Analytics: The New Normal

google_analytics_v2_dashboard copy
Recently, I had a conversation with a client about adopting the habit of regularly tracking their analytics, to see what level of traction their messages have. They’ve begun to do so regularly, but they’ve arrived at a concern about a drop-off in audience engagement from one week to the next. I told them not to be:

Them: “Soooooo are you saying don’t worry about (analytics) and wait until the end of the year when we can see the impact over a period of time?”
Me: “Is there ever a simple answer? … Yes.”

The long answer …

Performance analysis has to have perspective:

Translation: Don’t work out in the mirror!

“(Analysis) is the new normal—everything can be tracked. In the process, though, we can’t ask (ourselves) “Am I improving?” every ten minutes because we’re not giving enough time to let an individual strategy become a part of a strategic process. But after giving something a certain amount of time, we can begin to know the ROI on effort or at least feel comfortable we’re not just shooting in the dark.

I’ve become a bit of a Strava hound: I use a GPS-tracker to track my (cycling) and over the course of about two years, now, I can see the long-term trend of improved cycling. On a week-to-week basis, it’s difficult to see–much less know–when to rest, lose some weight or something or compare historical data of how often I rode this time last year, etc. To bore you enough with all that, it’s intriguing how data can help us, as a society, understand trends in performance and how that can lead to better performance over time by reducing waste and improving outcomes.”

If one is focused on continuously improving methods and messages, the blips on the radar, that need improving become challenges that can be met and trained to overcome, not feared. I just read an article in the New Yorker that discussed the issue of continuous improvement by focusing on relating to one’s data. In it, James Surowiecki mentions the Japanese term, “kaizen” The article continues: “In a kaizen world, skill is not a static, fixed quality but the subject of ceaseless labor.”

While analysis may be the new normal, unprocessed data isn’t very good at helping in the short term. If one works out for ten minutes and then wonder “Am I better than I was twenty minutes ago?” he or she runs the risk of driving him or herself crazy, throwing the prospects of a solid feedback loop into a frenzy of checking your form in the proverbial mirror after each push-up.

In the short term, yes, put out the fire do what needs to get done to get through. But long term: focus on honing and perfecting that message, using data to understand your audience and connect with them.