The Session on Metrics Was Great
Sebastian Chan of Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia gave an eye opening evaluation of the metrics generally used by museums to understand how successful their websites are. Typically you rely on information about the number of new visitors, page visits, amount of time spent on a page, and podcast downloads, for example, to tell you about the usefulness or popularity of various pages or features on your site. Yet as he explained in his excellent session, these statistics are seriously skewed – by search bots crawling your site, open browser tabs on people’s desktops, and RSS feeds, nor is there a way to track whether podcast downloaders actually watch or listen to your programs.
Chan went on to talk about social networking sites as places where museums can learn more reliable information about how they are perceived in the great big internet community, whether or not they have a formal presence in these spaces.
If your museum has pages on MySpace or FaceBook, videos on YouTube or Blip.tv, hosts blogs or has Flickr accounts or a presence in Second Life, take a look at the interactions occurring in these places to see how people are responding to your content. Chances are you will find comments that don’t appear on visitor surveys.
But even if you haven’t created a presence for yourself in these social spaces, other people will be creating one for you – blogging about a visit to your recent exhibition, posting pictures of your building to Flickr, etc. Chan recommends doing “what are known as ‘ego searches’ for [your] brand name, event or exhibition name.” You can search all of these sites to see what people are posting or saying about you, and do blog searches through technorati.com, for example.
These things will tell you more about how people perceive your museum, more about your “presence” on the web than straight metrics ever will. Then you can use this information to begin, or to continue, to develop your web presence in ways that serve your audience and your museum. His excellent paper is online here.