I’ve just been looking at the latest stats from comScore (Via Techcrunch), and the statistics for Facebook‘s arrival as the fourth biggest site in the world illustrated for me why site stats can become both meaningless and rather dangerous.
For starters, the numbers of the top sites are so big that we don’t really have any way of guaging them – as Eddie Izzard explains using the examples of mass murder (some NSFW swearing).
But the big problem with numbers like these is that they can become very dangerous, due to the tendency for people to quote them as law, and rely on them:
Reasons to worry:
- Monitoring services like comScore and Compete can only track online traffic to domains – no clients and no apps. A particular problem at the moment for Twitter, but growing for all sites.
- A certain percentage of users are always unquantifiable thanks to cookie deletion etc, or end up showing up different times on different computers
- In the comScore example, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo sites are bundled up into their respective companies, so you can’t tell what comes from Google Search and what comes from Orkut or Google Maps.
- No accounting for OpenID, Facebook Connect etc.
But essentially, the big risk is:
- Unless you’re one of the top 20 or so sites, the total number of users of Facebook, Myspace, Bebo etc won’t matter much – you’ll still be able to get 1000, 10,000 or 100,000 fans/friends. What really matters is what you want to achieve, the relevancy of the network, and how you work at building valuable relationships rather than numbers.
- And rather than numbers, look at the interactions, or for the business minded, how many people actually buy something…
But on the bright side:
Besides the fact we can accept social networking reaches almost as far as the internet with Facebook getting 340 million uniques per year, the fact that Wikimedia Foundations sites clock in right behidn it at 303 million uniques also shows the undeniable value of crowdsourcing user generated input if it’s done relatively well.
And maybe the combination of my three blogs will crack the top 10 next year!