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Got Data? - 10/8/2014 -

Anderson                         Skipper
Not pictured: Tara Slesar

Got Data?

Big data doesn’t have to equal big problems. Here’s how to use big data to drive your association’s content and publishing decisions.

By Rick Anderson, Elizabeth Skipper, and Tara Slesar

"Who here thinks data sucks?" asked Sondra Hadden and Joe Colangelo at the beginning of their presentation at the September 16, 2014, Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn. While a few participants may have shown some trepidation toward working with data, that soon melted away as Hadden and Colangelo enthusiastically launched into sharing their experiences and offering suggestions on ways associations could use data to drive decisions. Sondra Hadden is senior digital strategy specialist at the American Chemical Society, and Joe Colangelo is CEO of Bear Analytics.

Publications are the biggest data source in associations, and membership is often driven by the publications. An organization can learn a great deal from publication data. How are members digesting the content? Are they sharing? How do they interact?

Associations should think of data as currency. For example, non-members can be asked to exchange their email for access to content behind the member wall. User preferences can be curated and that information used to help drive the user’s purchasing decisions. Most helpful for the organization is to aggregate data into a single spreadsheet. Data can always be used to make a case in a decision-making process.

So what do we look at? Transactions in publishing can range from opens and clicks to swipes or even eyeball scans. There are many ways key performance indicators (KPIs) can be measured, and the return on investment is not the same for each association. For some associations, conversions to revenue or membership are the most important, while others may be more interested in traffic through a site or the reach (e.g., retweets, shares) of digital content.

The presenters shared many different tools that can gather and organize data in ways to help drive content and publishing decisions. Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Hootsuite, Qzzr, and Kapost were but a few that were mentioned.

In closing, Hadden and Colangelo shared some tips when dealing with data. First, start today — pick something and do it! It will never be the "perfect time," so do something now, they urged. Second, celebrate the wins. Change is incremental. There are also different meanings to what constitutes a "win"; learning what doesn’t work can sometimes be as useful as finding out what does work. Finally, do not fear the findings — it is rarely the worst-case scenario.

Rick Anderson, Elizabeth Skipper, and Tara Slesar are all journal editors at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Association Media & Publishing sincerely thanks them for covering this event for our members who were unable to attend.


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