Take a look around the web – especially on social networks – and you’ll see a lot of people and brands complaining about their marketing results.

From complaining about lack of action on a blog or website to little return on Facebook or LinkedIn, there’s a whole swathe of people blaming the lack of success on anything and everything.

“But have you looked at why you’re failing?” you can ask, and you’ll get the response, “Yes – we have analytics installed and we know we’re not getting the reach and results we’re looking for.”

And, usually, that’s the crux of the problem right there – because people are confusing analytics with the solutions to their problem, when it’s more than that that’s needed.

Analytics Are Not the Same as Insights

Don’t get me wrong – analytics are key and if you’re not even tracking the most basic of details around what you’re doing, of course you’re going to be screwed. Even the most basic of analytics gives you:

  • Traffic (in and out)
  • Demographics
  • What content works
  • What platform drives traffic
  • Behaviour on site

Go more advanced, and you can get a heck of a lot of information about your customers, existing and potential.

You can see what time of day they like to be online, what type of browser they use (desktop, mobile, Apple, PC, etc), what type of call-to-action’s catch their eye and turn them from intent to purchasers, and much more.

If you run a business, or are looking to run an online campaign for your business, and you’re not using analytics before, during and after to guide your decisions and follow-ups, then you’re not being anywhere near effective enough to be successful.

But… as good as these analytics are, they’re only part of the equation – the bigger picture comes from what insights you glean from them, and what you do with these insights.

Insights Are More Than Just Good Ideas

Once you have the information you need from whatever analytics package you use, the real work can begin. As an example, let’s say you’re looking to launch a book – here’s some of the ways to use insights from analytics for your campaign to reach your audience.

1. The percentage of tablet and mobile browsing versus desktop

From a personal point of view, I love to have an actual book in my hand when it comes to reading – there’s just something real about being able to flip a page versus sliding your finger across a screen. But that’s just me – many of my friends are far more attuned to tablet and eReader options.

By looking at your ideal audience – age, sex, income, browsing habits, etc – you can identify what their persona is more likely to be, and that can help define what the lead platform is – full print version or digital, with print to follow. You can also see which platform is best to lead on from an eReader point of view – Kindle, Nook, Kobo or other.

This gives you a better chance of being picked up by your audience out the gate.

2. Are they active socially?

Despite what people like me might think, social media is still not truly mainstream for the majority of the world. Sure, Facebook might claim one billion members, but that’s nowhere near the active users. Same with Google+, Twitter, etc. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use these channels to market.

Before you begin your campaign, carry out an online audit and find out where your audience like to hang out and, more importantly, when. It’s no good jumping on Facebook at 3.00pm in the afternoon when your audience is mostly online between 9.00am and 10.30am in the morning.

Get to know which platforms they prefer, how they prefer to use them (for friends, via mobile, as a curation tool only, etc) and start to document what the optimum time of day is for you to be online. Couple that with the platform and tailor your message accordingly.

Find groups and chats on Twitter to participate in – while dedicated to Canadian books, #CanLitChat is a good example of what’s on Twitter for authors and readers to participate in.

If a lot of your audience likes watching videos on YouTube, ask yourself if there’s an opportunity to set up a reading channel. Take excerpts of your book, read it, and ask for video feedback, with other YouTube users tagging your video. Better still, run a contest for other users to read the excerpt, and the best gets all your books free for life.

Additionally, start a reading group on Google+ and use Hangouts to pick apart your initial drafts, and allow early glimpses into what people can expect. Having your audience invested in this way encourages them to support you when you do launch.

3. How to play to your demographics

Every product or service usually has a core audience. Yes, there are examples where age and sex don’t come into it and a product crosses generations – Apple products, for instance, and Thomas the Tank Engine (you know it’s true!). For the most part, though, the majority of promotions need to be geared to a certain demographic.

Using your analytics and understanding who your audience is shapes the strategy behind your outreach.

Social network age demographics

As you can see from the chart above, published earlier this year by Pingdom.com, there are very different demographics depending on what platform you’re on – or your audience is.

Let’s say you’re going after the 35-44 age group. You might think that you should start on Facebook because, well, that’s where the whole world is, right? Not so fast, Skippy.

What about LinkedIn? That’s almost twice as much as Facebook for that particular demographic – can you take advantage of groups or ads on there? How about Yelp – can you work with local bookstores that obviously care about their audience and do personal readings?

Bigger yet, take a look at Slashdot and Quora – while they may not be the first that come to mind, you can see they’re hugely popular with your audience. Find out why – in these cases, it’s the question and answer format that attracts.

Start to build a presence there, answer questions, ask your own, build your reputation, and then begin to ask questions around your book topic. You’ve built trust, gained an audience, and approached it properly when it comes to that platform – again, making your book (or service) more attractive and warmer to the touch of that audience and their pockets.

