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Measuring 'depth of interaction' or "you can't eat web-hits"

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we measure the depth of interaction that we have with our audience. So often we get obsessed with hit-counters, relying on services like StumbleUpon to drive traffic to our sites, or blogging about ‘buzz’ topics in the hope that people find us.

The problem with this “measurement” is that it doesn’t take into consideration scale or depth. There’s a ‘scale of interaction’ people travel on towards us - from no knowledge of what we do to joining our street-team and printing their own fan t-shirts when we’ve sold out of the ones we had printed. Stumbleupon traffic often doesn’t even lift people to the level of ‘name recognition’. I was recently interviewed for a podcast by Penny Jackson of the BBC. The podcast is hosted by The Creative Coffee Club, part of the Institute Of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University, and we talked in depth about the idea of using social media to curate conversations with our audience, rather that seeing the web as yet another scatter-shot broadcast medium. You can listen to the post cast here.

One of the problems musicians often have with social media is the idea that ‘talking to our audience is what we do until we achieve ‘proper’ succes’ - working on the assumption that we’re all heading towards riches and limos. Which is a bit like buying lottery tickets as part of your music strategy - it’s not worth planning for, and generally messes up your life because of the baggage that comes with it.

So I’m definitely looking at ways to continue talking directly with my audience, while increasing both the size of it and the depth of interaction.

How do you measure that depth of interaction? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Reader Comments (9)

My years as a web developer exposed me to dozens of clients who were obsessed with garnering "traffic" but had no interest in updating the site, communicating with the visitors or offering anything apart from a glorified billboard. So now that I run my own songwriting site I'm pretty cynical about analytics, counters, etc. These days I only break a smile if:

a. somebody finds my site then turns up at a gig and introduces themselves (this happens about once a year);
b. somebody books me to play a gig, write a song, score a film (this happens about once a month);
c. somebody comments on my blog, links me from theirs, Twitters me, posts one of my YouTube vids on Facebook, etc. (this happens about once a week).

It's this last part that's exciting. I measure the interaction by how much it affects my actual, real, day-to-day life. As a full-time musician, Steve's title is completely relevant: "You can't eat web-hits".

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterBen Walker

Definitely agree with:
I'm pretty cynical about analytics, counters, etc.
c. somebody comments on my blog, links me from theirs, Twitters me, posts one of my YouTube vids on Facebook, etc. (this happens about once a week).


One of my biggest measures of the success of an online community is the increase in attention (or time & effort) members spend on the community. This could be anything: taking part within the community, posting community content or information about the community outside it, creating content that is relevant for the community. Monetizing this is a different conversation, but (a) an increase in average attention/member + (b) an increase in members (which is helped by (a)) should lead to a situation you could monetize.

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterNoel

Steve, I have been reading the feed from your blog. You sure give all this stuff a shake.

I wonder if it's possible to use social media to curate a conversation with dozens, if not thousands of "listeners"? When you are the artist using social media, aren't you just engaging in some form of micro broadcasting (in a one to many relationship)?

Should an artist hope for deeper engagement from fans? I heard a new song from a new artist (new to me) yesterday. I purchased the song sixty seconds later. Is this deep or shallow engagement? The interaction between me and the artist (one listen, one purchase) was rewarding for both of us...

It seems that the ideal measurement of interaction is this: divide your interaction metric by work. If your idea of a great interaction is a paid download, divide your download revenue by your average fan acquisition cost (reflects the amount of work you do) to yield your interaction_quality_score for that type of engagement. Repeat for other types of engagement. Lots of fun...

June 19 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

He said, "You can't eat hits. If hits were salt you'd die."
I said, "But, I love salt on cucumber."
He said, "You can eat targeted hits."
I said, "Pepper, on the other hand, makes me sneeze, but, I like lots of it on mushrooms."
He said, "Well, you've got to take Web 2.0 statistics with a pinch of salt!"

June 20 | Unregistered Commenterian

Hi Steve,

Have you been to any of the Measurement camp events, and, if so, did they help at all? (I keep having to miss them for various reasons)

I'm doing some research on 'measures of engagement' as part of SwarmTribes project I'm working on at the moment.

