Posts Tagged metrics

Driving behaviour by metrics; a Google Page Rank discussion

Posted by on Wednesday, 9 April, 2014

pagerankishOr, driving results through defined strategy by encouraging the right behaviours using the right indicators.

What happens when you drive behaviour by measuring activity? You get more of that particular activity, regardless of quality. When the activity isn’t as easily measured, then we start looking at indicators that can be measured, and that is where the slippery slope of metrics driven behaviour begins.

Take, for example, your website’s rank on Google search results. Using that single metric as a driving mechanism for success initially looks good and easy to quantify: is your site ranked in the first few slots on a google search result? If so, you’re likely focused on  the higher the rank, the better…. except, driving behaviour based on this rankling leads to poor practices and even worse behaviour. In order to obtain solid rankings, there were many different ways you could game the system (some less than scrupulous SEO “experts” have tons of tricks to cumulatively work together) to ensure a high spot without having to do the hard work to reach that space organically. Thankfully Google is implementing changes that reward the right thing and remove the ability to actually game the system through simple tricks.

The maniacal focus on being on the front page is what comes from poorly focused, metrics driven activity. Rather, the front page/first spot should be seen as an indicator, a result from doing the right thing. Using behaviours to drive metrics instead of the reverse is the first step to having the right focus on the right things. The common adage is “you get what you measure”, and truly it is in this case as well. The right thing, in these cases is creating quality content and engaged conversation. “SEO has changed. It’s no longer just about getting all of your meta data aligned and your site content optimized, but also about getting your customers involved in the conversation.

So, what’s the solution in this example using Google search ranking as a success metric? The answer is both simple and difficult: Measure and report on the behaviours you want to encourage. Only use search rankings as indicators that those behaviours are showing benefit. What does that mean though? Specifically, it would require measurement of content quality and more complex metrics to be developed in order to identify, in quantifiable methods, the activities associated with generating quality content and quality conversation. But, people are like electricity and water: all three follow the path of least resistance. In this case, that path is taking the easy way out by just looking at your google rank as a single easy metric to show success. But, like I noted above, Google is indeed doing things to reward those who are doing the right thing: both Google Authorship and GooglePlus provide deep benefit without much additional work (assuming you have content flowing already, these simple provide better connection to you and more robust results, they don’t make your content better).

If you’re still focused on page rank, you will soon find your metrics obsolete. With the proliferation of mobile devices and a shift to both smartphone and tablet computing, Google Now will be the driving force in benefits to site owners. We’ve already seen page rank plummet in relevance over the past 3 years as Google shifts their strategy to align more with organic search. Google Now is the future of a dying page rank. As a site owner or content creator, we are all best off paying attention to the future and building the right metrics to drive the right behaviours here and Now.


image credit:  Some rights reserved by Gauravonomics

Membership drives versus organic growth

Posted by on Friday, 11 January, 2013

You’ve seen these kinds of calls before:

“Help me get to 1000 likes” or “Only 20 away from 2k followers, help me get there!”…

As I am sure you can guess, I have no real love for these, and I have a sense you don’t either. In fact I’m certain that none of my friends, followers, or fans really care about your counts. The higher your numbers are has no bearing on the value I get from following you. And therein lies the crux of this post: value.

I’ve been seeing a recent uptick on posts of this nature, as well as “real-life” membership drives for professional associations. Be it on-line or off, the issue is still the same: what value will I get from following you or joining your association? In fact one real-world professional association I became aware of in the past two weeks is so focused on building membership that they’ve seemingly completely forgotten to add any value to being part of the association, resulting in an actual decline in membership; a result which obviously runs counter to their intent.

Let me exemplify the fallacy of focusing on membership or follower counts by showing you a trend graph of a person I used to follow on Twitter (obfuscating to protect the guilty). When follower counts are all that matter, this is the kind of behaviour you will see:


Note the 35k+ follower spike on a single day. Yes, I am fairly certain he bought those followers. More importantly, in less than three months he also lost all those users as well. This simple trend graph shows perfectly how focusing on one particular metric can generate misguided behaviours and not only miss the end goal, but cause more pain and unnecessary churn around irrelevant results. Membership drives only incentivize one behaviour: to grow the numbers. Instead, focusing on the right behaviours will and incentivizing the right activities or tasks will not only show positive growth in your overall numbers, but will make that growth sustainable as well.

Let me show you what solid, organic growth looks like when you focus on the content and not just follower counts or membership drives:


What you see above is continued and sustainable growth as Kelly reaches more and more people, real people, who are more likely to engage and even reshare her content; all of which provides greater results and gets closer to her end goal. Having 40K followers is fine, but if only 100 of those ever interact with you or even read your content, what good are the other 39.9k? I’d much rather have an active and engaged audience of 1k followers who are more inclined to listen to what I have to say.

I will concede, however, that numbers do matter to some extent. After all, if no one is seeing your awesome content, there’s no hope for growth. Getting your counts up a bit higher so more people will have access and visibility to the amazing stuff you’re writing is indeed a factor you need to consider. But the focus solely on follower counts is a misguided one at best. The real key is to build the right behaviours of engagement and amazing content which provides value to your followers to the point where they want to share it out to their followers as well. I’m guessing the user shown above didn’t have the content to keep his newly found audience (assuming they were real people accounts to begin with).

The initial concern then is to ensure you are building the right behaviours, the right content and sharing it with the right people. I can buy followers to simply boost my numbers, but are those followers who will be getting value from me? Nope. Are they even real followers? Likely not. So rather than trying to build large numbers in a truncated time frame, let’s focus on solid organic growth of our networks based on compelling and exciting content that’s worth sharing, talking about, or implementing in your own test and production environments (oops, my software support background just slipped out there a bit).

