Measuring the impact of social media is becoming harder as the cool interactivity of AJAX features gain popularity.
The problem comes in that the technology allows users to get dynamic content without changing pages, thereby sinking the standard page view metric that has enjoyed popularity with advertisers.
According to an article about the impact of AJAX on online ad sales today in MediaWeek, Nielsen//NetRatings will start measuring the “total time spent” in its June report, which will place less emphasis on page views.
All of the controversy means that big media websites are taking a cautious approach to rolling out AJAX-y features for fear of losing their revenue streams. This will lead to a slowdown in enhancements of the user experience.
From a public relations standpoint, I have never been too impressed with the page views metric anyway, which always seems to be double or triple the unique user number. It might mean the readers have to click around to five or six pages to find what they want. Measuring this metric just encourages bad usability for readers.
Eight Meaningful Measures of Social Media
The metrics I do tend to pay attention to as meaningful measures of the relationships a site or blog is building with its end users are:
- Number of unique users
- Returning versus new readers
- Referring source statistics
- Links from other sites
- Google PageRank
- The ratio of blog comments to blog posts (where applicable)
- Total time spent on the site
- The popularity of the content itself, which gets the most views
For podcasts and other social networking sites, like Flickr or YouTube, new metrics also need to be debated. It is doubtful that the number of downloads, or views, are a completely meaningful measure – especially since that metric can be so easily manipulated.
What are the stats that are most meaningful to you?