Digital Toolkit for Think Tanks

27 January 2015

Nick Scott presents a list of must-use tools for think tanks:

  • To track webpage statisticsGoogle Analytics is pretty much the industry standard and can be installed through a small script on the site. However this doesn’t track downloads properly – for this you need to interrogate server logs. There are thousands of applications that do this, but I use Weblog Expert because it is fairly cheap and powerful enough to get what I need out of it. You can also estimate page views on a site other than your own with Google Trends and StatBrain.
  • To get an overview of search engine positioning, sign up to Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Organisations with RSS news feeds would do well to run them through Google Feedburner to see how they’re be used and by whom.
  • Twitter statistics can be found through numerous different tools – I’ve used TwitterCounter to get some raw statistics, and Klout to get an idea of how ODI is doing in terms of influence. Klout also works with Google+, if you’re using it. If you want to see how many times a particular page has been tweeted then enter the address into Topsy and you should get a good idea.
  • Facebook is easier than the rest as they offer built-in tools for analysis through Facebook Insights.
  • For a simple survey of website users that is easy to install and gets key data on how people are using your website and what they think of it, I can’t recommend the free 4Q tool highly enough.
  • If you don’t already have a mailing list systemMailChimp is one of the best around and allows you to do a lot of analysis of contacts.
  • To track media and blog mentions Google Alerts is great – but there are also alternatives such as Social Mention.
  • Academic citation analysis is hard and therefore generally very expensive, however a tool that uses Google Scholar, such as Publish or Perish, offers a lot to get on with. Note, however, that due to the nature of journal publishing processes, it takes a long time for academic citations to start coming through so this is a long-term activity.
  • How you implement an M&E log is down to you. At ODI we run it through our intranet, built on Microsoft Sharepoint, but you could use a survey tool to do it, such as Survey Gizmo, or even something like a Google Docs spreadsheet with an attached form.
  • Finally, organisations ready to make the leap and start bringing all of this data together in a dashboard need to think about what software or site to use to present and interrogate data. ODI uses software called Qlikview, but this is probably only for much larger organisations creating a lot of outputs every month. Online alternatives include Zoho ReportsGoogle Docs or Google Fusion Tables.