With so many pieces of information floating around we are more pressed than ever to find something, anything that can help us make sense of the mess. Tools and apps and platforms abound, smashing together data with alacrity, and pouring out more data as a response.
If you want to know where to spend your money so that you’ve got the best and most useful analytics tool for social media on the market today, I’m about to cut through all of that clutter and help you out.
Buy yourself a brand new (or slightly used), shiny current version of a Human 1.0, and the brain they bring with them. (Find a good one, of course, there are some lemons out there).
Measurement has become almost as bad of a battle cry as “influence” or “awareness” or “Community”. We have millions of pieces of information out there, and if we can come up with any way of distilling them into something that feels simple, we cry eureka! and slather it all over our reports like it tells us everything we want to know.
But software and tools and automated rankings and everything of the stripe leaves one feature off the list, the feature that only that Human 1.0 can bring to you:
The ability to look at a number and ask hmmm, where did that come from? Is that accurate? Complete? Relevant? Does it matter? Why does it matter, and what other information do I need to pair it with in order to make it matter? What’s is this number actually telling me, and can I improve upon it by changing how we gather it somehow?
Only the human brain is capable of accurately and consistently critiquing and evaluating some of the most important qualitative things around data: context, nuance, sarcasm, unspoken implication, the dynamics of the ecosystem that sprouted the numbers, the impact that the gathering mechanism has on the numbers, understanding what other numbers and data should be related to one in order to make it potentially meaningful.
Data is a bunch of numbers. Alone, they mean jack, because they tell you nothing but a snapshot of something devoid of any context whatsoever. Even clustered together in “statistics”, without context or caveat, many of those numbers mean less than nothing themselves. Information is data more ordered, where you have some organization, enough so that some meaning can be interpreted from it . But what most companies are striving for is insight, the highest rung on the measurement ladder, the process of collecting and analyzing information that, when interpreted, actually yields something of value upon which you can make a decision.
You don’t get a cookie for running a report. You don’t even get a cookie for highlighting something on that report and saying ‘hmm, that’s really interesting.” Measurement itself is not the goal. Measurement is a tool and a process for finding insights, which are in turn information used to make better decisions. What to start doing, what to keep doing, what to stop doing. You don’t win until you say you can do that through your measurement efforts.
We accept far too much information, scores and rankings, even “research”, at face value. There’s so much of it, that we take the short cut of always presuming that the conclusions put in front of us are true, that the work has been done to make them useful and relevant and even correct. It’s the new generation of “if you read it in the newspaper, it must be true.”
The most valuable asset we have is our own minds, capable of incisive thought and critical thinking to help us find meaning amongst all that information, meaning that matters to us and not someone else. Tom Webster calls it “doing your own work”. Otherwise, the result is simply noise.
If all we’re doing is reporting on noise and putting in pretty graphics, we’re doing ourselves – and the painstaking work we’ve undertaken – a terrible disservice. We need people, human brains who can interrogate that data relentlessly, question its use and validity and contextual relevance, and transform it into information that enlightens us, that guides us, that’s completely relevant for our work and our achievements and our goals…and even lead us to another layer of questions we should be asking.
Anything other is just shortcuts. No one ever said this wasn’t going to take work, or investment for that matter. Find yourself someone with sleeves that need rolling, a head for asking really smart questions, and set them loose. It’s the best money you’ll spend not just on social media, but on your business.