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What's Your Nonprofit's Social Media Measurement Strategy?

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Many nonprofits have are actively exploring social media - from dipping in their toes into the water with a low-investment experiment to jumping off the cliff.   One problem is that many do not formulate a measurement strategy and are at a loss to justify their investment of time and resources or reap insights to improve what they're doing.  

A couple of recent reports and frameworks in both nonprofit and for-profit areas have been published recently and provide some useful ways to think about how to measure the ROI as well and measure effectiveness.

Altimeter Report:  Social Media Analytics

Jeremiah Owyang from The Altimeter Group along with  John Lovett  and Eric Peterson both of the Web Analytics Demystified firm have published an open research report that advocates for a standardized framework of the following business objectives and use of metrics to measure them.  They define this process as "social media analytics."

  • Dialog: involves starting a conversation and offering your audience something to talk about while allowing that conversation to take on a life of its own
  • Advocacy: activation of evangelism, word of mouth, and the spread of information through social technologies
  • Supporting: customers may self support each other, or companies may directly assist them using social technologies.
  • Innovation: The business objective of innovation is an extraordinary byproduct of engaging in social marketing activity.

Social Media Analytics Frameworks and Tools

The report presents a framework for measuring social media effectiveness against those business results and presents standardized metrics.   The report also makes the point that there is currently no single tool that can capture and measure all aspects of social media.  They found that most companies (and this is true for nonprofits) are using multiple solutions, including commercial tools and free ones that require a lot of manual intervention (e.g. cut and paste).   The report warns that organizations should not define their measurement strategy by the features and capabilities of the tools.  It also warns against collecting lists and lists of meaningless data that is not benchmarked against business objectives. 

Measure Everything: Is Your Nonprofit Facebook Page Worth It?

Perhaps more relevant for nonprofits is this report specifically for nonprofits.   Last week when I was Society for New Communications Research conference, I ran into KD Paine, who shared a copy of an ebook by Shabbir Imber Safdar, author of the TruthyPR blog and Shayna Englin of Englin Consulting LLC entitled "Is Your Nonprofit Facebook Page Worth It? Analytics and Measurement Techniques" (free to download).   Jordan Viator had a guest post by the authors.  

The ebook includes a case study of the UNICEF-USA Facebook page based analyzing a year's worth of data.   Over the NTEN blog, they've summarized some of the interesting findings.   What I found most useful about the report are pages 13-15 that answer the question "What type of measurement program should your nonprofit have in place?"   Even with the recent changes, I think there is a wealth of information in the report and well worth reading.

The report offers a good step-by-step measurement process for Facebook:

1.) Define Objectives: The authors urge nonprofits not to skip to the tactics, but advocate a program of measured experiments that reap learning!  They suggest that nonprofits begin with a fill-in-the-blanks sentence as follows:

"We know our Facebook efforst are worth further investment if ....."

And suggests some answers:  If Facebook fans become - donors, volunteers, take advocacy actions, or share content. 

2.) Define and Track the Funnel:  They suggest clearly defining and tracking the marketing funnel.   On the recent panel I did at NTC called Social Media Housewives, I talked about the importance of the funnel.  I asked the audience how many of them were tracking the funnel for their social media efforts (out of the 100 plus people in the room, only a handful raised their hands.)

3.) Describe the Tactical Variations for Testing:   This is the list of tactics that you will test using particular metrics and reap insights about how to improve it.   This approach helps get away from the data collection for sake of collecting data problem or social media data trivia.  The e-book provides a great list of these tactics for Facebook Pages:

  • Post Frequency
  • Post Timing
  • Post Content
  • Voice
  • Ask

I've been doing this for the past year with my Facebook Page and after a few months discovered the formula that seems to work for me.  The challenge, of course, is understanding what tactical suggestions will work for your audience and situation and what is a standard best practice.  This is the importance of doing these benchmark studies, such as the 2010 Social Network Benchmark study published by NTEN as well as the recently launched survey of nonprofit social media effectiveness from BridgeSpan.

4.) Determine Your Measurement Variables:    Some good advice about time segments for measuring which depends whether or not you're going back after the fact (archival) or creating an ongoing measurement program.   The latter is about determining how often you'll collect and compile data to review - weekly, every other week, monthly, or quarterly.    While weekly is ideal, it can be difficult for nonprofits with limited time resources.

5.) Set up Measurement Tool:   They are fans of the spreadsheet.  They suggest creating separate sheets for each of the metrics you'll be tracking, along with base data from Facebook insights.  (The latter can be exported into a spreadsheet)

6.) Actionable Decisions:   Remember, if you don't take the time to look and think about the data you've collected, it will be a big waste!    Decide how you will adjust what it is you will do based on looking at the data.

This framework is a good one that can be applied to other social media channels and will be still relevant for Facebook despite the recent changes.

What is your nonprofit's measurement strategy for social media?   What does your spreadsheet look like? What insights have you discovered from measuring your social media strategy and reflecting on the results? 

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