Web analytics vs. social analytics: Aren’t they really just the same thing? …almost, but not quite.

When reading about or discussing the topic of analytics you tend to hear some people refer to the term ‘web analytics’ as if it were the same thing as ‘social analytics’.  Yes, it’s true that they’re largely based on the same technologies and information gathering techniques; likewise, they’re also very similar.  However, web analytics are not exactly the same thing as social analytics.

First off, let’s define ‘web analytics’ – it is a process or series of processes which seeks to collect and analyze various forms of data collected from internet users, often without their knowledge.  The purpose of web analytics is simple; it let’s organizations determine or outline the nature of web traffic for various purposes like marketing or ensuring the integrity of one’s IT operation.  In short, web analytics can be used to both bolster the technical proficiency, the capabilities, or security of a site (or sites) as well as figure out better ways to attract new types of traffic.

Social analytics is really just one facet of web analytics; specifically, it is using web analytics to determine how users interface with a specific organization.  So, just to clarify; web analytics comprises two ways of utilizing gathered information for benefit – ensuring overall functionality as well as gathering business intelligence.  Naturally, social analytics falls into the latter category because it is primarily concerned with outlining how users interface with an organization’s online assets, specifically across social media platforms.  Additionally, social analytics might also include a breakdown of specific instances of how certain activities might be spread through social media.  In other words, the idea is to perhaps measure the effects across a wider spectrum of sources that interface with certain assets of a company or organization.  Conversely, web analytics tends to apply only to site-specific resources and data (however it can extend to include social media analytics as well, if need be).

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So basically, social analytics is merely an individual component of the larger classification which is known as web analytics.  Despite this, social analytics has become very important to a great number of businesses.  By analyzing trends, search terms, and more specific user data like age groups, browsing schedules, and even what types of hardware / software are in use, companies can often pinpoint certain ways to increase their appeal.  For instance, if a business learns through analysis of social analytics data that many of their site visitors are also big fans of a particular sports franchise they might seek to forge a promotional deal with them.  In essence, this would allow the company to appeal to them on multiple levels simultaneously, which statistically tends to increase overall sales figures.

Moreover, the great thing about social analytics is that nearly anyone can learn to use them; in fact, there are some great services out there like Google Analytics which are completely free to use.  Likewise, businesses of all shapes and sizes rely on Google Analytics for their web analytics data.  While Google’s analytics service features many separate components, each of which goes into great depth in terms of analysis, it should be noted that their social reports resource is particularly useful.  This allows you to easily track all of the activities occurring across multiple social media platforms all from one simple, easy-to-read interface.

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Those businesses that want to truly take advantage of the insight gained from web and social analytics should strongly consider complete certification in web analytics.  If your company or small business is about to hire new IT personnel, it might be a good idea to make sure that they have some basic experience with web analytics.  On the other hand, professional development studies in web analytics is actually quite cheap, so perhaps it would be better to simply require a portion of one’s IT force to complete a training program.

If your organization has neglected to start its own web analytics program you should make an effort to do so ASAP.  Simply put, any group should be able to use gathered data to not only increase its total site traffic, but also amplify user interaction and perhaps even directly bolster sales / profits.  By undermining or avoiding web analytics, you are essentially disregarding a very clear opportunity to connect with what many might call your true audience or consumer base.  Alternatively, if you’re not interested in a fully-fledged web analytics suite containing all the bells and whistles, you should at the very least consider a social analytics platform like Kontagent.  It is primarily devoted toward analyzing your connected social media network in order to identify specific metrics which will enable you to expand your influence.