Of course, to have the aura of proper research, it's progressing very slowly ;-) but here's a clip from my most recent progress report.

In the project proposal I committed to research a measure of engagement. I asked the questions (a) can we use similar measures [for engagement] that are emerging for other Web 2.0 services? and (b) how do indices of feedback and regulation in the fan communities differ between artists/bands, and what causes these differences?

I have reviewed several sources to address these questions (the online ones can be found at Although the term ‘engagement’ is so widely used in Web 2.0 circles that it’s almost a cliché, the study and measurement of the construct is still in its early days. A typical definition of engagement, “a consumer-based measurement that regards interaction with an aspect of a brand or media property” , shows what a generic catch-all the term can be.

I have compiled a long list of potential indices that could be compiled into a composite measure of engagement. However, the consensus from articles and events I’ve attended is that the most important thing is to adapt and tailor your measure of engagement to the specific context you’re interested in, and to the objectives you’re interested in. To be most useful, measures of engagement should be linked to outcomes that are important for the stakeholders.

More details available on request -- conclusions will appear on the project site in the end. Hope this is of some help: pester me if not!

Bruce wrote: "I wonder if it's possible to use social media to curate a conversation with dozens, if not thousands of "listeners"? When you are the artist using social media, aren't you just engaging in some form of micro broadcasting (in a one to many relationship)?"

Very good question - I'm not sure what the max number is, but there are definitely levels of interaction here, from the blog+comments model which is conversational, but based on an initial broadcast, down to making your email address available on the site to answer questions... my forum seems to sporadically provide a better place for that kind of 1 to 1 + eves-droppers type conversation.

So, I guess the number of readers that a blog has makes it at least at the inception of each post a broadcast, but the invitation to then continue the conversation via comments, or the forum, or email, or on twitter, or wherever I think allows the story to be told in a much less broadcast-ish way, with a degree of subtlety and specific variation to suit the listener that it has value over and above the idea of it being 'micro-broadcasting'... does that make any sense? :)

I think the tools that enable it work best in a portfolio, offering a range of entry points that are going to be attractive and accessible to different people looking for different kinds of interaction, so each new platform on which to communicate and converse has the potential to deepen the conversation, and hopefully invite the listeners deeper into what the musicians are actually about...

June 21 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Lawson

David, that stuff's really useful, thanks so much - we'll definitely talk more about this soon, and I'll keep an eye out for measurement camp.

There's so much being said at the moment based on either mis-used stats or made-up ones - the made up ones are often more useful than the mis-used ones, as they are based on hunches derived from watching the way people are finding and connecting with music (see Bruce's latest post here).

I really like what Reverb Nation are doing with their 'band equity' calculation, which brings together hits, traffic, downloads, plays, links and everything into a number that is meant to reflect the 'value' of the attention an artist is generating... though it speaks volumes that I was at the top of their jazz artist equity chart for a month, and still haven't made $10 on their artist profit share scheme... it's very early days.

I'm really interesting in seeing where the Swarm-team thing goes - I've just joined one for a geek thing, partly just as a way of seeing how it works... I'll let you know :)


June 24 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Lawson

Hey Steve,
Great thread here, with some great responses. I'm going to make a new post that describes how we approach solution(s) to the problems of both creating a strategy for bringing fans along from exposure to street team, as well as how we attempt to measure the impact of those efforts for Artists at ReverbNation. I'm hoping that it doesn't come off as some cheesy self-promotion of our site, but instead gives insight into how we spend our time thinking about the issues, as well as the efforts we have made to date to solve them in an imperfect world.

Again, great topic. For most Artists (especially indie Artists), it is our belief that growing the breadth and depth of fan relationships is the only thing that really matters when it comes to achieving 'success'.

July 5 | Registered CommenterJed Carlson

Excellent blog and interesting article! With pleasure has read! If not hard leave on my site the reference

October 22 | Unregistered Commentergood-video

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