Serena Ehrlich pointed me towards this post that announced that Google Analytics is now available in "real time." I guess I was supposed to be excited by this latest evidence that you can now track everything instantly. I'm not.
In fact, the proliferation of promises of "real time" is to me one of the worst consequences of the social media revolution. Yes, as Serena pointed out, you can watch the reaction to something you do almost as it happens. But there are a few real downsides of watching things happen "in real time."
- It's not measurement its monitoring : Too often, communications professionals mix these two elements up. And, if they monitor the immediate response to an action, they are very likely to make decisions upon data received in a very short time frame. It's like deciding that your're destined to be a Hollywood Star based on a standing ovation you got in sixth grade. Measurment looks at trends over time. . It takes into account other variables like seasonality, what the competition is doing, what other news is going on at the time. Especially if what you are trying to do is change minds and/or build relationships, measurement needs to look at results over a far longer term.
- Its the ultimate in pandering and decreases variety in what we consume.
Suppose I'm the editor of an online newsletter (actually, I'm the publisher) , I can determine whether people are clicking on a story or a headline and if the number of clicks I get isn't up to my expectation, I can take the story down, change the headline or other wise alter the readers experience until I get the clicks up to snuff. But my readership is a mixed lot. Some academic, some non-profit, some corporate, and if all the clicks are coming from one segment, or if one segment hasn't woken up yet, and doesn't get around to reading it for a few hours, the story that they might really need to read might be gone.
3. What's happening at that very second might not matter at all in the long run
Far too often I see PR people overreact to a particular comment, without pausing to take a breath to see whether anyone is taking the author seriously. Real time doesn't always require real response. Make sure that the event or issue matters to your audience. \
4. It's not really real time
For those of you getting those "real time" monitoring systems listen up. IT'S NOT REAL TIME. Yes, Twitter happens very quickly. But just because something is going on on Twitter right this very second, does not mean it will show up in your content feed that very second. Tweetdeck, Hootsuite etc do in fact take a few a minute or two to process. Many legitimate news content site have contracts that allow resellers of that content to release information at certain times, with subscribers who pay premium prices to receive news earlier. So, for purely contractural reasons, that story that appears at 6 am in The Honolulu Star Advertiser may not show up in your Daily Alert until noon.
So lets all take a deep breath and recognize real time for what it really is. It is what is happening in a very short span of time. Few of us would decide to marry someone based on the first few minutes ofa meeting (Yes, I know, love at first sight does happen, but not in business). Just because people respond in the first few hours of doign something, may o rmay not mean success, real results, or a long term relationship.