How to Measure People on the Web

measure people

I’m not talking about common quantitative metrics, you know:

  • gender
  • age
  • bounce rate
  • page views
  • click through rate
  • conversion rate
  • time on page

Yes, these are essential. There’s no question about it.

But what about visitor information that goes beyond demographics and user interaction data?

I’m talking about:

These are three “people elements” that every website owner would love to know.

The information Google Analytics and similar tools like heatmaps provide us with is incredibly valuable; however, let’s not forget that computers and software are dumb. Binary code and user interaction tracking has its limits. That’s why programs recording user-testing have been created to show site owners the thought process and pain points  – the web journey.

But we can do better than that.

By fusing personalized outreach with social listening, we can measure people and receive phenomenal qualitative data – data we can act on.


Are you cool and collected, or are you clamorous and defiant? Do you regularly engage others in discussions and arguments or do you simply sit back and digest information?

Dispositions can be measured by creating a spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • name / contact info
  • link to comments
  • disposition description
  • emotion triggers
  • pain points

There’s room for creativity, such as  a preference unique to your niche, service, or product. The general idea is to create something that looks like this:

(click image to view full-size)

measure people spreadsheet

Fill this data in by going through the comment sections of your articles and logging instances where users submit a response that grants you insight to their disposition.

Take it a step further by finding their Disqus profile and browsing their comment history. Pull links to their most substantial or defining comments and log them in your spreadsheet.

Emotion Triggers

What enrages you online? What makes you click?

What is the one thing guaranteed to make you comment?

Here are some examples of emotion triggers:

  • Content types that result in an emotion, i.e; Instagram photos tick them off because they hate photo filters
  • Hashtags annoy them
  • They love funny videos
  • They always share startup success stories
  • They always respond to controversial questions about marketing ethics

Start collecting this information the same way we went about disposition.

Next, send out an email with an incentive for your subscribers to answer 2 questions. The first question pertains to emotion triggers and the second question is about pain points.

Another way to think about emotion triggers is to view them as social triggers.

social triggers

Your question can be as simple as, “What content do you like and what content do you dislike on the web?” and “What content do you prefer discussing?”

Or it can be as targeted as, “What do you like or dislike most about the current options for social media tools?”

Here’s a third way to think about it:

We know what buttons to push with our friends. We know their favorite foods and how much they love to talk about their [anything]. We can  influence the outcomes of conversations and the actions our friends take because we understand their qualitative traits. To put it simply; we know them.

That’s the goal of all this – to really get to know your visitors, to understand them on a more personal level.

Pain Points

One of the major benefits of the web is how easy it is to solve a problem.

From the forum jungles to popular Q/A sites like Quora, there are plenty of routes we can take to find a great solution to our problems.

You can even find common pain points in your industry by diving into your niche manifestations on these sites.

Here’s one of my favorite examples:

On Reddit, one user expressed a dire pain point. He was upset with the insanely expensive prices for beef jerky (as are most of us!).

beef jerky expensive

As you can see, /u/collinisballn did not think beef jerky prices are “balln”.

This is the pain point, so how would someone come in and provide the ultimate solution?

Like this:

beef jerky discount

Yep, that’s a sales rep for the beef jerky company, Bridgford Jerky.

He set up an exclusive discount on their beef jerky products just for Redditors.

As a result, he reported $23,000 in net sales.

What’s most impressive in this example, is that this all occurred on Reddit – the notoriously anti-marketing platform that 99% of communication professionals fear. If you’re one of the people in the 99%, you should check out my starter guide for new Redditors and if you’re considering advertising, my complete guide to advertising on Reddit.

In addition to social listening, we still need to ask our subscriber base a paint point question.

Here are some prodding questions for unveiling pain points:

  • What is the one thing (or things) in [your industry] you wish was more readily available?
  • What is the one thing you wish was cheaper?
  • What is something that confuses you in [your industry]?
  • How do you prefer to receive content, i.e; via video, PDF, or images?
  • What do you think is the actual reason we do [a skeptical tactic in your industry] ?
  • If you could change one thing about [your industry] what would it be?

We want people to open up just a little – enough to show us their “pain” which influences:

  • our content marketing/strategy
  • our social skills and thought
  • our website/content delivery system
  • our reputation

If you go the extra mile (granted you have the time) and follow-up with everyone that responds, you’ll be able to source even more concrete information.

So if you’ve always wanted to get more out of our data, consider setting up a spreadsheet and starting to profile qualitative data.

What are your experiences with measuring people in this way?

About author View all posts

Jesse Aaron

I'm a blogger, homebrewer, and community manager. Aside from writing, I have a passion for music and design.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Nice post Jesse, understanding the psychology behind consumer thinking is essential for everything from product creation to marketing that product. I like that you’re looking a people as people and not just stats or numbers. It looks like you’re really into Reddit, I need to get in there again myself.

    • Thanks for the comment Brian. I definitely lean towards the philosophy of just “hanging out with your fans” as you would with friends, as opposed to selling them/promoting to them. And yep, you got me, big time redditor – i’s an awesome yet frequently “misunderstood” social space :)

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