Over the last five or six years the field of digital analytics has seen an explosion as companies of all sizes try to understand how key stakeholders are behaving online. Tools have been developed that gather data and analyze almost everything that could be analyzed online. Colleges and universities are beginning to offer courses on digital analytics, and agencies and companies alike have been hiring digital analytics professionals in large numbers.
Even with the explosion of the discipline there still aren’t enough young people entering this field. The potential answers for why they aren’t entering the field are numerous, but one of the primary reasons is that content development, working with the media and community management are still seen as the sexier positions coming out of school. It’s what the majority of the curriculum is based on and, quite frankly, it’s the most transparent career path.
When I started in this field about 10 years ago there was no Sysomos. There certainly weren’t enterprise platforms like Sprinklr and Spredfast to help you manage content creation and syndication. No, when I started we were counting the number of clips a client received, putting together clip books with charts showing whether or not a client’s messages resonated and doing almost all of it with Factiva and Microsoft Excel.
My job looks nothing like it did 10 years ago, and will probably look nothing like it does today 10 years from now. Realistically, my job probably won’t look the same one year from now, but I know that sort of rapid change doesn’t make anyone feel comfortable. For the sake of today’s post lets assume you are considering a career in digital analytics. What do you need to do? And, for that matter, once you get into that career how do you keep it? Here are some helpful tips I have learned during my career.
- Be open-minded – Once you get into the role it is likely to evolve as your employer and you determine what’s of greatest value to the company or clients, and what’s of most interest to you. If you aren’t open to change, this isn’t the right field for you.
- Be experimental – If you are active in social media, and I am assuming you are to some degree, its likely you have encountered a brand trying some new piece of content or trying a new channel to reach customers. It’s the same thing in analytics. It’s not OK to do the same things over and over with the datasets in front of you. It’s the only way this field will advance is if we keep trying new things.
- Be intellectually curious – You might be asking how this is different then be experimental, but it is very different. When I say be intellectually curious I mean when you’re analyzing a dataset don’t just take the first answer that appears as the right one. You should be willing to turn over multiple rocks in order to ensure you have the best answer. I have actually stopped interviews very early on in the process when a candidate tips off that they are or are not intellectually curious.
- Be business-oriented – The value an analytics person brings isn’t entirely rooted in their ability to gather data and crunch numbers. Their value is being able to crunch data and then tell the business what it means, and how it can be used. Having a strong business orientation will not only help you land the role, but keep you in it for a long time.
- Be collaborative – The industry is just now starting to figure out how it can bring web analytics together with search analytics together with social analytics. The industry is also just starting to learn how it can gather data, develop insights and share those insights in real-time with other teams in order to impact content development and syndication. If you are entering, or thinking of entering the field of analytics right now you should be thinking about how you can be tied at the hip with those other teams.
You’ll notice that I said nothing about learning new or existing tools. No, it wasn’t an oversight. Learning new or existing tools should be a given. Also, your ultimate success in this field isn’t dependent on you knowing how to use every single tool on the market well. That may be controversial to some, but that’s the reality. Your success is far more dependent on the five things I have listed above. If you do those things well, you will be successful. I look forward to seeing you at a future analytics conference!