Observe the fitting metrics with holistic evaluation

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Do people around you keep praising the benefits of metrics and analytics?

Web analytics, digital analytics, social media analytics, the list goes on. Yes we get it. Metrics and ROI are important.

But do you feel overwhelmed? Unsure where to start or what metrics to analyze in relation to your specific business context?

The problem lies in the false assumption that analytics starts with metrics. In reality, analytics should start with a systemic or holistic investigation, first of the organizational situation (problem) that triggered the need for analytics, and second of your own subjective role within the analytics process.

Please read on to learn how to do this, especially in the context of social media.

Analyzes are subjective, not objective

In typical analyzes – let’s say social media analytics – we assume that the data and social media groups are “out there” waiting to be analyzed.

That is not completely right. Social network data, like all social data, is inconsistent, coherent, or predefined. Such data is selectively collected by analysts and marketers like you based on your subjective assessments and preconceived notions.

When analyzing a social media group that is important to your company, you make a lot of subjective judgments.

First, you need to decide which relationships in the group you want to focus on based on the context and objectives of your request. In a Twitter group, for example, you can choose between the follower relationship, the retweet relationship, the “favorite tweet” relationship or the mention relationship.

You also need to select the aspects of the social group structure that the analysis should focus on (e.g. network density).

Also, you might be interested in identifying top influencers in specific social media groups in order to get involved in influencer marketing. “To win the content marketing game, brands need to focus more on optimized, personalized and influence-enabled content experiences,” said the CEO of TopRank Marketing in the HubSpot Not Another State of Marketing Report.

Before identifying top influencers, you, as an analyst, need to decide how to define a “top influencer”. Is it someone who is mentioned frequently by others in the group or is it someone who shares a lot of content? Is it someone connected to a lot of other influencers, or is it a user connecting members of the group who are otherwise disconnected from membership as a whole?

Such judgments in analytics are based on your interpretation of the goals and context of the particular investigation, your understanding of the social media group being analyzed, and your previous experience with similar projects.

You see the analyzed social media group within your organizational context and your subjective frame of reference. Your subjective perception is influenced by your previous experiences, prejudices and assumptions. Your subjective frame of reference will influence the initial assumptions about the group, the choice of relationship around which the analysis will be structured, the choice of which aspect of the social network structure to focus on, the choice of metrics to be used to measure impact, and the meaning of the results in the context of the social media group and organization you belong to.

Accordingly, the analytics are not objective. It’s subjective.

How important is it for you to learn more about your subjective perception of both the analyzed social media group and the business context?

This is vital as it can help you gain a more systematic or holistic understanding of the situation being analyzed before deciding which metrics to track. It can also help you explain to your managers the business value of tracking certain metrics.

So how can you tackle this? Here are a few suggestions.

How to do holistic analysis

1. Think of analytics as a social process or group activity

Each analyst has his own subjective view of the organizational context and the objectives of the analysis. If you want to generate a holistic understanding, you have to bring these different views together and view them as a whole. For this we need analysts who define and discuss their subjective views.

2. Visual representation of the subjective perceptions of analysts

We all know what we are thinking. But if we are to really understand and discuss different views, those views need to be presented as visual artifacts.

Here is a system map made by an analyst to show his views on a particular social media group. The maps created by individual analysts should be shared and discussed with a group of analysts.

3. Discuss! To discuss! To discuss!

Discussing your individual system maps (or other visual artifacts) that represent analysts’ views can help uncover issues related to organizational context and social media group that were previously unknown. Such discussions help clarify the differences in the motivations of each analyst and also reveal similarities.

A holistic understanding is achieved when differences are reconciled and analysts can move on to a group view of the situation being analyzed.

4. Use the following questions to holistically examine your subjectivity as an analyst

  • What are your goals with this analytics project?
  • What benefits could you get from carrying out the project?
  • What risks could you be exposed to by carrying out the project?
  • Is there anything in your wider community who could possibly stop or hinder your investigation or the changes you want to make based on the investigation results?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your organization or in your wider environment who are interested in the investigation or would be affected by it? How would they be affected?
  • Who else is involved in the project and how do they interact with you and with each other?
  • What formal authority do you have to make changes to the situation to be analyzed or to its wider environment?
  • In addition to formal powers, do you have informal resources that you could use to change the situation?
  • What types of changes or transformations would you hope for based on the results of your investigation in the situation to be analyzed or in its wider environment?
  • What do you hope to learn from the project?

The above questions can be customized for different types of analysis projects. For example, if you’re analyzing a social media group, here’s how you can ask your questions:

  • What are your goals when analyzing this social media group?
  • What benefits could you potentially get from analyzing the group?
  • What risks could you potentially be exposed to by analyzing the group?
  • Is there something or someone in your wider community that could possibly stop or hinder your request or the changes you would like to make to the social media group or this wider community based on the results of the investigation?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your wider environment who are interested in the investigation or would be affected by it? How would they be affected?
  • Who else is involved in the project and how do they interact with you and with each other?
  • What formal authority do you have to make changes related to how your company interacts with this social media group?
  • In addition to formal powers, do you have informal resources that you could use to make changes?
  • Based on the results of your research, what kind of changes would you hope for in relation to your company’s interaction with this social media group?
  • What do you hope to learn from the project?

* * *

There are some key takeaways from this article.

First, As analysts and marketers, we need to take a holistic view of the situation that triggered the need for analytics and its wider business context before considering which metrics to track.

Second, acknowledge that analysis is not entirely objective. During the analysis process we are asked to make a lot of subjective judgments. By recognizing our subjective views and creating opportunities to define and discuss these views, we can generate a more systemic and holistic view at the group level of the object or situation being analyzed and its business context.

Third, recognize that analysis should be performed as an interactive group activity. When analytics is conducted as an interactive social process, we can discuss the individual perspectives of analysts and identify new insights that could emerge when the individual views are combined.

So, if you don’t know where to start your analytics process, what metrics to track, and how to identify insights that will make a difference, start with a holistic approach.

More resources on holistic analytics and tracking the right metrics

Five web analytics tools to optimize and measure marketing ROI

How to Measure Your Social Media Marketing Campaigns: Six Useful Metrics

Advanced real-time analytics gives you the answers that Google Analytics can’t

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