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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Andrew Krzmarzick

Great post, Nick…and this isn’t just true for the web. It’s instructive for anything government is doing to serve citizens, eh? Your questions are the key to any great marketing campaign.