You’re a new startup. You’ve told your VC guys that your app has been downloaded 5M times. You’ve told them that you’re the fastest growing website in history. But you’re not sharing who’s on your site or what they’re doing at any given time.
Why can’t metrics be shared publicly? Now imagine you are a committed user of an application and you’ve just discovered that few people were actually, actively using it, what would you do? Probably you’ve had this sense for a while. You’ve been posting links, locations and videos for weeks now and it just feels like broadcasting; no one is replying. Maybe it’s one app in a sea of similar applications and while your friends are busy using a competitive app you’re loving the one you’re on. Yet, sadly, this app is dying the slow death. Out of the gate it launched to big fan fare and tons of buzz. It easily solved a need that you had and you become committed because of it.
At what point should you know that it’s failing? In most real-world cases, it’s the day a beleaguered founder posts on his blog that the party is over. Maybe, like with Delicious, you’re lucky and months before the collapse you’re told that the meteor is coming. Now you’ve got just enough time to pack up and jump. But in both of these cases, these are out-of-the-blue moments. But in my opinion, in our world, there’s no excuse for this. We can’t preach being user-centric but not provide the tools to help our users truly participate. I think the information can help and sustain growth. I’d be interested in being able to see how my activity on a site relates directly changes the metrics. I’d like to be able to promote or help or participate in a new startup through an understanding that things are either great or dropping rapidly. I’d like to have the option of jumping on the wagon and collaborative cheering new users into a site.
As a startup, should be afraid of sharing your metrics? What do you actually lose by sharing? Isn’t the basic business model of your startup about sharing? But my real question is, do you think that loyalty can be driven by transparency? To this, I believe the answer is yes and I’d love to hear other thoughts, counter or otherwise.
Another quick thought … There’s some big implications here. A great app with dropping stats and tons of VC funding is going to have a hard time being unloaded but isn’t the real value of those companies to be the mistakes that we all learn from?
(btw, the image above is a screenshot of Google Analytics for this site as of 3/23/11. I was shocked to see the boost in traffic. Thanks!)