Why I Don’t Want Traffic

Having worked in the digital world for more than 14 years now, I’ve seen lots of trends come and go–does anyone remember “push marketing”? But during that time, Web traffic has been the constant metric for measuring success…until now.

I’ve come to realize that I really don’t care about Web site traffic. Site visits are overrated.

In fact, for my next program, if I get zero visitors to McDonalds.com, I’m ok with that. I don’t want traffic, I want conversations…and conversations don’t happen on my Web site. They happen on millions of blogs, twitter pages and forums spread throughout the Web.

We are relaunching McDonalds.com right now. The new site is gorgeous and features tons of great information about our company and our menu items. We’ve also made sure that the content is easily shareable. But like a lot of brands, we aren’t trying to stoke conversation on our brand site. Those rich conversations are happening elsewhere and it wouldn’t be an efficient use of our resources to try to move them to a branded environment where we would be legally obligated monitoring and moderating, and thus stilting, those discussions.

Think about it this way. When you build a Web site, you need to drive people to it. It would be silly to think that people will just “show up” (insert tired 1990’s quote from Field of Dreams here). Getting people’s attention in terms of awareness and clicks takes a lot of time and money. For certain types of campaigns traffic should be the number one metric, but for most of mine it won’t.

But my job is to make people aware of the high quality of our ingredients and the great balance in our menu. I want folks talking about our yummy salads and the 600 calorie Happy Meal and the most effective way to do that is by talking with people and having them talk with others in return. My key metrics will be the number of posts, and tweets that are generated. The number of comments/replies will be very important. The tone and sentiment of the conversations will also be critical.

It is a simple view of the Conversation Economy where traffic doesn’t count.

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3 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Want Traffic

  1. Hi Rick,

    Interesting post and very cool to hear it from an iconic B2C company like McDonalds. I am curious as to why you wouldn’t include some capability for branded customer community within your website?

    Even if its just to support local teams your restaurants sponsor, your hockey card collectors, or cross promotions with Disney – a branded McD’s community would be valuable wouldn’t it?

    I think public social media acts like a lightning rod in many ways for companies like McDonalds attracting, potentially, a lot of folk who just plain don’t like you. Its why most of the telcos in Canada don’t do it – too much negative conversation.

    I don’t know the answers really, but doesn’t it eventually have to be balanced between public and branded?

    I have always believed that branded customer communities are the best breeding ground for creating customer brand champions and building loyalty with your customers and heavy users. Combined within something like an iCoke.ca rewards program or integrating at the restaurant level in some way (McCafe social groups for example), it can build significant membership.

    Either way, I am intrigued by your approach to Social Media and in seeing how it will work out for you.

    All the best with the launch!

    Jeff – Sensei

  2. I hope you do want traffic into your restaurants ;)

    My point: as much as I do agree with you that measuring traffic to your web-site is no longer (has it ever been?) a good metric, the metrics that you are talking about, make sense only if they show good correlation with traffic to the restaurants.. or sales of products that you had conversations on etc etc..

    If there is a clear correlation between your metrics and the metric that counts, than you know it makes sense to drive these conversations.. If not, you may as well be measuring web-site traffic..

    imho

    Thx.

    Wim Rampen
    @wimrampen on Twitter

  3. Wim & Jeff:

    Both excellent comments. Thanks for your feedback.

    A branded (or semi-branded) community as a conversation destination is an intriguing prospect. Lots of clear benefits, but “getting it right” would be a tougher nut to crack than driving traffic to it.

    In regards to traffic and ROI….Web traffic could be the single most important metric for certain brands, but for me it isn’t important. But when I can correlate social media programs to foot traffic to our restaurants, that will be a banner day.

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