How should you measure social media success?

Here’s a hint: How should you measure the success of anything else your organization is doing?

TapeMeasuresWatermkBeth Kanter wrote an encouraging post on her blog recently, saying she believes nonprofit associations are starting to get smart about social media measurement, looking to analyze its impact rather than just chart fan/follower growth. Speaking at the recent Social Media 4 Nonprofits conference in San Francisco, she said, “I didn’t get asked ‘What are the best tools to measure followers on Twitter?’  Instead, I got asked questions about measuring the longer-term impact of social media – how do we know that our use of social media has influenced a conversion to an action or behavior change or donation?  How do we measure and track engagement to results?”

That is really good news. Your social media program, like any other communications effort – or any major undertaking by your organization – needs to contribute toward achieving your organization’s strategic goals. So it’s not enough to measure it in isolation. Fan and follower counts are meaningless, except to the extent that they further your efforts to spread the good word about what your organization does, and move your organization one step closer to achieving goals.

So what should you measure?

In order to know what you should be measuring, you need to take a step back and look at your overall social media strategy. (If you never formally developed a social media strategy, then you should put the brakes on your measurement discussion and do the strategy piece first.) Your social media strategy should tie your social efforts directly to organizational goals. What goals are you trying to further/achieve through social? These need to define your metrics.

Of course, this means I’m not able to tell you exactly what you should be measuring to determine the effectiveness of your particular social media efforts – because the measurement needs to be very specific to what you are trying to achieve.

Perhaps an example will help:

Imagine that your organization is a non-profit association with membership numbers that have been falling for several years, and one of its goals is to reverse this trend. It might very well be that you will look to your external social media efforts to support this. So let’s imagine that your social media strategy indicates a key goal of your public social media program is to re-establish relationships with lapsed members and entice them to rejoin. (Note: Your social media strategy really should be this specific. A general goal statement such as “support the association’s goal to increase membership” is pretty meaningless.)

Now you’re ready to look at meaningful measurements that can help you determine how good a job you’re doing with your social media. If you can identify the lapsed members among your social media audience, you can find ways to correlate their social media engagement with the likelihood of rejoining your association. Ultimately, your key metric would be: membership return rate for lapsed members who are engaged with your social media, vs. those who are not engaged with your social media. (It’s important not to leave out the comparison group; looking only at the social media audience, without looking at other lapsed members as a control group, will get you nowhere.) You’ll also need to define what “engagement” means, and preferably create ways to rank levels of engagement; for example, liking/following your page might be worth 1 point, liking an individual post might count for 1 additional point each time it happens, sharing your posts might equal 2 points, etc.

Oh, no! I don’t have this information!

I hear you already: “We don’t have this data!” Well, you’re not alone. But you need it, in order to really assess your social media program and gauge the return on the effort you put into it. So if you don’t have it, start working now to get the building blocks you need to enable this. Some places to start:

  • If you’re not already doing it, make a place in your membership database to store your members’ social media profile info: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter URLs, for example. Exposing this information in your member directory gives the members an incentive to provide the information, as it makes it easier for them to connect with their friends and colleagues.
  • Consider allowing social sign-in to your website – letting members sign into your site using their Facebook, Google or other social media profiles.
  • Start asking for and displaying your members’ blog URLs as well. For members who are bloggers, this will provide added visibility for their blogs. And you’ll be able to know which of your members blog; whether/how they might promote your organization or its goals on their blogs; and whether they copy your website URLs after clicking to go to your site in response to your social media posts.
  • If you don’t already, start including tracking parameters on the links to your website that you post to social media. If you use Google Analytics, this could look something like: utm_source=linkedinmainfeed. OR, you could use the campaign parameter (utm_campaign=). Yes, your analytics should already be reporting the referring domains that send traffic to your website, but they’re only capturing the most recent referring URL. If someone clicks from your social media feed to a page on your website that they think is worth sharing, then copies the URL of the page into a link from their website, their website will be listed as the referring domain. But wouldn’t you also like to know that your original share on LinkedIn was responsible for this new link and traffic? That’s what adding it as a campaign parameter will net you.

These are just a few places to get started. If you have other suggestions, please bring them to the party by sharing in the comments.

Whadd'ya think? Leave a Reply.