5 Steps Required to Building a Best Practice Digital Analytics Function

badge-guest-post-FLATTERThe communications landscape has forever changed with the explosion of social and digital media. That explosion has meant that few communications plans are being developed without this sort of media factored into the program. We will save any editorial commentary on whether that change is good, and instead focus on the fact that these technologies offer communicators a unique way to reach key stakeholders. It is not about blasting people with a press release, or cold pitching reporters strictly because a tool said they covered your beat (though a fair bit of that still goes on), or even building a site and hoping people will come. No, the new age of communications is about creating content and engaging with stakeholders in a closer to 1:1 environment than ever before.

As social and digital media become more mainstream, so to does the volume of content that gets created. Consider for a moment that people and brands send almost 350 million tweets and share more than 684,000 bits of content on Facebook per day. People upload approximately 72 hours of video to YouTube every minute, and Google receives over two million search queries every minute.

You get the idea, right?

The changing communications landscape has also led to revolutionary changes in the world of market research. Those bits of content mentioned above are individual data points on how our customers behave. Unfortunately, not every market research professional is adopting this new form of research citing its lack of structure as a major drawback. Fortunately, that’s becoming a smaller group of individuals as progressive companies up and down the Fortune 500 list see mining digital and social data as an essential part of the marketing function.

That digital analytics function does not just happen. A lot of planning and thought go into creating such a team. Some of the elements may exist within your company, but many do not. So what does it take to build a best-in-class digital analytics function from scratch? There are five things that every organization should undertake:

Build Your Analytics Toolbox

One of the most common misconceptions about digital analytics is that everything revolves around a social media listening tool. Sure, having a quality listening tool is important, but it is only one part of the equation. If you are to truly build a high quality digital analytics function you should be looking at search analytics, content analytics, audience analytics and influencer analytics tools. Does this require you to do a little more due diligence? Yes, but unfortunately most of the data is in silos at this point, which requires a well-rounded toolbox.

Identify a Team Leader

To ask someone within the marketing function, or even at a brand level to take on the additional work required of a digital analytics program is unrealistic. You may have someone on your team already who may fit the bill, and that is great. The key is identifying that leader who can build the capability for you. Trying to build this capability as one person’s part-time job means it will not happen.

Build the Rest of the Team

After your leader is chosen the next step may be to hire people to support the leader. Keep in mind, though, that the number of people who have executed analytics programs for the Fortune 500 is very small so finding a larger team could prove challenging. Rather, your leader may need to rely on other interested team members as the function gets off the ground. That is a better scenario than relying on already strapped team members to lead the function and do their day jobs.

Develop Your Digital Data Use Cases

The most common digital data use case is for public relations and marketing, and that is totally fine. If you are using the data to inform communications planning or content development, you are off to a good start. In 2009, Ken Burbary and I developed the social analytics lifecycle to outline the process by which digital data could be used across the organization. We still feel that the biggest untapped opportunity in digital analytics is using it across customer service, product planning, strategic planning and human resources. To build that sort of program, however, the use cases must be developed. Several questions, including how insights will be developed for that group, will need to be answered before moving forward.

Determine Your Reporting Cadence

One of the biggest issues with digital data is its sheer volume. If you are working for a large brand there is a very good chance you will be inundated with information the first time that you turn on the “hose.” This is okay because not everything needs to be gathered at once. There will be some metrics that are better for annual reporting, while others will be better for more real-time reporting. Whatever the cadence, it should be spelled out before the program is launched.

In our new book, Digital Marketing Analytics: Making Sense of Consumer Data in a Digital World we go into more detail on each of these points. For now, it is important to know that building a digital analytics function is not easy. There is a dearth of quality analytics people currently looking for jobs. Achieving internal buy-in for this new type of research can be challenging. However, the explosion of digital media and the subsequent explosion of customer data have made building the function almost essential.

Want a chance to win a free copy of Chuck and Ken’s new book, Digital Marketing Analytics: Making Sense of Consumer Data in a Digital World? Simply tweet about this post using the hashtag #digitalanalyticsbook and we’ll choose 3 winners by the end of the week!

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