Stats Most Useful When Least Interesting

Whether you’re running a business, producing a podcast, selling a book, or writing for a blog, here’s a weird paradox:

Audience stats are more helpful when they’re more boring.

If something you do takes off and “goes viral”, that’s when you’re most tempted to watch the numbers like a hawk.  It’s also when those numbers are the most dangerous.  They can lead you astray, cause false conclusions, and most of all, mess with your psychological and emotional wiring by getting you hooked on the dopamine hit of lots of attention and traffic.  Sure, you can learn from the data in high times, but it’s better to look back on the spikes a little later than risk getting pulled in during the frenzy and forgetting to keep your head down and do the work.

If something crashes and you take a massive dip, that’s also a time to discount the data and delay the deep-dive a bit.  It can induce panic, fear, bad judgement, and depression too easily.  This doesn’t mean there’s nothing to gain or that you should put your head in the sand, but again, you can’t let the bad news keep you from doing the work that day and the next.

When things seem business as usual; a steady flow of attention without a lot of spikes or dips, that’s when data are often the best to assess.  Dive deep and try to understand the source and insight into your audience.  Look back to previous highs and lows and compare to the steady times.  Imagine future dips or spikes and what might cause or prevent them.

The world of instant access to attention stats is amazing and allows for to-the-second agile adjustment…but this is dangerous for emotional attention-seeking creatures too.

When really high or really low, tune it out a bit and focus on the work.  When the data are boring, dig in and learn a much as possible.  It’s the opposite of what the gut wants, but helps a lot if you can do it!