When we think of measures of influence, we see the outputs: number of followers, list members, traffic, sales. Basically what’s immediately visible and what we’re most concerned with.
At this first level, we’re asking – does it work? did doing x increase y? You see what works and what doesn’t through this filter of action – reaction. It’s in service of a direction so it’s better than throwing things at walls. And it’s okay to operate this way because you’re really only trying one thing at a time so you aren’t going to misattribute effects of efforts, and the ultimate markers of success are things like attention and money. But’s it’s just the first layer.
At the second level, you start to get more sophisticated. You might look at how different sources of traffic behave, identify ways to segment list members by interest, or compare groups of pages based on patterns, considering things like engagement, shares, replies, not just on a per email or per page basis.
Instead of publishing something, watching it resonate with a group and taking that as a good sign, you start to ask why. What made the last 10 breakout success pieces of content so different from the rest?
Here you might identify that deep analogies resonate with your email list in the context of an ongoing conversation, but can add to confusion in isolated articles on your site.
The point is that you are doing and paying attention to more things so you can start applying insights, either as one off improvements or integrating them into your daily work regimen. This becomes an iterative process. At a certain point other people become involved, you hire consultants to get answers, you hire software or people to ease the burden of implementing changes based on insights.
At the third level, you solidify an approach to growth. Hopefully you have a right mix that allows you to continue trending in the right direction. You’re listening to the data, hopefully in a way that wouldn’t compromise future trust with your audience. You’re interpreting the data with some accuracy, getting a clear picture of the stories. And your applying those insights sufficiently.
Applying those insights looks like investing more in projects that should work, cutting away things that don’t work, are too time consuming for the value, may not fit with your brand, or sacrifice long term benefits for short term gains.
All things are done in service of the audience and your ability to respect the value of your own time as it applies to better serving your audience.
At this point, you are no longer doing short-term speculation, you are looking at long term stability, growth, and making sure you’re well positioned to identify and capitalize on future opportunities.