vancouver friends.
- Morgan Brayton’s show Raccoonery at the Vancouver Fringe Festival on Granville Island is funny as hell, brilliantly performed and just generally entertaining. There are three more shows – September 16, 17 and 19 – and tickets are $17, including a Fringe membership. Go, go, go.
- I’m teaching The Art of Social Media starting Wednesday evening, September 15 at Emily Carr University of Art and Design (also on Granville Island). This six-session course looks at social media basics, with a special focus on the arts, self-expression and marketing. There are still a few spaces left – more info here (and more social media courses here).
I’ve posted a few times about how my unease at the way social media can help a marketing mentality shape our self-expression and online relationships. Obsessing over metrics and follower counts is the beginning; before you know it, you’re thinking of romantic dinners and late-night liaisons as “conversions.”
But give marketing – especially online marketing – its due. The same thing has happened with marketing that happened with video, audio and many other fields: tools that were priced far out of our reach only a few years ago are suddenly cheap (or even free) and readily available.
Google Analytics is probably the best-known of those tools, now joined by innovators likeChartbeat. You’ll also find everything from keyword analysis… to Facebook demographic numbers (a Facebook Ads account opens up a huge window into the makeup of their users, even if you never buy a single ad)… to sophisticated e-mailing list services like Campaign Monitor and MailChimp… to simple A/B testing plugins for your blog.
But there’s a cautionary note to sound here. Case in point: if you’re old enough to remember the advent of desktop publishing, then 1) I hope you can read this through your bifocals, and 2) you’ll also remember the eyeball-searing newsletters and posters pumped out by folks who could read the PageMaker manual but didn’t have a clue about design. (Sixty different typefaces on one page! Cool!)
The point is that a tool might be easy to use, but it isn’t necessarily easy to use well. And reading even a few books about, say, analytics – I’m a fan of Avinash Kaushik‘s, for example – will put you head and shoulders above most of the rest of us.
And once you know how to use a tool well, you’ll be in a much better position to use it (or when not to) to achieve the things that really matter to you, whether it’s valuable business conversions or meaningful personal connections.