If you have a blog or you tweet, or perhaps your research team has a social media or web presence, then you may find yourself looking at that site’s metrics, trying to make sense of the graphs, figures and numbers presented to you. In this blog post, I offer some simple tips for busy researchers.
To keep it all simple, you need to choose which metrics matter and then more or less ignore the rest. I’ve found that these “measures” can be enormously distracting, especially if you have numerous accounts. You should choose what really matters based on what you’re trying to achieve, and not worry about that horizontal line on a graph that makes it look as if you are falling below some standard. At least, not unless it was you who set the horizontal line as a target!
Looking at the numbers and graphs is one step, understanding them the second step, and then the third step of doing something about what you’ve learnt is perhaps the most important of all. Here at Piirus, we think that visitors and their behaviour are the key metric for our blog. We want researchers to read our content so that they understand that Piirus wants to support them to become effective collaborators and digital academics, and we want researchers to make valuable connections on Piirus itself, of course. The average time a visitor spends on the Piirus blog is just under 3 minutes: this seems long enough to quickly read one of our blog posts, so we’re happy with that!
You might also be interested in these aspects of your visitors, which you can investigate in most tools:
- How many visitors you’ve had on your blog or profile: is the number growing or sinking over your measured time period?
- Who are they? Are there individuals/organisations amongst the visitors, who you want to connect with? Where do the visitors come from? Our metrics show that this blog reaches international audiences and we’re strengthening our reach outside of the UK, where Piirus originates.
- How did the visitors find you? Is it through search engines, or perhaps that conference you presented at? Have the visitors on search engines used keywords that you would expect them to, to find your site? Are there any surprises that offer opportunities for you?
- The number of social media “likes” or “shares” of your content, or comments and other such engagements.
Some tools you can use for measuring and tracking include:
- Analytics within your publishing platform e.g.: Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest, Facebook, etc
- Other analytics tools that are free or have free versions include: SocialBro, Buffer, Klout, TweetReach, Hootsuite
- Google Analytics is a tool with lots to offer, and we like this guide for beginners.
I’m rather fond of Hootsuite’s free Twitter profile overview: here, I can look at the tweets from the last year and see which links from them got most clicks, then I can understand what my audience are interested in and perhaps continue to provide such tweets in future. You don’t get distracted by too many measures in this report, and you can look back over a long period of time.
The key thing I’ve found with investigating this kind of metric is to find a success story (or stories!) to shout about, and also the places where you can quietly improve, against your own chosen targets.
We’d love to hear from you: what are you measuring, and why? There is always more to learn in this area, and I’m sure I’ll blog about it again in future!