Digital analytics and museums

Six tweetable actions towards improving digital analytics in your museum.

Museum professionals have recognized the importance of online to empower their organization to fulfill its mission. As online becomes a fundamental part of the daily museum activities, evaluating and reporting online performance is essential. How can museums adopt digital performance analysis across the entire organization?

Stéphane Hamel has developed a framework that helps organizations to assess their current situation and provides a structured and actionable path towards improving online performance analysis. Feel free to take the online survey and find out where your organization is at. Once you have assessed your organization profile the next inevitable question is: How can it be improved? Bellow you will find a straightforward action for each key process area defined in the online analytics maturity model.

The two images shown above are part of the outcome of a research project developed by Tijana Tasich and Elena Villaespesa at Tate. A paper with the outcomes is availble online as well as the slides presented at the Museums and Web 2012 conference.


1. Management, Governance and adoption

Ideally, members of the management team should be accountable for evaluating online performance against the museum mission. This responsibility should be clearly stated in their job description. Until this becomes a reality, organizations can start by identifying a web analytic champion that takes as her/his responsibility to promote online performance across their own area of responsibility. The person that is reading this text is most likely your organization’s analytics champion.

One of the responsibilities of an online analytics champion is to increase awareness about the growing importance of online visitors. A possible first step could be to create a simple graph that compares across the years the number of online visits and onsite visits. For most organizations, the number of online visits is growing much faster than onsite visits demonstrating the well-known fact that there is an emerging online audience.

Action: Identify a web analytics champion that promotes online performance analysis across the museum.


2. Objectives

Before you jump in and start to evaluate your organization online performance, it is essential to have a succinct online strategy with clearly defined goals. The goals defined in an effective online strategy should take the organizational mission as starting point. What is the mission of your museum? How can online empower the museum staff and the museum audience to fulfill that mission? There are several museum online strategies and social media strategies that can represent a possible start for those who are in the process of writing their own. While writing a list with goals, make sure they comply to the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-sensitive.

Action: Based on your museum mission, create an A4 document defining an online strategy with at least 3 SMART goals.


3. Scope

The scope defines the areas of your online strategy which your analysis is focused on. Since it is not unusual for cultural organizations to have a scattered and undocumented online presence, it is recommended to start by inventorying the current situation. A simple spreadsheet can be used to document all the websites the museum has created, social media platforms, blogs, apps and other publishing platforms used online. Some of the fields to be included in the spreadsheet can be: platform name, date of creation, current states, name of person responsible for and an URL. Once the organization’s online presence has been mapped, choose a couple of platforms on which your analysis is to focus. Inventorying online presences can be a discouraging task as these lists tend to rapidly grow outdated. Publishing the list in at the museum website can be a useful strategy to encourage the entire organization to keep the list updated.

Action: Create an online presence spreadsheet documenting the multiple online platforms used by your organization.


4. Expertise

Ideally at least one person in the organization has a clear understanding on how to translate analytic information into actionable insights. The online analytics expert is to advice colleagues on how to translate the organization mission into web analytics requirements. For example, the expert could help the curatorial team by creating a report indicating what are the most popular and engaging online pages about the museum collections and indicate possible recommendations on how to improve the less popular ones. It is important to realize that rather than overwhelming the entire organization with weekly or monthly reports, it is more relevant to derive simple action from insights that the reports might provide.

Action: Enquire colleagues about what online analytic information could be useful in their decision making process.


5. Continuous Improvement Process and Analysis Methodology

How do you develop a hypothesis, define problems & opportunities, analyze and provide insight? There are many assumptions about online visits that are useful to test and analyze in the context of each organization. An example of an hypothesis could be: Are social networks driving qualified traffic to your museum website? This question can be answered in less than 5 minutes following the steps defined at this online article. As we described in the mentioned article, rather than just answering the question it is possible to influence the visits via social referral by implementing a simply internal policy and a simple report. In conclusion, rather than tackily all possible questions at once it is useful to focus on one improvement point at a time.

Action: Organize a monthly meeting to define a specific goal and to measure and improve its online performance.


6. Tools, Technology and Data Integration

Finally, the usage of appropriate tools and technology should be considered. An obvious starting point is to install Google Analytics (GA) in your museum website. While doing so, make sure you follow the Seb Chan's GA health checklist. Once GA is properly installed start by defining user segments that make sense for your organizations. Seb Chan recommends a set of basic user segments and advanced user segments.

Action: Make sure you have Google Analytics installed and that it follows Seb Chan health checklist.


Are these actions useful for your organization? How do you use online analytics? Have you gone through an online analytics improvement phase? Please share your thoughts and strategies with the community.

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