How to Think Holistically: A Guide to Tracking the Right Metrics for Your Business


Are people around you constantly extolling 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 very important. But, are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you not know where to start, or which metrics to analyze in relation to your specific business context?

The problem lies in the misconception that analytics begins with metrics. In reality, analytics should start with a systemic or holistic examination of first, the organizational (problem) situation that precipitated the need for analytics, and second, your own subjective role within the analytics process. If you want to learn about how to do this, especially in the context of social media analytics, please read on.

What About Your Subjectivity?

In typical analytics, let’s say social media analytics, an assumption is made that the data and social media groups are “out there” and are waiting to be analyzed. This is not entirely accurate. Social network data, like all social data, are not simply “given” through actual phenomena. Such data is selectively harvested by analysts like you according to your subjective judgments and pre-defined notions.

As an analyst, you will make many subjective judgments when analyzing a social media group that is important to your business.   First, you must decide on which relationship/s in a group to focus on based on the context and goals of your inquiry. For example, in a Twitter group, you could pick between the follower relationship, the retweet relation, the “favorited tweet” relation, or the mention relation. You must also pick the aspects of the social group structure to focus the analysis on (e.g. network density).

Also, you might be interested in identifying top influencers in certain social media groups to engage in influencer marketing.   In Hubspot’s Not another State of Marketing Report, the CEO of TopRank Marketing is quoted saying, “To win the content marketing game, brands need to focus more on optimized, personalized and influencer activated content experiences.”

Before identifying top influencers, you as an analyst must decide on what your definition of a top influencer is. For example, is it someone who gets mentioned a lot by others in the group, or is it someone who shares lots of content? Is it someone who is connected to lots of other influencers, or is it a user who connects members of the group who are otherwise disconnected from the membership at large?

These sorts of judgments in analytics are made based on your interpretation of the goals/context of the particular inquiry, your understanding of the social media group under analysis, and any past experiences with similar projects. As such, analytics is not purely objective. It is subjective.

You will view the social media group to be analyzed from within your organizational context and subjective frame of reference. Your subjective perceptions will be influenced by your prior experiences, biases, and assumptions. Your subjective frame of reference will influence the initial assumptions regarding the group, the selection of the relationship to structure the analysis around, the choice of which aspect of the social network structure to focus on, the choice of metric(s) to be used to measure influence, and the significance of the results in the context of the social media group and the organization that you belong to.

So, how important is it for you to learn more about your subjective perceptions on both the social media group to be analyzed and the business context? It is vital as it can help you to gain a more systemic/ holistic understanding of the situation under analysis before you decide on which metrics to track. It can also help you to explain the business value of tracking particular metrics to your managers.

So how can you set about doing this, you ask? We have some suggestions.

How to Conduct Holistic Analytics?

1. Think of analytics as a social process or a group activity. Each analyst will have their own subjective view of the organizational context/ goals for the analysis. If we want to generate a holistic understanding, then we need to bring these divergent views together and look at them as a whole. To do this, we need analysts to define and discuss their subjective views.

2. Visually represent the subjective perceptions of analysts. We all know what we are thinking. But, if we are to truly understand and discuss different views, then those views must be displayed as visual artifacts. Here is a systems map that was created by an analyst to represent his views on a particular social media group. The maps drawn by individual analysts should be shared and discussed among a group of analysts.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/i6zKnZVpp1EW8bZcxJvBlab8RYIMjyrUMP6Tbj_NiIPtb-Jo2zeVkBCC18E97fglqmKCzFhncUWdgkBOQIGZre0_2AzaGm5Ai5E1IpCtfE5nbOVxiu7TMAlf_SxLgWKvBl8b-ANk

3. Discuss!! Discuss!!! Discuss!! Discussing the individual systems maps (or other visual artifacts) representing the views of analysts can help surface issues about the organizational context (and social media group) that were previously unknown. Such discussions help clarify the differences in each analyst’s motivation and also highlight common ground. Holistic understanding is achieved when differences are reconciled and analysts can move towards a group-level view of the situation to be analyzed.

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

  • What are your objectives for doing this analytics project?
  • What benefits could you potentially gain by doing this analytics project?
  • What risks could you potentially be exposed to by conducting this analytics project?
  • Is there anything or anyone in your wider environment who could potentially stop or impede your inquiry or the changes you would like to make based on the results of the inquiry?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your wider environment that would be interested in or affected by the inquiry, and how would they be affected?
  • Who else is involved in this analytics project and how do they engage with each other?
  • What level of formal authority do you have to make changes to the situation under analysis or its wider environment?
  •  In addition to any formal authority, do you have any other informal resources to hand that you can use to make changes related to the situation under analysis or its wider environment?
  • What types of changes or transformations would you hope to make to the situation under analysis or its wider environment based on the results of your inquiry?
  • What do you hope to learn from this analytics project?

 The above questions can be customized to suit different types of analytics projects. For example, when analyzing a social media group, you could use the following questions. 

  • What are your objectives for analyzing this social media group?
  • What benefits could you potentially gain by analyzing this group?
  • What risks could you potentially be exposed to by analyzing this group?
  • Is there anything or anyone in your wider environment who could potentially stop or impede your inquiry or the changes you would like to make to the social media group and/or your wider environment based on the results of the inquiry?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your wider environment that would be interested in or affected by the inquiry, and how would they be affected?
  • Who else is involved in this analytics project and how do they engage with each other?
  • What level of formal authority do you have to make changes related to how your company engages with this social media group?
  •  In addition to any formal authority, do you have any other informal resources to hand that you can use to make changes related to how your company engages with this social media group?
  • What types of changes would you hope to make regarding how your company engages with this social media group based on the results of your inquiry?
  • What do you hope to learn from this analytics project?

 Conclusion

There are a few takeaways from this article.

First, as analysts, we must holistically learn about the situation that precipitated the need for analytics and its wider business context before considering which metrics to track.

Second, we must acknowledge that analytics is not entirely objective. We, as analysts, are called upon to make many subjective judgments during the analytics process. By recognizing our subjective views and creating opportunities to define and discuss those views, we can generate a more systemic/holistic, group-level view of the object/situation under analysis and the business context within which it is located.

Third, we must recognize that analytics should be conducted 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 considered in combination with each other.

So if you are confused about where to start your analytics process, which metrics to track, and how to identify insights that make a difference, look no further. Start by thinking holistically.   

The post How to Think Holistically: A Guide to Tracking the Right Metrics for Your Business appeared first on Social Media Explorer.



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