Last week, I had the opportunity to run a webinar on Nonprofit Webinars. I had thought to myself that there wouldn’t be anyone registered because it wasn’t a very buzzy topic. I was presenting on the way we can identify metrics in social media that help us reach our mission and how to use those metrics strategically. No “make money on social media” or “top 5 Twitter tips”. I was so thrilled, then, to see a couple hundred registered! Thank you to everyone who participated and recognized the value in being strategic with our use of social media!

Strategic Data

I have done a few webinars and presentations about social media tracking and metrics and frequently used the phrase “actionable data.” After one of these presentations, a participant came up to me and pushed back a little on what I’d said, explaining that data was for evaluation and that seemed very passive. I responded that data, without action, isn’t worth our effort to track it. That’s what actionable means.

But then I realized, the reason people didn’t see action tied to their data was because they didn’t see how the data, or even the actions that data could indicate, were strategic. Data we don’t want to take action about is even worse. We need strategic data. And, as it turns out, that doesn’t just mean data from your programs and services, but from your social engagement, too.

Step 1: Linking Strategy to Goals

Most of us on this call probably have an elevator speech or even a few that we use to explain what it is we do as an organization, what our role in the organization is; maybe even why people would want to get involved or donate. That’s where we start. We can use that general or generic even mission statement to start putting our social media use into a strategic place.

If your organization has a strategic plan or even a Theory of Change, you are already equipped with even more deliberate language that can help you get started. Most strategic plans include program area or service area specifics and you can use those to help frame why you use social media.

Step 2: Linking Goals to Social

Now that we have identified some areas where social media fits with the overall purpose of the organization, we can start putting certain aspects of social engagement into goal areas. We want to be specific here about the why and less specific about the what. For example, our goals with social media should identify the influence or impact we want to make, but not necessarily say we will do it on facebook. You may, actually use facebook for part of your social media activity, but you want to form your goals so that they are impact-specific, and open to either multiple or changing platform use.

Step 3: Acting on Strategic Data

And the last part, identifying your metrics to track and really tracking it! When it comes to tracking, there are a few things I recommend:

  • Nothing is finished: if you’re tracking something and the number is the same every single week, that’s an indicator that you should see if you are able to influence that area; if you try and no matter what you do, that number is the same, maybe it isn’t the number you really need to track. Remember, you want this data to be actionable for you!
  • You may not have all the numbers you need: it might take you a couple weeks or months of tracking in this way to realize you really need some other numbers to really tell the full picture of your online impact. So, add them! Don’t feel that all your data has to start on the same day. It’s better than you realize it and add in the new metrics as you go, than never add them in for fear of consistency.
  • Let the numbers tell stories: use the data in your social media tracking to identify the larger stories of your organization’s work or impact. Look for patterns or activity that comes from other actions in the organization (do Facebook comments increase when a staff person attends an offline event? do website visits change depending on comments?), help identify opportunities for coordinated effort.
  • Share it back: Be sure that you don’t just track and store the data, but you report back out to the organization and even community. Be sure you share some of the highlights and trends back to your organization/staff and includes ways they can help influence your numbers and reach goals (do you see certain kinds of stories do better than others? let your staff know so they can keep their eyes out for you!). Don’t just share with your staff, but share back with your community!
  • Context is king: don’t just use social media data! Be sure you’re tracking what happens on your website, newsletter, and others actions like whether staff were mentioned in the news or on a blog, if staff attend or present at an event, etc.

 Get Started

You can use this template to get you started. Be sure to change the blue rows in the document to reflect your goals and align your various metrics underneath. Make a copy of the file for your own use (otherwise anyone on the web will see your data if you put it in my template), or download the file.

>> http://bit.ly/DIYmetrics

Slides & Video

You can review the slides below, or check out Nonprofit Webinars to watch the full recording!

Photo credit: Flickr myklroventine

Is social media helping you meet your mission? It can!
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