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May 07, 2009

Looking Beyond Numbers - The Curious Case of Representative Barton

In the early years of mass Internet use, clients used to ask vendors how many hits their web page got. The inside joke among web developers was that hits actually stood for "how idiots track success" (Note to my old clients: I am referring to other vendors - I would never think that about you). 

With the rapid growth of social media and organizations' content (i.e. - YouTube videos, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, etc.) no longer residing solely on their own sites, it would be easy, it seems, to measure success by looking at nothing more then volume (hits, views, followers, friends, subscribers, etc.).

What's wrong with looking only at volume for your own or others' online success?  Let's look at the curious case of Representative Joe Barton's (R- TX) recent "success" with YouTube.

Representative Barton is one of many members of Congress who now post videos on YouTube.  Until two weeks ago, just a few hundred people each viewed each of Barton's videos with one video having just fewer than 2,000 views. 

Then on April 22, he posted the video "Energy Secretary puzzled by simple question" which has since had 185,792 views



Success?  It all depends on how you measure it. 

By posting the video, Barton is attempting to ridicule the scientific knowledge of Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

While there is no way to know the political views and/or opinions of the thousands of people who watched the video, we can make some important assumptions by analyzing the way that different groups of bloggers promoted it to their audiences.

By looking at the data in Morningside's Political Video Barometer, we found the video is being linked to more often in clusters of liberal blogs (33 posts in last 14 days) and non-political blogs (31 posts) then conservative blogs (1 post)  -- ostensibly, Barton's target audience.   As the actual posts in the liberal blogs (see TPM or Huffington Post) are clearly disparaging towards Rep. Barton's views, it is hard to imagine that he and his staff would consider this a success.

While all press might be good press, all social media exposure is not good social media exposure.

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