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Understanding data part 2: Appearance

Understanding data part 2: Appearance

Following on from the post last month on understanding data acquisition, this post is going to address the fact that there is so much data out there – how do you know what you should be looking at, what good data looks like and which bits are genuinely useful. You are probably thinking this already, and you’re are right to do so. What constitutes good data depends on your objectives. For some it will be high numbers in social sharing or comments, for others it may be traffic to a specific web page or time spent on site.

What is good data?

It’s any data that allows you to better understand and deliver quality, contextual content to users.

What could this look like?
Data sample points that help you to understand your consumers/users wants, dislikes and behaviours:

Data Points
Social sharing (top left), Newsletter A/B testing (top right), Traffic referral source (bottom left), device source bottom middle), Visitor demographics – gender (bottom right)

Additional data-points to consider:

  • Time on site
  • Un-opened newsletters
  • Platform performance
  • Unfollows/unlikes

Too many look for high numbers across the board – particularly when using these figures to address KPIs. The issue here is that to achieve success in a certain space, to hit a certain objective, may mean that you have to sacrifice increasing figures in another area – and that’s okay. It’s important to set clear objectives and KPIs to reach those. Don’t just measure for measurements sake and cause strain to increase everything at once.

When looking at how people use your platforms or channels, for example, people may engage more with a post on Twitter than Facebook, even though the content was the same/similar, it’s key to take the learnings into account to ensure that you are delivering the right content types, topics and formats that the audience want to engage with.

The article you see shares for above (top left of image) shows that 2x more people were likely to share the post on Twitter than Facebook, particularly in the first 24 hours of the post being live.

Looking at the those figures (first 24 hours live) one might claim that the article was something people would associate themselves with and share out, so they must believe in/agree with the article, however it’s not something they want to share with their closer knit circle (Facebook) and not with their pure business circle (LinkedIn) which sits at zero. At the time, that may be a logical assumption, however when the same article was looked at a couple weeks later (see the sharing figures below), you’ll notice that Facebook has increased slightly and Twitter stayed relatively the same, however LinkedIn increased significantly, suggesting that the article might actually resonate even further with the more professional side of readers interests.

The key takeaway: Don’t look at your data to pull insights until you absolutely have to. Ensure you’ve given plenty of time for consumers to behave naturally with how and when they prefer to engage with your content.

But Twitter went so high, so fast, what’s up with that?
My hypothesis with 98% of the Twitter shares happening in the first 24 hours is that many people saw the article heading and shared/tweeted/retweeted without actually reading. They may have saved it to a read it later type app, however many people don’t actually take the time to read full articles anymore, and often take the risk of sharing any content that they think sounds like them from the title (yes, this can be dangerous, but that’s another post!).

Key takeaway: make sure when reviewing if your content is successful, don’t look purely at social shares alone. Make sure you overlay this information with data such as time spent on the page and bounce rates.

There is so much more that goes into understanding what good data is for you and how to use it to ensure it’s useful for your needs. In the next piece, we’ll look at the application of data and how to make it work for your needs.

Understanding data part 1: Acquisition

Understanding data part 1: Acquisition

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. This data is big data.

Whether you’re a small organisation, independent or part of a large organisation, you are not only creating some of that data, but you will be acquiring and probably own a bit as well.

Recently I spoke at MagFest2015 (read our summary of the day) on the use of data in publishing and over the next month I’ll be sharing aspects of the presentation on the Stripe blog. The three areas covered are:

  • Acquisition – ways to collect and collate your data
  • Appearance – what different types of data look like and which bits are useful
  • Application – how to use the data ongoing

Acquisition
The amount of data can be paralysing for many, knowing what you want to acquire and how to go about acquiring it is hard – and believe it or not, for many people, the next question is “Why should I bother?” The benefits can be vast – data can:

  • Provide feedback that you don’t get directly from users via support channels (people always talk about things they don’t like or that are broken – but don’t often talk about things that are working well!)
  • Raise questions that you may not have considered about how people use your content/channels
  • Enable you to create the content wanted by your audience, as opposed to what you think they want
  • Overlay with any target audience data for granular targeting and ad placements
  • Give you the insight to apply a strategic approach to your short and long-term planning

Ultimately, all of the above helps to deliver a stronger return on investment.

Reeling it in – some sources to begin gathering data:

Be proactive – there are ways you can go and search for data not directly through your channels, utilising tools and sites (free and paid) such as:

There are several reasons that keep people from taking advantage of the data, such as knowing what’s useful, set-up, implementation, understanding what the data means, pulling useful insights, resource and time. There’s the excuses out of the way and it’s never too later to a) get started or b) get it set up so that you are tracking and reporting properly. As the saying goes, we never have time to do it right, but we always have time to do it over.

Remember that just because you didn’t do it from day one or haven’t been tracking doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start (and if you want some help, don’t hesitate to get in touch!)