Unless you’re a data dork, analytics can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way, Mona Chaudhuri, head of product for Chartbeat, said at The New York Times Small Business Summit.
One way to keep things in perspective is to resist the urge to sign up for every data-tracking tool available. Remember that “tools are only a means to get to an end,” said Chaudhuri. “When you’re dealing with analytics, think about what your goal is first then look to metrics that will help you measure and achieve that goal.”
Google Analytics is a popular favorite of data trackers, but it was designed for e-commerce and isn’t the best choice for other purposes, Chaudhuri explained. If you’re in publishing, producing a blog or have a heavy focus on content, you need a tool that can track data in real time like Chartbeat can.
While historical data can tell you what content was popular, it doesn’t allow you to promptly respond to the constantly changing information environment the way that real-time data does, says Chaudhuri. Real-time data lets you see when traffic spikes occur and quickly trace where they came from. Once you have that information, you can act fast to capitalize on the opportunity.
When you’re dealing with online content, “you have to think about every single opportunity as your only opportunity to capture these people’s attention,” said Chaudhuri. With a real-time data-tracking tool, you can see what people click on and figure out what your customers really want instead of giving them what you imagine they want.
For example, when Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot at a rally in 2011, Fox News was right there covering the breaking news of the shooting and the condition of the victims. Standard common sense for journalists would indicate that people would want more and more news about the latest developments, but what an editor watching the real-time data searches found was that people were looking for information about Giffords, her husband and her family in general, said Chaudhuri. That editor was able to quickly publish a story that would satisfy people’s curiosity and then noticed a spike in traffic to FoxNews.com.
Paying attention to real-time data can also help you connect with more people and build your network, said Chaudhuri. If you recognize a person or brand sending you traffic through their blog, Twitter feed or other source, you should reach out to them within a day, thank them and get them in your network. Never forget the importance of networking, she reminded summit attendees.