Social Media Analysis: One Big Story Problem
If someone told me a decade ago that I’d be working in (and rather enjoying) a position requiring me to work with data, numbers and analysis, I’d have told them they were crazy.
Math, as a general subject, was never one of my favorites. I was far more interested in language arts. The math that I did get a kick out of, however, were those word problems (a.k.a. story problems) in elementary school (What time will Jane’s train get her to San Francisco?) and later on, logic. (If this, then what is the probability of that?)
Once there was a story (i.e. context and relevance) associated with the numbers or data, the process made more sense to me.
It’s no wonder why I perked up when telling a story was used in reference to social analysis both in this blog post by Jeff Adelson Yan and again during the #sm129 Twitter Chat moderated by Lauren Vargas last month.
Social media analysis is just that. The analyst identifies the right formulas, extracts the relevant information, identifies meaningful correlations and weaves the story – beginning, middle and end.
In the beginning…
No meaningful story exists without a beginning. If you’ve ever caught the end of a good movie, you’re left without understanding what got the characters to this point. The analysis story starts with your benchmarks, without which, the end of your story will have no context. If you don’t start with clearly defined benchmarks, it’s like trying to tell a story that never had a starting point. Your reader might be impressed with an anecdote or two, but as a whole, there’s no real point to the story.
And in the end…
Unlike an author who has free creative reign over the ending of the story, the analysis story is predetermined by the goal. And, it must be written in order for the story to unfold. The goal is the bookend companion to the benchmarks. Each provide the relevant context for the story. And, each are unique to the particular story being developed. No two stories are exactly alike.
The Heart of the Matter…
This is where the analyst tells the story, based on fact. It’s a harmonious blend of science and art – the careful selection of relevant information and individual metrics that bridge each piece to the next, illustrated and woven together by clear, logical explanation that ties the story to the beginning from where it came, and the ending where it needs to go.
Choose Your Own Adventure…
In addition to word problems and logic, I got a kick out of these books as a kid. The story is there, but you, as the reader, are given options to decide where to take it. The analysis story often presents these options as well. The predicted path might not be the one that actually gets to the pre-determined ending. The data tells one story, and the analyst chooses the path that will lead readers (that’s right folks…a good analyst will write for her readers just as an author does) to the destination. Sometimes it’s in selecting what is there, other times it’s in hunting for what is missing. Regardless, all of the pieces need to come together for a cohesive end.
Continuing the series…
Some stories work best when there is just one final chapter; one ending. Others need to evolve. The analysis story typically falls to the latter. The ending of the story launches the beginning of the next, and the events continue to unfold and progress to deeper story lines, more vibrant characters, and a series that will grow with the readers.
This process is very apparent to me as I prepare analysis reports for clients – knowing that the story I present needs to be compelling, understandable, and inspire action. Think about your analysis story. Is holding your interest? Is it enlightening your team and inspiring your business? Is it clearly bringing you to an ending that makes you see the next begining? Does it leave you with what you need to grow?