Measuring what matters
An experiment in rethinking ''data-driven marketing" from first principles
I long ago gave up on being a "data-driven" marketer. Pretty sure I've looked at my website analytics a grand total of four times since the start of 2021 lol.
At some point in this daily writing marathon, perhaps I'll do a deep dive into my beef with marketing analytics from first principles. But for now, I'll just say there are all sorts of fascinating parallels with Seeing Like a State. As marketers seek to maximize the legibility of our economic behavior, and then exercise control over it at scale, it's led to all sorts of deeply coercive best practices that are at odds with human agency and flourishing.
Anyhoo... this week I've started measuring my own marketing efforts again. But it’s more of an experiment than anything, because the metrics I'm paying attention to are super unconventional. For the next 100 days of writing and invitations, the only things I'll be measuring are internal resonance and external resonance.
Here's how I'm conceptualizing both of these.
Internal Resonance: How did it feel to write and publish this? Did it make me feel alive, both intellectually and somatically? Did it feel like something no one else but me could have created? Did it feel true to who I am, and who I'm becoming? Did the content of this writing matter to the deepest parts of me, beneath all of the cultural stories about who I think I should be and what I should do?
External Resonance: How did people respond? Did I strike an emotional nerve? This goes beyond easy, legible metrics like pageviews or social media likes, or even comments, which are at best hazy approximations of external resonance. It's about looking for signals that something genuinely MATTERED to one or more humans, and elicited a response that's out of proportion with the average digital interaction. Lots of likes is an okay-ish signal. Lots of comments is a clearer signal. A small handful of comments or private replies from people saying they've never felt so seen or understood by a piece of writing—that's the kind of thing I'm trying to discern and quantify here.
When I say I'm measuring these things, I mean it. I have a super simple Notion dashboard where I'm documenting everything I publish, then rating the internal and external resonance of each piece on a scale from 1 to 10. I capture an internal resonance score right when I hit publish. Since external resonance is not something I can discern right away, I'm letting each piece exist in the wild for a full week before I rate it.
For the game I'm playing with Ungated, and with my life, understanding these two metrics matters more than anything I'd find in a traditional analytics dashboard. What I'm optimizing for isn't growth, certainty, or control. It's not the maximization of short-term revenue, reach, or influence. Instead, I'm chasing connection—both with myself and with others. I'm trying to design an infinite game, where I spend my days working on things that bring me alive, hence the internal resonance score, and connecting with a relatively small handful of true fans, hence the external resonance score.
My hunch is that by focusing on the intersection of these two metrics, I will be able to create an artisanal digital business that reliably brings me alive and meets my economic needs, while also mattering deeply to the people who are drawn to it.
Rob's Daily Invitation
Since I mentioned both wacky experimentation and Notion dashboards in this piece, feels fitting that today's invitation is for The Experimentalist, my Notion template for devising, tracking, and reflecting on the experiments you run in your life and business. I've been using it myself for about six months, and it's helped me become so much more intentional in how I think about breaking rules and trying new things. 10/10 would recommend.
Internal and external resonance is such a great idea!! I love that so much. I've had the hunch that if I keep doing things that have internal resonance, over time they'll reach external resonance (as well more traditional external metrics).
these ideas really resonate with me Rob and I love the way you articulated them. Seems like I’m on a similar journey, trying to write stuff that only I can write for many reasons: 1) I’ll actually care about writing them well, so the essays are crafted better 2) I ruminate on the ideas longer so the result is usually more thoughtful
Pouring myself into those kinds of essays tends to get more external resonance. I like your idea about measuring these- I’m stealing it :)