The Roman ‘mob’ and your website ‘visitors’

One of the best articles I read at university was about the Roman mob.

Traditionally the Roman mob was see as a mindless destructive hoard, who at the drop of a hat (helmet?) would rampage through Rome burning the place down.

The solution to keep the mob quiet was ‘bread and circuses’ keep ’em fed and entertained – hence the ‘populist’ emperors.

However one historian (apologies for not remembering the name) decided to find out who was actually in the Roman mob.

As a result he came to the conclusion that the mob were not just a load of layabouts who liked to riot but discrete groups of individuals with particular concerns.

They might be veteran soldiers without a pension, some peasants who had just come to Rome and not found a job yet. Or some of the poorer craftsmen suddenly affected by a rise in grain prices.

In fact the mob was not a mob at all it was a collection of lots of smaller groups who, on a particular day, found that all their different grievences brought them together to take ‘direct action’ – that’s the mob and rioting stuff.

I was thinking about the Roman mob and website visitors.

How often do we say ooh we have a lot of visitors and just look at the numbers?

But have we:

  • identified particular groups interested in specific content?
  • how many people are in these groups?
  • how many of them came to your site?
  • do we know which sites they come from?
  • do we know what they expected to find?
  • did they find it?
  • did they leave an feedback?
  • do they want different content?
  • were they satisfied?

What I am trying to say is that we don’t just have ‘website visitors’ or ‘traffic’. We have individuals, we have niche groups, who expect or are trying to find something specific.

I am not saying that they will go on a riot if they don’t get what they want, but they might not come back to you site which could be worse.



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