Many organizations struggle with the idea of ROI and metrics when it comes to social media because so much of it feels, well, untouchable.  It’s soft and maliable and relative, pretty much all of the time.  So, how do identify if you are succeeding or evaluate if you are improving?  Here are some steps that you can walk through either as an individual looking at this process, or as a team in a workshop setting.

First, let’s settle on an example we can use to walk through all 5 steps:  you work for a small nonprofit that focuses on early childhood education, so you have lots of services for parents and partnerships with hospitals, child care facilities, and doctors offices.  You also have a volunteer program for middle and high school students to work with the children in after-school time in lieu of child care, but find that the current partners you have in the community don’t work for attracting new volunteers to participate.

1. Problem

We are usually pretty quick to highlight problems, so this is probably the easiest step!  Be sure to focus in on the problems you plan to address with your social media strategies (we all want to change the world, but that’s not a specific).  In our example, our problem is that we don’t currently reach those who could participate in our volunteer program.  Our partnerships and current communication streams aren’t ones that would easily get the attention of or shared by that group of middle and high school students.

2. Strategy

The next step is highlighting the strategies that specifically address the problem.  These 5 steps assume that your organization has already used a process to evaluate your audience and your goals and chosen tools and strategies that match the audience and organizational goals.  Assuming our fictional organization has done this, let’s say that they chose to create a blog that the middle and high school students who volunteer in the after school program author, with stories form their work, things they are thinking about, events, friendships, and so on.

3. Benefit

The benefits? These are both tangible and intangible.  It’s also important to remember that there will probably be benefits to your work that you can’t identify know or foresee!  Some of the benefits of the strategy in our example could be: opportunities for volunteers to share their stories, more word of mouth advertising, and more shared learning about the program both amongst the volunteers as well as between the volunteers and the organization.

4. Value

If we were drawing our five steps out on a white board or piece of paper, our next column would be for the values related to the strategy and benefits.  In our example we could identify a core value of connections and “community” growing around the volunteer program.

5. Metrics

So now, finally, we get to the metrics.  By charting out the problems, strategies, benefits, and values first, we give ourselves a better picture to pull out metrics. Given the answers to 1-4 of our example, some of the metrics we could use to measure our success and ROI include: volunteer participation, online “chatter,” and program growth.  So, how do we measure those items?  We can look at the number of middle and high school students applying for the volunteer positions.  We can measure how many people are reading the blog and sharing the information across the web.  We can also look at other online mentions that talk about the organization as a whole, or other programs of the organization that also link to the new blog.

In this example, we are using a blog.  Whether it’s a WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, or whatever, you have access to built-in web analytics or the option to use Google Analytics.  There are lots of resources online that shed light on the different terms and tricks to diving into your web analytics.  But, even a beginner can identify the number of unique visitors to the site.  Setting up Google Alerts for the blog address and title will help you catch whenever other bloggers or organizations mention the blog on their sites.  Tracking how many of your volunteers participate by posting to the blog and commenting on each other’s posts + other online mentions + increase in inquiries and volunteers, etc. combines both online and offline measurement and values so can help you more thoroughly evaluate both the strategy and how to address the original problem.

Remember, your strategies should be integrated online and offline, and so should your metrics.

Five Steps to Finding ROI
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