Data is Everything and Everything is Data

As you might guess, I’m a huge data nerd – because I love understanding what makes people tick. What gets their attention – how is that attention kept? What turns them from a curious bystander to a purchaser or advocate?

Data can tell you all this and more – the trick is in knowing what to do with the data once you have it. Get that right, and you’re at an immediate advantage over your competitors.

And that’s never a bad thing, right?

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17 Comments on "Analytics Are Not the Same as Insights"

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2 years 4 months ago

Great point, and I agree completely. Lot of people talk about ROI and focus so little on the systematic process they need to follow to get there. data->insight->action->results->ROI. Thanks for the nice post.

Douglas Karr
2 years 4 months ago

While I don’t disagree at all, isn’t this a fundamental problem with modern Analytics? It seems with every release, we just see the same data in prettier and more functional layouts. The fact is that Analytics “could” provide many more insights than it does. Surely not all… but more. And the tiniest bit of insight can provide a much larger impact on performance!

Danny Brown
2 years 4 months ago

Hi there mate,

I think it’s definitely an issue of understanding and dissection – although that could be said of “traditional” analytics as well. If you don’t have the right people in place to filter the data and report the good stuff, even the most basic of abacuses can suddenly become confusing and provide the wrong information. 😉

Cheers, Douglas!

Clay Morgan
2 years 4 months ago

In my business, analytics and insights are crucial, but it is hard to tell what is what, when measuring the “success” of a piece of content.

In our case, a reporter writes a story. Of course, we can measure page views (which is important as some of our digital ad inventory is based on page views), as well as time on site, unique visitors, etc. And of course, we have to break these down into desktop, mobile and tablet and try to figure out what it all means.

Of course, now I’m being told it isn’t about those things, it is about engagement. How many comments did the story have? How many social media shares/links?

The real challenge these days, which frankly is part of the fun, is what the heck does it all mean?

Danny Brown
2 years 4 months ago

I can imagine it must be fun trying to work out the “print” equivalent, mate – how would you gauge success there? Copies sold? Letters to the editor? Syndication?

So on a news site, I take it the referring sites are taken into account too? For example, did you get a spike not because you had a great copy day, but one story set up a lynch mob in a private forum and everyone was checking the story out then going back to the forum to disseminate?

This sounds like great fodder for a guest post… 😉

Clay Morgan
2 years 4 months ago

Perhaps I’ll work on said post.

Print has always been difficult. I know for a FACT there are people who buy the print edition ONLY for the crossword, or the Sunday coupons, etc. That is the excitement of digital – we can measure your story’s success.

And yes, the referring sites are taken into account as well.

Shameer Shah
2 years 4 months ago

Hi Danny, a wonderful post! As a consultant for small and medium (SME) businesses, one of my core chapters during the consulting is to help my clients understand and differentiate between analytics and insight, and also the true meaning of vanity. It is indeed a topic that requires much more light to be shed on throughout the various industries.

Sometimes, I share valuable links with my clients to enable them to understand similar topics through another person’s perspective. That way they grasp the benefit and value even more so.

I hope you don’t mind if I share this post during my consultations :) Thanks again and a great post.

Danny Brown
2 years 4 months ago

Ah, the vanity part of the equation – great point, Shameer, and one that can really skew statistics if we let them.

More than happy to share, thanks for the compliment and comment, sir!

Shameer Shah
2 years 4 months ago

Go on, go on, go on Danny! Looking forward to one on Vanity metrics from you 😉

Davina K. Brewer
2 years 4 months ago

Good one Danny. Had mentioned in a comment earlier this week, the crutch of numbers. We sometimes get so blinded by the ‘big data’ we forget what it’s there for – to be studied, analyzed and when valuable intel and insights are gleaned, acted upon for the better. It’s all subjective, will always vary per our goals and objectives; insights help us see the X factors. Knowing what makes people tick is important, knowing why they tick even more so – and that won’t come to us just by crunching some spreadsheets, we still need to think about what it really means. FWIW.

Danny Brown
2 years 4 months ago

That’s the ironic thing about Big Data, Davina – there’s so much information out there that there’s no way we can harness it all. And yet so many marketers will sell this very concept to unwitting clients, and that’s why results are mixed at best. Hey ho…

2 years 4 months ago

Interesting references to role and value of data in the post and even more interesting is the stress on understanding your visitors – actual people and not aggregate sessions. Agreed that making sense of the data and doing something about it is largely dependent upon human aptitude but tools and technologies do have a role to play in presenting the right data at the proper level of aggregation. Of course, how well they do that is a matter of another discussion

2 years 4 months ago

Totally agree! On a similar topic, I recently wrote a blog post about “Social Media Listening is not the same as Research”. I’d be delighted to hear your point of view on this one: http://www.clauer.fr/2012/12/social-media-listening-is-not-research/