The Age of Measurement


Has there ever been an age where we’ve been so publicly measured?

As social media becomes embedded in our lives, there’s a growing number of tools available to measure our online performance, to assign us a grade, a rating or a name.

Seriously. It’s getting beyond a joke.

As a social media professional, I want and need analytics as much as the next social media consultant.

But the burgeoning number of tools that will show me how I’m tracking personally online – and which will serve me up some handy recommendations – is frankly making my head spin.

On any given morning, I can check how my profiles are faring online using Crowdbooster, TwentyFeet, Klout, PeerIndex, TwitterCounter and more recently SproutSocial. I can check out my WordPress site stats, Facebook Page Insights, YouTube channel views, GooglePlus pluses, Instagram likes, bitly link results and Google Analytics.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

As I said, I need to measure my results and those of my clients. It’s part of my job and I’m damn appreciative of the measurement tools at hand, particularly when they’re free.

How does your online performance stack up?
How does your online performance stack up?

But that shouldn’t stop us all from considering when ‘enough is enough’ and if there is in fact an insidious side to this that has an impact on us as human beings.

When I take a break from Twitter for example – when I’m more quiet than usual because I’m on a freaking holiday (something social media consultants should never do, right?) – I know there’s  a good chance my Klout score will dip, as will my PeerIndex listings. I may even lose a few Twitter followers. I’m punished for being offline.

Once upon a time I was addicted to Guitar Hero on Wii. Periodically, it would display a message gently suggesting it was time for me to take a break. There was a timer built in, to assess how long I’d been relentlessly playing, and I assume for occupational health and safety reasons, the Wii would kindly remind me of the outside world.

But social media dashboards don’t do that.

They’re invested in an endless spiral of pushing you to tweet, post and blog more and more and more.  Measurement dashboards like Crowdbooster and Klout provide advice about how to drive your score higher. And you can bet this revolves around posting more often, and posting content that’s “more engaging”.

Of course, we’ll all react differently when using these dashboards. Some of us will take it with a pinch of salt, other more sensitive souls will be saddened when they lose followers or nobody reads their blog. I have seen people sharing tweets of alarm when their Klout falls. But if we’re mature enough – and social savvy – we’ll recognise that our digital scores rise and fall according to our activity and think nothing of it.

I just hope that impressionable people, and perhaps especially younger people, don’t begin using these dashboards and think that these tools are a measure of their self worth …

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Ash Simmonds says:

    My success metric is number of unfollows.

    1. Prakky says:

      So I guess Crowdbooster advises you to tweet more in order for that to happen …

  2. I run social media accounts for small NFP orgs, volunteer run orgs and independent artists. I do most of this for very cheap or nothing because it fits into a larger marketing plan which I trust will one day offset the time investment I’m making now.
    Your comments on taking a “freaking holiday” really struck a chord with me. I recently went away for a month. One of the accounts I’d set up was pretty new and only had a hundred followers. I had purposefully been pretty quiet on the account but I wanted it set up so I could come straight back and use it immediately. No-one else in the organisation (of two part time staff) could take it over and I figured the followers would cope… but there is always one!
    While I was away, enjoying an afternoon cocktail, no less, I got a DM asking me for a meeting to which I politely replied with my email address and explained that I was on a break and would respond in due course… I then received a bunch of “suggestions” (some public, some DMs) letting me know what the meeting was about and how I should be doing things better to increase my visibility, followers etc. I had two choices: ignore or explain the situation, neither of which held a lot of appeal for me. It irked me. I was on holidays, couldn’t that be a good enough reason for someone to just drop it and leave their suggesting and explaining of a non-urgent issue for later? And of course, whatever my response, it was enough to put me into “work mode” for a while.
    We have very quickly become a society which does not allow rest and relaxation. All the metrics tools which facilitate the belief that we are somehow more valid as humans because we are “connected” for longer have the potential to create some very negative social outcomes, not in the least, taking me away from my cocktail time…

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks for the fantastic comment Jennifer – here’s to cocktail time!

  3. Ahh, the wonder of analysis paralysis. As you quite rightly pointed out, it’s increasingly easy to drown in a sea of data which is why I recommend identifying early on you key metrics, the critical 4 or 5 that actually spell success. If you can figure out what those are then you have a better chance knowing what to look for instead of speculating on the real impact that 0.0001 dip in your Klout amplification.

  4. Great article! I’m totally on board with this.

    While it is good to baseline your efforts etc, to slavishly follow these tools strips the soul and creativity out of communications – and can often work against the reason brands (or people) engage in social media in the first place. It’s like poll-driven public policy. Who wants that?

    I say, give people a reason to come to your brand and then deliver on the promise. Leave “influence” to those who have the time to measure their own self worth 😉

  5. Sally Nicholas says:

    I really feel for Social Media professionals. As a personal user, it doesn’t take long at all after a brief hiatus before that ‘I’m out of the loop’ feeling starts to creep in. If my business / professional ‘social street’ credibility was constantly being measured, I would be in a constant state of anxiousness. Not a good look when trying to chill out by the pool.

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