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

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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 very important. But do you feel overwhelmed? Not sure where to start or which 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 begin with a systemic or holistic investigation, first of the organizational (problem) situation that triggered the need for analytics, and second of your own subjective role within the analytics process. If you’d like to learn more about it, especially in the context of social media analytics, please read on.

What about your subjectivity?

Typical analytics, let’s say social media analytics, assume that the data and social media groups are “out there” waiting to be analyzed. This is not entirely true. Like all social data, social network data is not simply “given” by actual phenomena. Such data is selectively collected by analysts like you based on your subjective assessments and predefined ideas.

As an analyst, you will make a lot of subjective judgments when analyzing a social media group that is important to your company. First, you need to decide which relationship (s) in a group 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. In Hubspots Not Another State of Marketing Report, the CEO of TopRank Marketing is quoted as saying, “To win the content marketing game, brands need to focus more on optimized, personalized and influence-activated content experiences.”

Before identifying top influencers, you, as an analyst, need to decide how to define a top influencer. For example, 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?

These types of assessments in analytics are based on your interpretation of the objectives / context of the particular study, your understanding of the social media group being analyzed, and your previous experience with similar projects. Analytics is therefore not purely objective. It’s subjective.

You see the social media group to be analyzed from 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 influences the initial assumptions about the group, the choice of 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 use measure and the importance of the results in the context of the social media group and organization you belong to.

So how important is it for you to learn more about your subjective perception of both the social media group being analyzed and the business context? This is vital as it can help you gain a more systemic / holistic understanding of the situation to be analyzed before deciding on the metrics to track. It can also help you explain to your managers the business value of tracking certain metrics.

So how can you do that, you ask? We have a few suggestions.

How do you carry out holistic analyzes?

1. Think of analytics as a social process or group activity. Each analyst has his own subjective view of the organizational context / objectives of the analysis. If we want to generate a holistic understanding, then we have to bring these different perspectives together and view them as a whole. To do 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 really want to understand and discuss different views, then 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 the individual system maps (or other visual artifacts) that represent the analysts’ views can help uncover issues about the organizational context (and social media group) that were previously unknown. Such discussions help to clarify the differences in the motivations of each analyst and also to show 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 questions like the following to holistically examine your subjectivity as an analyst.

  • What are your goals with this analytics project?
  • What benefits could you potentially gain from this analysis project?
  • What risks could you be exposed to in carrying out this analysis project?
  • Is there something or someone in your wider community who could possibly stop or hinder your investigation or the changes you want to make based on the results of the investigation?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your wider environment who are interested in or would be affected by the investigation, and how would they be affected?
  • Who else is involved in this analytics project and how do they interact 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 other informal resources that you can use to make changes to the situation being analyzed or its broader environment?
  • 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 are you hoping for from this analytics project?

The above questions can be customized for different types of analysis projects. For example, if you are analyzing a social media group, you can use the following questions.

  • What are your goals when analyzing this social media group?
  • What are the potential benefits of analyzing this group?
  • What risks could you possibly be exposed to in analyzing this 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 and / or your wider community based on the results of the request?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your wider environment who are interested in the investigation or would be affected by it, and how would they be affected?
  • Who else is involved in this analytics project and how do they interact 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 other informal resources that you can use to make changes to how your company interacts with this social media group?
  • 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 are you hoping for from this analytics project?

Conclusion

There is some insight from this article.

As analysts, we first need to fully understand the situation that triggered the need for analytics and its wider business context before deciding which metrics to track.

Second, we have to recognize that analytics is not entirely objective. As analysts, we are asked to make many subjective judgments during the analysis process. By recognizing our subjective views and creating opportunities to define and discuss these views, we can generate a more systemic / holistic view at the group level of the analyzed object / situation and the business context in which it is located.

Third, we need to recognize that analysis should be done as an interactive group activity. When analytics is done 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, look no further. Start by thinking holistically.

How to Think Holisticly: A Guide to Tracking the Right Metrics for Your Business first appeared in Social Media Explorer.