In God we trust. Everyone else: bring data.
— Michael Bloomberg

We obsess about data. The Strong Towns approach is about making incremental change -- little bets -- then measuring the results. We've embodied this startup mentality in our day-to-day operations.

With the guidance of our Board of Directors, we track a series of metrics that help us discern whether or not we are making progress on reaching a million people who care. We also utilize a number of tools to help us refine our approach. Some highlights of those are included in the following.

Joe Minicozzi of Urban 3 and Chuck present the hard numbers.

Joe Minicozzi of Urban 3 and Chuck present the hard numbers.

Audience Trends

On the first of every month we record a snapshot of our blog and podcast audience. While the podcast experienced wide variability (largely correlated with publishing consistency), the blog audience grew steadily throughout the year.

Communications Pipeline

Our operational strategy for creating a movement of a million people who care is to move our audience through a communications pipeline. We envision our communications pipeline as follows:

Audience --> Weak Connection --> Strong Connection --> Advocate --> Member

When someone finds Strong Towns and becomes a member of our audience, we work to make a weak connection with them, such as on social media. Once we have a weak connection, we work to strengthen that connection through email. Where we have a strong connection, we work to help that individual become an advocate, sharing our message with others. Ultimately, we need many of our advocates to become members of Strong Towns so that we can continue to expand the pipeline.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve this pipeline. For example, last September we developed some new methods for collecting email addresses, which shows up in the pipeline chart below.

We're not just interested in reaching people -- that is actually the easiest part -- but in engaging them with content that is compelling. We monitor others that work in related spaces to get new ideas that can drive our engagement levels. As the chart below shows, while our movement is still in the early stages (left axis), we have really high engagement levels (right axis).

On a day-to-day basis, we use a variety of tools to help us deliver our content. For some time, we've used a program called CrazyEgg to help us see how far people scroll down and stay with our posts, where they click and what they find engaging. When a page is not performing as we hoped, we rework it until it does. 

Last year we also started using a program called Chartbeat, a display that gives us an up-to-the-second readout on how many people are on the site, where they came from and what content they are most interested in. This has been a critical tool for helping us display content, especially with the dynamic home page redesign we launched in January.

We will continue to track data and use a #DotheMath approach to determine the organization's next steps.