|How do I know if I am connecting with people online?||Be curious about who is coming to your website and why. Pay attention to what they do when they get there, and compare their response to your strategic goals. You'll need an analytics tool to collect information and benchmarking data to give the numbers meaning.|
“Are you still there?”
“Can you hear me?”
“Did you get that?”
We’ve used these phrases a thousand times in the last few years, reaching out to others through screens, wires, and webcams.
What we’re really saying is this:
“Could you give me some feedback?”
“I need more information please.”
“I can’t tell how I’m doing. Can you help me out?”
And, most existentially:
“Am I alone here?”
Monologuing is when you talk at people. When the villain finally confesses in detail at the end of a TV show, they’re monologuing. A newspaper article is a kind of monologue, and so is an instruction manual.
Dialogue is the opposite of monologue. It’s when two or more people communicate back and forth. You choose what to say based on other people’s words and reactions. A conversation is a dialogue, and so is an exchange on Slack.
Dialogue involves more than words. When we dialogue, I laugh at your joke. You nod at my comments. I pause when you put your hand on my arm. During a dialogue, we use all of our available senses to communicate information and collect feedback.
Feedback is important. People notice when you nod, smile, and utter gentle “mm-hmms”. They also notice when you roll your eyes, snort, yawn, or walk away. We repeat behaviours that get positive feedback. We do less of what’s ignored or punished.
If you are trying to create change, you need dialogue. If you want to have dialogue, you need feedback.
Most nonprofits “meet” a lot of people through their websites. Your website is where people come to learn more about you, decide if they want to engage with you, get updates, and access your services.
Websites look like a monologue. You publish something, then people consume it. You can’t see those visitors nodding or hear them saying “mm-hmm”. You can’t sense them squirming when they lose interest in your message.
If you could see your visitors and sense their reactions, what might you do differently? Would you rather be having a dialogue?
This kind of warmer, more human engagement is exactly what “analytics” help you do.
Analytics are data points that tell you what visitors are doing when they use your website. Analytics tell you:
> How people got to your website (search, social media, email, etc.)
> What pages they arrived on (i.e., what brought them here)
> What pages people visited (i.e,. what interests you have in common)
> Whether people responded to your main messages and services (booked a meeting, sent you a message, subscribed to your mailing list, made a donation, etc.)
There are limits to what information you should collect and there are protocols you should follow to respect people’s privacy, but you need to trust some analytics if you want to have a dialogue.
Analytics are the digital equivalent of the feedback you get when you talk to people in the real world. They’re the yawns and snorts and giggles you need to truly connect with others.
If none of your friends and family showed up to your wedding, you would notice.
If people walked out on your standup comedy routine, you’d notice.
If everyone at your birthday part was a stranger, you’d notice.
More than notice, you’d probably care. You’d probably wonder what your friends and family were thinking and what you should change to maintain better relationships. You would notice, care, and then reach out to understand what’s going on in the relationship.
Online relationships deserve that same kind of care and curiosity. If you’re paying attention to your relationships, then you know things like:
> Are the people you care about showing up to your website?
> Are the people who show up to your website sticking around?
> What interests the people who visit your website?
To answer these questions, you need feedback. To get feedback, you need analytics.
Different nonprofits have different analytics needs, but there are two tools that help most organizations. (Occasionally, in social impact work there are good reasons for not collecting analytics data.)
First, you need something to collect and show you data. Google Analytics is the most common website analytics tool. It (or a similar service) could be right for you.
Second, you want some context to know what those analytics numbers actually mean. Are your numbers high or low? Do you need to change anything, or seek different results, or repeat something that’s working well? If you need help or independent insight to put some of your numbers in context, check out the M+R Benchmarks Study. It gives you insight into the ways people interact with nonprofit websites, social media channels, and newsletters. If you aren’t sure what your numbers “mean”, the M+R Benchmarks Study is a great place to start.
Take a few minutes today to think about your website analytics and about your online community. What matters to you? Do you have access to data? What does the data tell you, and specifically what can you learn about your relationships?
Don’t get caught monologuing. Your work and your relationships are too important.
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