Measuring the Value in Social Media

If you ever feel like this, don't despair: social media CAN be measured!

At last week’s Nonprofit Technology & Communications Conference, I had the chance to lead a session with friend and colleague Jamie Millard of Charities Review Council.  Our session was called Dashboards, Metrics, and Insights: Measuring the Value in Social Media, where we dove deep into social media analytics and the metrics that really matter. I’ll provide a brief summary here; if you’re interested in learning more, head over to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits download center where you can see the presentation and resources!

Stay Mission-focused

When you talk about how your social media activity is going, always bring it back to your mission, especially with your executive director or board. We hear a lot about how social media is about having conversations and building relationships, and that’s true, but your organization isn’t on Twitter to have conversations, it’s there to advance the mission, because that’s what all its activities are about. If you don’t do that, the higher-ups may rightly wonder what the point is.

Measuring Success Within Social Media

The above isn’t to say that you shouldn’t keep the pulse of your social media accounts on that tactical level — knowing what is and isn’t working is important. Here are three tactical metrics that matter, courtesy of Avanish Kaushik:

  • Conversations: Do your posts connect with your audience? (Number of comments/replies per post)
  • Amplification: How often is your content being passed along? (Number of retweets/shares per post)
  • Applause: What does your audience like? (Number of favorites/likes per post)

Facebook Insights and Twitter tools like Hootsuite will log some of this automatically; some you (or your intern!) might have to manually score.

Once you have the raw numbers you can turn it into a dashboard to keep an eye on what’s happening. You can also go a step further by asking, for example, if content from your organization or others’ content that you share gets a better response. It depends on what’s important to you!

Tie It to Organizational Goals

Once you’re done with the tactics, you’re ready for the next step! In the digital realm, many organizational goals get fulfilled on your website. Here’s our 3-step program on how to track goals fulfilled through social media, using Google Analytics:

  1. Set Up Goals. What are the most important things that happen on your website? Do people sign up for services? Buy things? Donate? Download research ? Set goals for those most important things in the Conversions section of Google Analytics. (Here’s how)
  2. Tag Your Links. Use Google’s URL Builder to add a custom tag to the end of your website links. Assign “Source” as social-media and “Medium” as Facebook/Twitter/etc. and you’ll be able to group your social media traffic efficiently! (Here’s how)
  3. Use Advanced Segmentation. Now that you can group your traffic, this part let’s you actually do it! Match the segments you create in this step to the tags in step 2. This part is easy, as Avinash Kaushik has set up a one-click method to creating a social media segment! (Here’s more on doing it yourself)

Once you’ve done all that, voila! Click the Advanced Segments button at the top of every Google Analytics page, select the one you made, and your custom data will start pouring in. (After you’ve done a bunch of tweeting and Facebooking, that is.)

Don’t stop just on your website either — do your volunteers or other constituents who engage with you on social media show a greater loyalty or likelihood to refer people to you? Measure it! Be creative and think about what else matters for your organization.

Communicate Your Results

Once that’s all rolling, it’s time to impress. During a presentation to your board of directors or management, start with tactics to show growth, move to organizational goals to show what it means for the bottom line, and end with a flourish by capturing and sharing screenshots of mission moments you’ve encountered — to drive the point home on a more personal level.

Hopefully this hands you some useful tools and helps reprogram your brain to talk about social media in a new way. Don’t forget to visit the download center to learn more.

-Chris Oien, MCF web communications associate

2 Responses to Measuring the Value in Social Media

  1. Chris Oien says:

    Hi Eric, thanks for commenting. You’re right, this presentation was made with the nonprofit/philanthropic sectors. One point we made during the presentation was that for nonprofits, funding often relies on funders and donors seeing that you are doing well at fulfilling your mission. If social media helps you fulfill your mission, then telling that story will make you more attractive to donors and thus it all gets tied back to the bottom line that way.

  2. Eric Ehrmann says:

    This qualitiative approach to social media analysis may resonate in the non-profit, NGO spheres who seek to develop non-monetary value. On the so-called for profit side the dynamics skew toward monetization, which remains elusive even in the Business-to-Business world.

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