Many non-profits have a giant spreadsheet. Every time staff send an email, post to social media or write a blog post, they record the key metrics in their enormous Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet.
This sounds like a good idea, right? This way, your organization has all the data staff need to gain vital insights into your communications work. Staff can look at the metrics and know exactly what content, messages and channels are most effective. They have all the data they need to make decisions.
Except it never works that way! Maybe, you make a few charts from the data for your annual report (Facebook likes are up this year!). But you never use it to make actual day-to-day choices about your website design, social media content or marketing strategy.
The top reasons to get rid of your giant spreadsheet:
- It’s tedious: So many of us (especially in creative professions like communications) HATED math class. Don’t make yourself or your staff relive it with number-related busy work. Recording numbers in a spreadsheet that you never use makes data seem pointless and frustrating. This attitude will make it much harder to get everyone to embrace data-driven decision making later on.
- You’re recreating the data: With a few exceptions, all this information is available indefinitely in Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, your email service provider and other sources. You don’t need to record it in a separate spreadsheet. Some people think having all the data in one single place will automatically produce insights. In this case, it’s counterproductive.
- The metrics contradict each other: If you record every data point under the sun, you will end up with stats that contradict each other. If you measure both growth (example: total subscribers, total Facebook page likes, website sessions etc.) and engagement (example: social engagement rate, time on site, conversion rate etc.) you will typically see one go up while the other goes down. If you don’t prioritize one (growth or engagement), you will be paralyzed by conflicting information.
- It’s too hard to make a decision: The communications and marketing teams are not data scientists. Even if they have the skills to analyze a giant spreadsheet of data, they probably don’t have the time. They need data to give them a clear indication of how to act next. They need answers to questions like: “What should my next blog post be?” or “Should I put more money into this Facebook Ad campaign?” Data should help make decisions easy and fast. Day-to-day choices should not require an in-depth analysis project.
More on choosing meaningful metrics and simplifying tracking coming soon! In the meantime, check out Bee Measure’s newsletter.
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