‘Popularity’ is a funny metric for Social Software

TechCrunch reports a surge in traffic for LinkedIn thanks to heightened interest in building personal networks as well as job hunting opportunities in this market.

It got me thinking about what “popularity” really means to both web based businesses as well as the enterprise, beyond boasting rights.

For ad based businesses, increased traffic, registration and time on site are obviously good things but how does that correlate with revenue? For LinkedIn, its a clear win since more users means not only more ad revenue but potentially also more paying subscribers.

However, sites that are CPC or performance dependent (meaning they sell ad space to businesses but only make money when there’s click through or a certain predefined action occurs) are facing lower ad spending  so the additional site usage is of tempered value until the market improves. For instance, whilst job sites are seeing a surge in traffic, recruiters that pay their bills via performance ads and placement are inundated with resumes anyway and might need less help finding talent.

When looking at stats for internal Enterprise 2.0 initiatives that boast a surge in registration or other forms of user adoption at the outset, or one year in – buyer beware.  Initial registration metrics mean very little and can be downright deceiving. Why? Because here’s how it generally works in the enterprise:

  • A company wide or group wide invite is sent out to check out the new site.
  • Users click on a link to proceed into the new wiki, community site, intranet, etc.
  • Users are auto registered thanks to LDAP integration so they proceed right in.
  • Upon entering, it counts as an additional registered user regardless of whether the users stays, sets up a profile or engages ever again.

Another way that registration gets captured is when user A sends a link to content that happens to be in a E2.0 utility to User B who is not a registered user of the system. By simply clicking on the link and entering to view the content, User B gets added to the list of registered users. Again regardless of whether the user ever comes back or truly utilizes the social space as intended, she contributes to the stated adoption numbers.

Either of these can hardly be called adoption.

It’s heartening to see some headway in this area. Some of the E2.0 solution providers (for instance, Telligent has Harvest) are taking metrics seriously and making it very easy for  their customers to measure the effectiveness of their enterprise 2.0 initiatives, beyond registration and initial engagement. The new crop of E2.0 professional services organizations can provide huge value in this area and I’m excited to see that play out. For starters though, we’re going to see Enterprise 2.0 case studies very soon on ReadWriteWeb, by enterprise social media thought leader and consultant, Susan Scrupski that will undoubtedly shed light on performance of real world enterprise 2.0 initiatives.

Until then, ‘popularity’ can mean many things so dig deeper.

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Rob Howard, Telligent
Rob Howard, Telligent

Thanks for mentioning us -- we've been focused on analytics for about 2 years now. There is a goldmine of great data stored in the community.


Hi RobI agree - there's definitely a goldmine of data in community based systems and in the case of customer communities, it's monitize-able stuff. That's another show and I'm working on it -)

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