I’ve used the phrase “content marketing” previously, and I am seeing it build momentum in the past few months… for good reason: audiences (your social following or association membership base) are demanding your channels show value. If you aren’t providing value, they’ll drop you and go where they will find value. There are so many channels and so much noise inundating us from all sides, it is content which is king and content which will bring those follower numbers others so desperately want.

Let’s recap:

  • Membership drives can build numbers but don’t reward the right behaviours or actions and
  • We have a choice: we can accrue followers or we can curate a valuable and effective network. Curating a network will result in accruing followers.
  • Social Business is not a numbers game. Anyone can buy followers (those of us with integrity wouldn’t, but we easily could).
  • Content is the way to drive traffic and increase visibility, as well as build your own thought leadership and digital eminence.
  • Encourage and incentivize the right behaviour, and the follower counts will steadily climb up and to the right.


Influence is irrelevant

Posted by on Wednesday, 9 January, 2013

jro_kloutThat got your attention, didn’t it? Last month I called 2013 the Year of Influence and shared Brian Solis’ interview of Klout founder/CEO Joe Fernandez where they spoke about the future of Klout as a tool for influence measurement. Contrary to the title of this current post, I still believe 2013 will be the year of influence for content marketers and social businesses on a large scale. But, let me tell you why I think it is also irrelevant to some of us:

In social business, the common belief is that measuring a person’s influence on social networks is the key to showing value; that influence is THE metric to use to show value and success. That is to say: is it accurate that if I have a higher influence score then I am obviously more successful in social business? Many people have been scurrying to quantify this as part of their efforts to define ROI. You’ve even heard me use the word when speaking about other aspects of social business and how being and influencer and working with other influencers are key parts to creating results.

While I’ve been cautiously skeptical about companies purporting to be able to define this soft concept in quantifiable numbers, I did buy in to the idea that influence is one of the keys to show value beyond simple click-through or follower metrics. I’m no longer so sure. From a strictly sales or marketing organization perspective that may indeed still be the case; but I don’t work in sales, I work in the support organization where our mission is different and our value is most often seen after the sale.

From a support delivery perspective, as a client what you want from me isn’t my opinion nor my ability to influence you to my ideologies; what you want (and need) is my tacit knowledge and skills to solve existing technical problems. As a client/customer your interaction with us has nothing to do with our level of influence, instead it is wholly focused on your trust in our expertise and capabilities; two items which activity measuring services like Klout, Kred, Crowdbooster, or PeerIndex can’t touch on… at least not yet.

Tom Webster at notes in a prior blog post:

“… These are the three appeals:

  • Ethos, the argument from the author’s credibility;
  • Pathos, an appeal to the emotions of the audience;
  • Logos, or an appeal to the audience’s sense of logic and reason.

Writers who skillfully weave Ethos, Pathos and Logos stand the best chance of swaying their audience to change their state. I believe that what “influence measures” are working towards is this: a quantification of Ethos. They aren’t there yet, but they are iterating rapidly. And I can buy a Klout score as a representation of Ethos, especially if they would finally get around to applying these scores to individual topics. But Ethos alone is insufficient. What all of these scores fail to measure–indeed, cannot measure–is the effect of the message itself… “

Taking Tom’s ideas into account, we can still use the Rhetoric concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos to help our efforts in quantifying value within the support realm but outside of the concept of influence.

  • Ethos= perceived trust and identified skill.
  • Logos= quality of interactions and historic interaction/observation
  • Pathos… There is less of an emotional need in support, as logic and reason are ingrained in our technical content used to answer questions or solve issues. But what this does touch on is the sense our clients get from our interactions which may help them be more inclined to contact us sooner when an issue is encountered, or conversely may cause them to use us only as a last resort. Call this approach-ability, friendliness, or personality.

So, let me try to define a new way of looking at this:

Value for a social business support account = perceived trust + identified skill + historic interaction/observation + quality of interactions + responsiveness + approach-ability.
Or, put more simply: value = ethos + logos + pathos

But it goes beyond that. You can see here, what we need from these measurement tools is not a quantification of influence. Rather, we need thought leadership or digital eminence quantified: a person/account which is perceived by their followers as best in breed; the people who are technically adept and know the right answer, the smart answer… the connectors to the knowledge you need.

The deeper root problem here is that the mock equation above is based on measurements of concepts, thoughts, and feeling; not always directly observable or quantifiable activities. So, how do we quantify perception?  In my research I’ve found that direct feedback is the single most critical component to quantifying subjective perception. But, often that feedback is scarce at best, and non-existent most other cases. Often (and especially in self-help scenarios) once a problem is solved there is no additional contact to close the loop and provide feedback so we are left attempting to quantify the unknown, and make educated assumptions of effectiveness to close the gaps as best we can.

In light of the lack of direct quantifiable feedback we only have indicators like click-throughs, reach, and influence scores to tell us if our efforts in the social business spaces are moving in the right direction and potentially effective in helping our clients solve their issues, and to show us value beyond the pure technical content we create and share. So, while influence is indeed irrelevant, the scoring information is a usable measurement to at least tell us if we’re doing something right.

All our efforts in the social spaces, of course, grow IBM’s influence as a whole as we build that level of trust and identified skill.  But in support, indirectly providing influence is a side-effect of our primary objective: getting the right answers to the right people just in time.