I bought a book on social media/web analytics once, but I never really read it. I more so read it in principle, because, well, I could only tackle a few chapters before feeling like I was about to fall asleep. So now it sits on my bookshelf in my office and collects dust while making me look like I'm much smarter than I am.
Since that sort-of-failed attempt at researching how to collect and analyze data about who's clicking on what and how much on the various web and social platforms I manage in my work, I've adopted more of a learn-as-you-go, intuitive, approach to the whole analytics discipline and have picked up a few tactics that I think are worth sharing. So here they are.
Meet the numbers for a coffee
This might sound sort of strange, but I stopped treating the numbers as numbers, and started treating it like a person I meet for coffee once a week.
Yes, every Monday, I roll into the office, pour myself a toasty americano with a bit of cream, and have a nice meet and greet with the latest numbers.
Me: how do you do social media numbers?
Social media numbers: well, let me tell you...
I play this weird game because I want to move past viewing the numbers as just numbers, and start viewing them as numbers that represent real people, with real emotions, thoughts, tastes, and life stages that I can acquaint myself with and engage by simply taking the time to listen and discern: what is it you're trying to tell me?
At the most basic level, you have to adopt a listener's attitude. Just like an excellent conversationalist at a coffee meetup knows how to hear what you're really trying to say, ask the right questions, and how to respond to your words, a good analyst knows how to listen to what their numbers are really try to say and respond with insight, compassion, and intuition.
It's less about step-by-step-science and more about the-art-of-relational-listening.
In other words, the numbers are people too!
Peaks and valleys are probable
If the numbers represent humans, then the numbers will always take on human characteristics. That means when it's a long weekend, don't expect through the roof results when you open up Facebook Insights on your first day back to work after that road trip you took to Seattle. In the same way you were getting away for the weekend to relax and unplug, so were the whole bunch of other people who follow you on Twitter—and neither of you had as much time or will as you usually do to click "favourite," "like," "share," or "retweet" on the pages you track and follow.
Peaks will happen. So will valleys.
Don't freak out, shut down, or destroy and rebuild your brand or strategy unless you have a steady, one month, decline into the valley of the shadow and social media death.
Then you should start freaking out.
Seek out the stories
If you want to know if you're hitting your targets and engaging the right people, you could always, you know, actually talk to to the right people instead of staring at a spreadsheet in your office and expecting it to tell you what you need to know.
Not only can you ask your coworkers what they think about whether or not your recent content has been engaging lately (or boring as plain yogurt), you can also ask your friends. Both will be honest with you if you ask them to be, and the data they can provide is usually immensely valuable.
The trick is to actually talk to people. Tell them what your gut is telling you. Tell them about the new idea you have. Tell them about the new voice you're trying. Tell them about the story you're working on.
See what they say. It might be valuable.
It probably is.
Think like a human
At the end of the day, think like a person. Not a computer. Not an organization. Not an agency.
If you're stuck or feel like you're starting to slide backwards, it's probably because you've stopped being human in your content strategy, branding, and analysis.
So when it doubt, get back to the human questions and answers, because those are your best bet and getting you back on track if you're drifting off of it.