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Social media measurement: where to get started?

Community & Social Media

By: Kristen Scott, TechSoup Canada Volunteer

So you have a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, a blog, an Instagram stream, and a Pinterest pinboard - but have you ever wondered if all of your fans, followers and re-pinners are actually connecting to your cause? Measuring success in social media is a hotly debated topic within the non-profit technology world and big questions persist:

  • Why measure social media?
  • What are my goals?
  • How do I measure?
  • What tools should I use?

These questions, and others, were explored during July’s Net Tuesday event, Social Media Measurement, presented by Tierney Smith, Community Manager for TechSoup Canada.

Upon introducing herself Tierney was quick to point out that she is not a social media expert and that anyone who proclaims to be one is kidding themselves. Social media is a rapidly evolving field where products, services and users can change in the blink of an eye, making it impossible for anyone to have all the answers when it comes to creating and measuring social media success. With that in mind, Tierney suggested that based on her own experience as well as what she has read, tried and curated, there are a few key questions and takeaways that can help you explore the vast social media landscape and, ideally, contribute to your own success online.

Why measure social media?

For starters, we need to know whether or not all of that time and energy we put into writing blog posts, formulating tweets, sharing links and posting pictures is actually enabling a real connection between our community of supporters and our cause, or if our efforts falling on deaf ears. We also need to prove to others (ahem, our leadership) that social media is in fact, contributing to the achievement of our mission and that it should be continued (i.e. funded).

The challenge, of course, is that, just as every organization’s mission is different from the next, so too are the metrics we attach to social media success. In order to measure social media we must first decide what it is about using social media that uniquely impacts or contributes to our organization’s mission.

For example, Tierney presented a case study from Pathways to Education, an organization that uses social media to engage with its youth constituents in communities across Canada. In the past, employees at Pathways to Education contacted youth via telephone in order to communicate changes to programs or events. Once they began using social media to connect with their youth participants, (a medium on which youth are particularly active) Pathways found that they were saving an incredible amount of manpower per year - the equivalent of two full time employees! This metric is obviously unique to Pathways, but it is a prime example of how social media metrics need to be tailored to each organization.

What are your goals?

Participants at Toronto Net Tuesday

Once you’ve taken a good look at your organization and analyzed how social media fits into the overall picture, it’s important to take a step back and ask, “What are our goals for using social media?” As Tierney suggested, hopefully we are all past the point of engaging with social media just to “have a presence.” In order to measure any kind of success with social media, it’s important to set goals that produce some kind of result. Below are a few examples to get your wheels turning.

Use social media to:

  • promote an event
  • get people to sign a petition
  • get supporters to raise $ for you
  • recruit volunteers
  • build community amongst clients
  • share info on a topic
  • tell stories about your work
  • get feedback from supporters

Once you’ve identified high-level goals you can also create sub-goals. For example, if your high- level goal is to encourage women to share stories and engage with your organization through social media, perhaps your sub goal is to facilitate connections between these women. The important thing is to create some sort of goals - the data you collect won’t mean anything without them.

How do you measure?

How you measure social media can be conveniently split into three main categories:

Exposure: What do supporters SEE? (eg. Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, email subscribers)
Engagement: What do supporters SAY about our cause? (eg. Facebook content likes, Twitter retweets) How do supporters FEEL about our cause? (eg. blog comments, Twitter retweets with comments, Facebook shares with comments)
Conversion: What does this prompt supporters to DO? (eg. donations, advocacy actions, event attendance)

Once you’ve grasped the different ways you can measure social media, pick one your goals for social media and run in through SEE, SAY, FEEL, DO. What do each of these metrics mean to your organization?

What tools should you use?

There are countless tools available for measuring social media - some are expensive and provide an incredible amount of data, some are free and provide only a snapshot of one particular aspect of your social media endeavors. Whichever tool(s) you decide to use, don’t overestimate the power of a simple Excel spreadsheet.

Tierney shared a few of the tools she is currently using. They include:

Of course, there are tons more tools out there - just remember that the key to measurement is consistency, so make it a habit!

For more resources/links/tools, take a look at the second page of the handout below.

Happy measuring!

By: Kristen Scott, Toronto Net Tuesday volunteer and Managing Director at the Bhutan Canada Foundation