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William Edwards-Demming, the renowned American statistician, is famous for saying “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” What he’s less known for saying is that “the most important things cannot be measured.”

Data cables

When it comes to marketing your brand on social media, data certainly has the potential to make you more effective in how you spend your time and budget. But with an abundance of vanity metrics, and ‘data for the sake of data’, it also has the potential to waste time. Here are my five tips when it comes to using data to grow your social media audience as an artist.

1: Remove All Vanity Metrics

Below is a screenshot from Google Analytics, a popular web analytics tool used to collect data on how people interact with your website.

These are vanity metrics. While it may seem interesting to know that on average people spend 01:43 minutes searching for music contracts on, there’s nothing actionable about this data.

Is a 61% bounce rate good or bad? It could be either – perhaps 61% of people are visiting, finding what they came for and leaving. Or perhaps they get to the site, hate it, and disappear? We can guess, but if we’re guessing then what’s the point in collecting this data in the first place?

Now here’s an example of actionable data.

I know how much I paid to drive these sales from Facebook and Guitar World Magazine, so this data tells me “Does it make sense to continue advertising on Facebook or Guitar World?”

That’s how data should be used: to provide clear answers to clear questions.

If you use a tool like Google Analytics, Sprout Social, Socialytics or similar, strip your dashboard bare of all vanity metrics. Forget what looks pretty and focus on what will genuinely give you actionable insight.

This goes for most tools that deal with data reporting. At Venture Harbour, we use a range of data analysis tools including Ahrefs, SEMrush, VWO, Moz, MajesticSEO, amongst others. In every case, it’s fundamental to ensure you’re working with actionable data rather than vanity metrics.

2: Segment your data to understand your audience

As we saw above, looking at ‘total fans’ or ‘total unique visitors’ isn’t particularly actionable. When you start to segment data and look at who your audience is by demographics, psychographics, where they came from etc. it starts to become a bit more useful, as you can better invest your time in reaching the right audience.

For example, if you segment your audience by device and find that <25-30% of your fans are looking at discovering you via mobile or tablet, it might make sense to start thinking about a mobile site/app. If you segment your download data and find that 90% of your paying fans are 18-22-year-olds from Australia, you can optimize your efforts to reach more of that demographic.

3: Use data to optimise your budget & time

Time and money are both valuable commodities. Most of us have more of one than the other, and we often trade what we have in excess for more of the other. One of the most tactful uses of data is improving how we allocate our commodities to get more of the desired result.

Take this data from two recent Facebook Page Like ads we ran for a client as an example. Both ads were identical except for one small variable (the bid type).

Advert A:

Advert B:

Both ads cost $60 and ran for one week. However, one drove 50 page likes and the other drove 20. This data tells me that the bid type for advert B is a far better use of my advertising budget.

Where you’re spending ad dollars or investing valuable work hours, data can be useful for optimizing the allocation of your time and money.

4: You must set goals

Without a goal or a specific question in mind, data is relatively useless. Your data should complement your goal progress by helping you learn what does and doesn’t work – enabling you to get closer to your goals quicker.

5: The most important things can’t be measured

Finally, remember what William Edwards-Demming said – “The most important things can’t be measured”. When it comes to marketing your brand on social media, there are so many immeasurable things that are so important.

Don’t let the data fool you into thinking that an increase in Facebook Page Likes means your audience is growing. Your audience is a collective of real relationships with real people. Relationships are not determined by a click of a ‘Like’ button, but far more intangible qualities such as loyalty, desire, and happiness.

While there may generally be a correlation between a growing audience and an increase social activity, they’re not intrinsically linked.

Whenever you rely on quantitative data to support a decision, also consider the qualitative impacts of those decisions.

Image Credit: Dherholz

Marcus Taylor is the founder of Venture Harbour. He’s also an early-stage investor, advisor & the youngest Patron of The Prince's Trust.

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