(Photo by Tatiana Maramygina on Reshot)

If you take a moment to head to the analytics page for your Twitter profile, you’ll find tons of data: How many tweets you posted in the past 28 days, how many impressions they got, the number of profile visits your account received, the top follower you gained and exactly how popular your most popular tweet was in the same stretch of time.

Curious about Instagram? No problem. There are analytics for that, too, which help tell you the most popular time of day for your posts and the basic demographics of who it is that’s looking.

Depending on your LinkedIn account, you can even find out exactly who it is that’s interested in your profile. Pay for a third-party platform like SocialFlow or Buffer, and you’re bound to get even more points.

With the amount of information it’s possible to collect not only from our social media accounts but also our email campaigns and websites, it’s easy to feel totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of numbers. 

Knowing which ones actually matter, however, is far less complicated. 

Betsy Reid is the communications and marketing director at PEAK Grantmaking, an association of grant-writing professionals. In that role, which she’s held less than a year, Reid has begun to rethink the strategy around content and how the organization reaches out to its members. An integral part of that, she said, is understanding what actually moves them. 

“I just go back to the simple question of, ‘how do you measure success?’” Reid said. “What are the measures that are going to help me understand and maximize my progress toward meeting goals?” 

To define those, Reid said she looks to ensure the organization is creating high-value content that can help move someone along the membership pipeline to convert a casual observer, so to speak, to a paying member.

“This is a little corny, but I feel like content is paving the road of the member journey because it’s what gets people excited,” she said. “They’re looking for solutions. We’re getting them excited about coming to us, to take an action and engage with us.”

And that, Reid said, is the key: Taking action. 

It’s one thing to know how many impressions your tweet or Instagram profile or Facebook video got in a certain window of time, but the data most indicative of success is that which tells a story of action.

“Opening things, logging in, downloading, taking actions, joining, registering, participating, subscribing, creating an account,” Reid said. “All of those things, you start to go, ‘wow, they’re really engaging with us.’” 

The key is in looking at data defined by a verb. Only then can you start to dive in further and take a look at audience segments to understand what motivates them. 

“(If) there are 40,000 people who went to our website last month, that’s not useful,” Reid said. “What does it mean, and how can I act on it? Which people? Who? What are they doing there? And how are they moving through their journeys?”

Focusing only on the metrics that can actually help you define and refine that journey for your different audience segments is a time-saver. It’s a simple thing to help a team work smarter, not harder.

For example, Reid said, she and her team used some of these action metrics to develop a segmented email campaign for new resources available through PEAK. By segmenting emails for the availability of those resources to the general public and organization members, Reid said, the organization saw hundreds of new individual members joining over a matter of weeks. 

“When you do these things in a smart way,” Reid said, “you get results.” 

Chelsea Brasted is the writer and editor who serves as content manager for AssociationSuccess.org. A former reporter and breaking news editor for The Times-Picayune, she lives in New Orleans with her husband and two rescue dogs.

Chelsea Brasted is the writer and editor who serves as content manager for AssociationSuccess.org. A former reporter and breaking news editor for The Times-Picayune, she lives in New Orleans with her husband and two rescue dogs.

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