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Beating Hearts not Rolling Eyes. Will Passion be the Metric of the Future?

Posted on Jan 13, 2013 by in ThiNK First | 2 comments


Will Passion be the Metric of the Future? It’s an interesting question.

Passion is a wonderful notion, but how do you measure it? Today we are defined by our passions. Passions determine how we spend our time.

Passion influences every conscious and subconscious choice.

Passion is something you’ll fight for, something you won’t give up.

I could suggest many ways to measure passion, but first, I think you have to ask is it realistic?

When it comes to metrics, “impressions” is the 800 pound gorilla of Madison Avenue. How do you stand against a whole industry that likes big numbers. How do you challenge an industry that is “impression” minded.

Will passion ever overturn impressions as a metric of choice?

Impressions are the biggest number you could ever feasibly cite, but nobody seems to care that it’s not based on reality. Humans derive comfort from size. We use big numbers like a shield. We love a big follower count, for what it’s worth and it seems we love impressions.

As the number of media options grows and content heads to infinity, doesn’t measuring impressions feel less and less valid and more and more meaningless?

People report big numbers to keep you happy. People encourage more tweets and retweets because they want their hashtag to trend and in so doing, they generate more impressions. Numbers drive behaviour.

In my childhood in the UK we had 4 TV stations. You could go to school and you knew people had watched the prior evening. An instant conversation/connection. Today we live in the world of long tail media.

Despite the diffusion/explosion of content, we seem to manage to connect really well with people around the world who share our passions. Frictionless sharing has enhanced our ability to connect.

Our attention is still finite. That leaves me wanting to ask a simple question.

Why are we not measuring “share of mind” or “share of heart”?

Retailers measure “share of wallet”. Spend it finite.  Share of wallet or share of mind talk about actuals. They don’t allow for double counting or creative extrapolation.

They don’t count all the food you see in the supermarket or everything you looked at the in mall. That’s the impression model.

  • You can’t spend money you don’t have (or borrow)
  • You have a finite capacity to eat and drink (physical consumption)
  • You can’t focus on things if you have no free attention (mental consumption)

In the world of three screens, quality of attention and recall matter more. We can watch TV while searching on a tablet and messaging on our phone. If we are searching on the same topic as the TV show, that’s proof of higher quality attention. When your screens align, passion and engagement rise. Engaging on two or more screens makes for a more connected and more memorable experience.

If you are reading my blog, you aren’t reading blogs by Robert Scoble, Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki or Fred Wilson. Not right now anyway. Perhaps you are reading their blog and not mine.

That’s the point. Somebody has to win your attention. Content is infinite. Attention is finite. There is only so much of everyone to go around. How much can anyone read?

  • What share of reading do you have?
  • What share of sharing do you have?

How much can anyone share? At some point soon over-sharing becomes vulgar, or is automation just progress? Social norms do change.

How passionate am I about reading your next post? How closely do I follow all the content you share even if you share 24 hours a day? That’s influence. That’s when you have made a real impression.

We micro-slice and skim all day long. As content producers, we have new skills to learn. We need to learn to be shareable, share-worthy. How do we get people hooked and wanting more? How do we earn permission and get past the filters in the minds of our consumers? Traditional gatekeepers are gone. The excess of information acts as an even more powerful throttle.

How much attention did we/can we earn?

That’s what matters. That’s something you can build a business on. Impressions are nonsense, but if you can’t beat them, you may as well join them.

Impressions are the emperors clothes of Madison Avenue. “Impression thinking” hes been entrenched in the industry for years and that’s not an easy thing to shake.

Everyone knows impressions = BS, but it’s like saying you don’t believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny or that clicking your red heels won’t take you to Kansas.

  • How many people saw your post on Facebook?
  • How many people drove past your billboard?
  • How many people saw your advert in a magazine?
  • How many people saw the tweets for your hashtag?

People are drawn to big numbers, like Icarus to the sun

Big numbers make people in marketing teams feel proud. They are numbers your CEO wants to hear, and that’s the problem. Impressions are self fulfilling. They make us feel hopeful.

I watched the keynotes from New Media Expo #NMX and this was my takeaway: “Impressions are in”:

  • Shani Higgins from Technorati shared lots of slides to prove impressions is the metric of choice (and that real niche engagement is not driving ad spending). The money is still chasing impressions. She was arguing there is a disconnect. CAMPAING-SUCCESS
  • Ford’s Scott Monty was talking views, followers and impressions. Secondary metrics included change in opinion and consideration.

    Image via Tom Treanor of

  • Only Leo Laporte spoke of taking on the system and changing the model and the way brands fit into the landscape.

I was highly inspired by Leo’s talk.

I sense a dual strategy may work best, you need to have your impression metrics in hand (because that’s like having your name on the invite list). You need impressions to get to that party. Once you are in the party you can drive the discussion and the debate to “share of mind”.

  • Having 0.1% of my attention/time/passion does not sound very sexy.
  • Having 10 million impressions is.

We know impact trumps impression, we just don’t want to admit it.

We focus on impressions because they are easy to generate. They mean little to the consumer. They don’t involve consumers, just the possibility of consumers. They are passive metrics.

Seeing is not believing. Belief takes passion. Passion is active. Passion is consenting. Passion is promoting. Passion is the new permission. People give permission to brands, ideas and beliefs to enter their brains. But you have to earn it.

People are hungry for attention. But what is attention really worth? Are we not at a point where we need to measure engagement, caring and passion?

If we don’t make the switch to measure passion, aren’t we just going to weaken trust and engagement? We need to switch or we keep driving the wrong behaviour.

That’s certainly what I heard from Leo.

I sense more people are engaging. I sense the contribution from individuals is rising too. I could argue 1:9:90 is changing.  It’s certainly argued here by Nir Eyal.

More people are contributing, but by the same measure, more people are seeking your input. There are more ways to engage. People want more engagement, they just don’t necessarily know how to cultivate it. Will we soon suffer from engagement burn out syndrome? I suspect so. I’m sure many of us have become apathetic to app signups and installs.

I sense content (and the ways to engage) is outpacing engaged consumption. It’s not hard to argue, given our capacity and willingness to participate is finite.

We can’t care about everything. We can only act on very few things.

Does it feel like we’re chasing a falling tide?

Is there enough engagement/attention to go around?


Impressions don’t impress. Engagement makes a lasting impression that changes hearts and minds.

The numbers will be small for each individual. But a lot of people can amass a lot of passion. Passion grows best when cultivated and surrounded by others. That’s really the difference – impressions fade over time whereas passions grow. It’s simply a smarter long-term investment.

The numbers should matter. Small can be significant. People have finite attention. Passion is delivered in small doses, but unlike impressions it can grow over time.

  • If I spend 3 minutes watching your video content every day, that is significant.
  • If I contribute content, that’s a huge reflection that I care.
  • If I regularly share and comment on your content, your values become mine. I’m including you in my own personal brand values.

Caring matters. Passion matters.

I tweeted “We Want Beating Hearts not Rolling Eyes. The Metric of the Future is Passion” during Leo’s keynote and got numerous comments and retweets. It tipped me to write this post.

Here’s some books that I’ve read that make me think about passion.

Where do you sit in the beating hearts vs rolling eyes debate?

Image Credit: arrrrt


Nick Kellet (164 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at and


  1. Great Post NickKellet ! The question of what we measure is becoming more important all the time. What is “influence”?   In times when Social Media marketers confuse follower counts with “Social Proof” what metrics do we look at? And are there really metrics that have the same relevance for every situation?

    • So true. Follower count is not a key metric. it what you do to engage your community.
      the problem is we each have a unique appreciation of social proof.


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