The Problem with Metrics

The other day when the StuckinPastic group was chatting during one of our (in)frequent hang outs, one of the group revealed themselves to be a metrics watcher. It was a subtle comment, but as someone who also watches my social media metrics, I recognized myself in that comment; and frankly I didn’t like what I saw.

There are plenty of free sites where you can track statistics like community, engagement, content and optimization for your Instagram account. If you want to drop a few dollars you can even get a detailed report from several paid sites that will give you more information than you know what to do with. You can drop down the rabbit hole of statistics to your hearts desire.

But does it matter?

This is not a new topic for me. I have talked in the past about The “Like” Trap which focused on likes and positive comments as a metric of how successful you are. It is so easy to focus on how many followers you have and how many likes you are getting in a world where social media is king and art is reduced to mere content so a corporation can sell you advertising. Cynical, yes; accurate, no doubt.

I try to do the best work I can from day to day, to create beautiful LEGO photos that are true to myself and my own vision. They are not for everyone, they are too pretty, too quaint, too simplistic and usually too serious. For better or for worse, they are truly a reflection of me.

When I look at my metrics I am proud of my followers. Never would I have thought I would ever have over 8K followers on Instagram. Never would I have thought that Google+ would tag my photos as one of there recommended collections. Sounds awesome right? But then I look around and see other toy photographers with 35K – 96K followers on Instagram and I really see were I stand.

Personally I think my metrics are pretty low. My Like rate is 5.73%, my comment rate is only .2% and my engagement beyond my followers is 1.6% (this is inflated since I participate in ToyPops from time to time). It is so easy to get caught up in looking at numbers to determine success, because what else do we have?

But then I get comments like these on various Intagram posts: “I can’t describe how much your photos always seem to inspire me… The descriptions are so meaningful and deep.”  or “I could like all your images buddy, but I fear my finger would break! Beautiful portfolio.”  or “This picture makes me happy.” or “Amazing picture! I’m truly lost for words. Once again a breath taking inspiration. You have been one of my greatest inspirations since forever. Oustanding.”  Personally, I think these are the best metrics.

For me, it is more important to make the personal connection. I want to communicate through words and pictures what I am feeling and when I am successful I hope my viewers will feel them too.

You can keep watching those standard metrics of success, although I am trying to break the habit. The problem with the metrics we can measure, is that they probably aren’t the best ones to measure a certain type of success. How do you measure making an emotional connection with a follower, how do you measure inspiring someone to be a better person, how do you measure the start of a friendship?

Now those are metrics I would pay to follow.

~ xxSJC

Do you track your social media engagement metrics? 

What metrics do you find most valuable? 



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Brick Sailboat
8 years ago

Shelly, I’ll admit, once upon a time I followed my metrics like you described. I had the app that showed who ‘unfollowed’ me, etc. Over time I started to notice 4 reoccurring themes. #1: Some of my favorite Instagram accounts don’t receive that many likes/follows/comments. #2: Some accounts that do receive boatloads of follows are, well, we’ll say, uninspiring (to say the least). #3: Lots of people comment to get likes – i.e. – great photographers commenting: “That’s the best picture ever!”…when it’s, like, not the best picture ever… and finally, #4, the most important reason for me not to… Read more »

Lyn Miller-Lachmann
8 years ago

I don’t subscribe to the metrics because it costs money and there are a lot of other places where I’d rather spend my money. Bookstore, Lego Store, you get the idea. Anyway, it’s not just photography where the “likes” don’t match the effort or heart one puts into the work. I know several authors who wrote to formulas and their books were huge bestsellers, but then they wrote the book of their heart and it flopped.

David Mathis (ElDavePhoto)

On the one hand, I feel like metrics can be helpful so it doesn’t feel quite so much like just throwing photos out into the world. You can see “Oh, people really liked that one!” Even if there aren’t any as many likes or comments as you’d hoped for (there’s always room for more, right?), just being able to sit back and know that however many hundreds or thousands of people saw your work can make a big difference. But then the over analyzing starts and I’m stressing about what time and on what day and what figures to post…… Read more »

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