Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist, Social Media + Big Data, North American Division
If you can track it, you can measure it. As a result, you can gain a better understanding of your audience and their behavior, helping you adapt your strategies to more effectively reach them. Taking the time to review the performance of your digital communications and platforms enables you to better understand what is working and what needs to be changed, which empowers you to shape your digital communications strategy based on data. In the long run, this will save both time and money while maximizing impact.
Avoid data paralysis
Time is valuable. Don’t get so caught up in the details of the data that you respond too late and miss an opportunity. Aim to stay ahead of the curve and be proactive instead of reactive in your strategies.
Most ministries and churches do not have the luxury of a dedicated analytics team, but you don’t need to dive too deep to get valuable information about how your website and campaigns are performing. Since most ministries are new to digital communications and analytics, we’re going to stick to a high-level overview. Go back to those key performance indicators we discussed in the strong foundations section, and use those as a guide for what to track based on your ministry’s goals.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the terminology of the various data points. Most analytics tools define their terms within the platform. You can usually access these definitions by hovering your cursor over the question mark next to the data category.
The data that is most important to your efforts will be:
Compare the information you find to the performance goals and metrics you established. Always look for areas of improvement and adjust accordingly.
Communicate with everyone involved by:
Use trackable links (a.k.a. UTM codes)
UTM codes are segments appended to a URL that enable data platforms like Google Analytics to record information about website visitors and traffic sources. This is vital for social media managers as it enables you to measure and prove social media success or, alternatively, identify problems and adjust your strategies. Creating trackable links is surprisingly easy to do and will give you valuable insights into how well your digital communications and ads are performing.
What is a UTM code?
UTM = Urchin Tracking Module
UTM codes can be used in links shared via:
Creating your own trackable links
A trackable link has five building blocks:
URL – https://www.sdadata.org/digital-discipleship-and-evangelism.html
Campaign – DigitalGuide-2020
Source – Social-Media
Put it all together using this formula:
Regular link + ?&UTM + Campaign (what event, month, where, etc.) + &UTM + Source (channel/platform)
Be sure to always test your links!
After you create your trackable link, be sure to test it to make sure it works. It can be very frustrating for your audience to receive digital content with a broken link.
Website performance data
The most common analytics tool for detailed website performance tracking is Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool for monitoring where your visitors come from and understanding how they interact with your website. It’s easy to set up a free Google Analytics account. Most website hosting platforms offer easy-to-follow directions to get you started. Once you are set up, take the time to familiarize yourself with the tool and make it a habit to check your website’s analytics each month.
Terms and definitions
Key metrics to monitor
When you drill down deeper under campaigns, you can learn what aspects of a campaign performed the best by using unique UTM campaign names for the different components of your communications strategy. Google Analytics automatically picks up the campaign name and source from the tracking links. There is no need to do anything in Google Analytics to make this work! Just be consistent with the UTM codes you use, and be clear with your campaign and source names.
Remember, prioritize. You don’t have time to track everything, nor do you need to!
Once you have determined what you’re going to track to determine whether or not you’re reaching your goals, check performance monthly, and record your results in a way that enables you to see trends over time. Some analytics tools like Google Analytics allow you to create dashboards for easy access, while social media insights may require that you create your own charts and graphs. To learn more about Google Analytics, check out our beginner tutorial on SDAdata.org.
Social media analytics or insights
Most social media platforms offer at least basic insights into the performance of a ministry’s account and who their audience is. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the analytics for your social media platforms and regularly check them to understand trends over time.
Pay particular attention to:
Social advertising performance analytics
After you place your ads, don’t wait until the campaign is over to check performance. Monitor the ads closely to make changes and optimize as needed. Catch problems early on; otherwise, your money may go to waste. The great thing about social advertising is that you can edit campaigns at any time if they are not meeting your expectations. Make sure you understand what the numbers mean; most platforms have descriptions available in pop-ups next to the column head.
Be sure to:
Some basic terminology you should know:
Track so that you can learn
Remember, if you’re going to take the time to put together a campaign strategy, take the time to track its performance so you can be better informed next time. There’s no point in testing strategies without tracking your efforts. If you don’t learn from your campaign, you can’t improve the next one. Social media and digital marketing are both an art and a science. Use data to inform your intuition.