#TBT: The Arts Manager's Toolkit for Data Management

Here at AMT Lab, we have been sorting through plenty of data as we prepare for tomorrow’s release of the full report from our 2015 National Ticketing Survey (stay tuned!). Today’s throwback is a collection of AMT Lab Articles that discuss tools, stories and best practices for the management and usage of quantitative data in an arts organization.  Most of these are a more recent throwback, but even those articles from 2012 still provide invaluable resources for organizational leaders.

The Case for Data

"The Art of Data Management" by Jill Robinson and "A Data Management Love Story"  by Steve Loyd
Earlier this year, these two blog postings originally from Analysis on TRG Arts shared with readers two stories of data management.  The first is an introduction to data management that helps readers understand the impacts on an organization that come through data analysis.  The second is an interview with the managing director of Dallas Theatre Centre about the creation of the role of a data manager in their organization, and the ways in which having a staff role for managing data has impacted their organization.  Together, they create a case study of what it means for arts organizations to fully embrace quantitative data.

"Creating A Data-Informed Culture: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater And Leading For The Future" by Erin Wagner
In this article, Erin shares the steps an organization took to do more than just look at data, but become a full-blown data driven culture.  She also shared the impacts it had on their performance over the course of five years.  A great case study of what data can do for an organization over time.

"Making Data-Driven Decisions For Marketing-Focused Outcomes" by Christine Sajewski
While data usage is clearly useful when writing grant applications and annual reports, what may be harder for organizations to figure out is the role it plays in the organization’s actual decision-making.  Christine’s whitepaper is an excellent primer on everything from data sources to the questions to ask to the ways in which data from different platforms weaves together to tell a story--and more than that, she gives insight into how an organization can apply this information.

"When Arts Play with Data" by Grace Q.
One of the most fun things about putting together TBT is realizing exactly when we started using certain jargon.  This article marks 2013 as the year of Big Data.  More of a call to action than a set of best practices, Grace’s article is nevertheless a rousing read for those arts organizations who may not yet be convinced that data has a role to play in their day-to-day activities.

"Data that Matters: Three Metrics to Grow Audience Relationships" and "Data That Matters: Three More Metrics to Grow Audiences and Revenue" by Jill Robinson
This two-part series from guest blogger Jill Robinson addresses perhaps the biggest problem organizations face in trying to use data: analysis paralysis.  With so many numbers and platforms to choose from, how can one really accomplish anything, and what is worth the risk?  As president and CEO of TRG Arts, Jill has enough experience to provide solid advice on the metrics that organizations should focus on.

"Data vs Message: Which Wins Arts Patrons?" by Rick Lester
This article from 2012 discusses the potential pitfalls of data; specifically, the potential to alienate an audience through relying too heavily on data and forgetting the human element. Rick shares the story of Target and its realization that “hiding what you know is sometimes as important as knowing it.” A thoughtful article that gives some great insights into weaving emotion and analytics together to make a winning marketing message.

The Tools Available

"Tableau: The High Cost/ High Reward Of Data Visualization" by Jennifer Moreci
This product review from earlier in the year gives an overview of Tableau, a top of the line data visualization program.  Unlike other data visualization software, this program does more than consolidate numbers from different places; it takes on the role of a data analyst and figures out what the story is. While the high sticker price (starting at $500) is a noted barrier of entry, its ability to craft a complex visual narrative for funders makes it arguably worth the cost.

"Visualizing data with Sparkwise" by Christine Sajewski
If the budget for data visualization is not there, Christine’s product review of Sparkwise may be more palatable.  A free web-based service, Sparkwise was designed with nonprofits in mind and allows for multi-platform integration and customizable dashboards.  The tool can integrate both social media and other organizational data, but does require some manual entry.  At this point Sparkwise is still in beta and tweaks are still being made, making this a platform to continue to watch.

"Enhance Social Media Campaigns With Keyhole's Real-Time Tracking" by Kristen Sorek West
Kristen identified three main functions on Keyhole: identifying users and influencers, performing targeted searches, and sharing, downloading, and reporting data.  With a wide-ranging budget that still lies on the higher end (ranging from $116 a month to $2,700 a month), this tool lies between Tableau and Sparkwise, and the capabilities of the program reflect this.  This tool seems most useful for those who have dedicated themselves to their social media platforms as a meaningful source of audience development and retention, but simply don’t have the time to wrangle all the information into one place.

"Measuring Unstructured Data: Brandwatch" by Haisong Li
Brandwatch is yet another platform to explore when trying to decide on a social media analytic tool.  The features of each package have changed (and arguably improved) since this article was written, and the platform has also gotten less transparent about its pricing, making it worth a second look.

"Using Google Analytics to Derive Insights from Data" by Kristen Sorek West
Even after last week’s Google TBT, it was unavoidable to mention them again this week.  While many paid services analyze social media, nonprofits have a powerful free tool to analyze their website’s data: Google Analytics.  This article is just one of many that Kristen has written diving into ways users can use Google’s array of tools to make meaningful, data-driven decisions.