AUTHOR’S POST-PUBLICATION NOTE: As of April 2022, I no longer support or recommend the use of Google Analytics and for details as to why that is, check out episode 53 “Why I Un-Installed Google Analytics (And Why You May Want To Follow My Lead”. For analytics software options I do recommend, there’s episode 54, “How To Ethically Track Your Visitors”.
This is a transcript for episode 2 of the OMGrowth podcast, published November 25, 2020
Data is moving away from metrics and numbers for the sake of calculating things, and the future of data is focused on PEOPLE. So today, we’re going to talk about the people-centric future of data, what that means for you and your business, and what you can do now to best prepare yourself to be a data-driven, people-centric boss of the future.
Back in the day, we used to have hits counters on our websites – remember those? They’d tell everyone else who comes to your website how many other people have visited. It was a way of showing legitimacy to say X number of people have already been here.
We’re still doing that today but in a way more people-centric way. For instance, I’m sure you’ve been on a site where this little pop-up says “15 minutes ago, Tami Taylor from Odessa TX bought the thingy you’re looking at”: the tool may be a different but the desire and intent to show your social proof is exactly the same.
It’s just that we used to value page views and session metrics so much more, but now, the numbers are leaning more towards representing the people behind those page views and the behaviors they engage in.
But the system was designed to report on what we used to value. We’re talking systems that were designed 10-15 years ago and I want you to think of how you operated back then, too.
If you were a cool kid, you were probably kicking it with a Motorola Razr phone, hitting the number 2 on your keypad 3 times to write the letter “C” and using your phone to make actual phone calls… like a weirdo!
You weren’t answering emails on it beyond writing “OK” because even that required you to hit the number 6 three times, the number 5 twice and that’s if you didn’t sign your name.
You definitely weren’t navigating the web or shopping from your flip phone. And yet, that’s the last time Google Analytics had a systems upgrade.
The world has changed.
People have changed.
And the way people navigate the world has changed so the way you’re collecting data on them also has to change.
This “people over numbers” approach isn’t just an analytics thing; this shift in focus is happening for everyone, everywhere!
If we look to social media, for instance, you’ll see that Instagram removed the “likes” counter. Why? To shift our focus away from vanity metrics that don’t really mean anything other than a double-tap, and to instead look at engagement and comments – things that actually show that people are invested in what we have to say or offer.
Like, who is going to take the time to write? And that goes both ways because it’s not just about posting comments but it’s also about responding to them.
People can complain about algorithm changes all they want but the Facebook and Instagram gods aren’t doing this to screw with your perfect news feed;
they’re making changes to prioritize people and engagement over fake followers and vanity metrics.
Technology changes are reflections that people are changing. And technology companies, well, they’re looking to making changes to their bottom line.
I mean, we all are, really. If you’re listening to this, it’s because you have a business and you’re looking to improve the way you’re marketing yourself… and all that means is that you’re looking to improve how you’re showing up for people.
Once upon a time, you buy 100,000 followers, call yourself an influencer and selling an Instagram post as ad space. You could get paid for that!
But now – unless you can prove that you have 100,000 ENGAGED followers who are actually connected to – you’re not the billboard you could once make yourself out to be.
Even metrics you would think of as being “the same” like Instagram followers can be tracked in a different way that would allow you to differentiate “vanity metrics” from “engaged audience”. And this matters! Like, a lot!
So what does this mean for you and how can you best prepare yourself to be the a people and audience-focused marketer?
To a certain extent, you already have and this has happened whether you liked it or you belly-ached about it. But when you see changes being made to a social media algorithm, or the interface of a platform changes, or when you hear of systems upgrades you have to make, these are typically happening in direct relation to the trend that we want to know and understand our audiences, their behaviors and their values.
Since you can expect a lot more of these changes to be happening, this bring us to your first action item.
1) ASK “WHY”.
When you see something or have to change something related to marketing – after you’re done groaning about how irritated this makes you – I encourage you to ask yourself what that’s all about and why you think this change is being made.
I also encourage you to question how this positions you to improve your engagement, your outreach and yes, your bottom line, because that IS the bottom line as to why these changes are being made and your job as the boss is to capitalize on them.
2) UPGRADE TO GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4
Note that this doesn’t have to be done by you but it does have to be done so feel free to outsource this to your virtual assistant: Upgrade to Google Analytics 4 and install the code everywhere you currently have the Universal Analytics code (the one that starts with UA).
For a little while, we will be using both of these properties, both tracking at the same time, but each will be tracking similar but different things. You will continue to use and refer to your UA code because as of recording this in November 2020, GA4 is not ready for its close-up yet.
But if you’re confused as to why you would be double-tracking at this point, let me clarify by saying you are not. These are two totally different ways of tracking and reporting data.
I know that sounds confusing to say when you’re talking about data – like, data is data, right? numbers are numbers, aren’t they? – so I like to use the example of Dolly Parton and Elvira: if you look at who these women are, it’s kind of the same perky, fun, saucy personality… but they’re packaged so differently that their message, focus and audience are really totally their own.
And it’s the same sort of deal with how data is currently collected in a very “page view”-focused way versus the “people-centric” way of the future: yes, there will be a lot of commonality and overlap, but we are talking about a complete re-package here.
Just like there’s a difference between the followers who like your posts versus those who comment on them, there’s a difference between how people view your pages versus how they engage with them.
And this great for marketers like you but it’s even better for you to continue using Google Analytics Universal with that UA code while you also upgrade and install tracking for GA4. Why? Because when everyone else is forced to move over, you’ll already have a bunch of back-data ready and collected
I say this a lot but DATA IS NOT RETROACTIVE but again, you don’t have to be the one who does this. You need to make the boss decision to do this and then put it on your virtual assistant’s task list.
And if you want a walk-through of how to do it, go to omgrowth.com and check out my free Google Analytics Audit where I have the GA4 upgrade as my featured video that will step-by-step you (or your assistant) through getting that set-up.
Embrace the change, boss! Because if you’re listening to this, I know you’re the type of boss who really cares about HOW they’re showing up for their audience… and that’s exactly the type of person who is going to see the biggest return-on-investment amidst all of these changes. You already know that people are the focus, you already value engagement over vanity, and this means that you are already one step ahead of all of the changes coming your way.