Book Review: Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

by Amy Sample Ward on December 3, 2012

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I recently got my copy of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. In the foreward, Beth and Katie say that “measurement is the secret sauce; we provide the recipe.” And that they do!

It doesn’t matter what event I am speaking at, or who the participants are in the room, I can’t think of a single time I’ve spoken about nonprofit technology topics and not had at least one hand raised in the audience to ask about the number of Facebook fans an organization “should” have, or the “best” time of day to tweet, or even the frequency of posting videos on YouTube. In the book, Beth and Katie identify a number of themes. One that really speaks to me is the point that “measurement helps nonprofits understand and improve their social networks.” Often, nonprofit leaders and staff think of data as something that helps us decide on something new (a new program, a new service, a new engagement opportunity); unfortunately, we don’t always remember that data also helps us make decisions about what we are already doing. Here’s a case study of my own!

To Link or Not to Link

Before I worked at NTEN, I managed the NetSquared program at TechSoup Global. As part of that role, I was in charge of our various social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. At that time, most of NetSquared’s content came from the community blog, where anyone working at the intersection of technology and social impact could create a profile and contribute to the blog with stories, case studies, and more. The content strategy was to reflect the same community focus on the blog onto our other channels, both highlighting community members’ content as well as creating a space where people could continue sharing on their platform of choice. All of that translated to tweeting out links to blog posts all the time.

Watching the metrics every week, though, it was clear we weren’t looking just for traffic to the blog. We were looking to build the same kind of group sharing on social platforms that we were seeing on the blog. We also saw that retweets as a total or an average really varied. So, we dug deeper. In an attempt to ensure that we connected the “why” of whether something was successful or not to the “what” of the content itself, I started splitting apart our metrics. Instead of watching the average or total retweets for the week, I was looking at the number of tweets that went out with a link and the number that went out without a link, and the corresponding rewteets.

Wow, that’s when things got interesting! I started to see that the more I posted without a link or retweeted someone else’s link, the more response and engagement I built within the channel (in this case, Twitter). But when I tried to push people off of Twitter and over to the blog posts, there was much less of a response. Having a better understanding of what was going on, I could make a decision about our current strategy (not just a new one for later). To ensure that our content stayed balanced, I made sure that our metrics tracking documents separated % of posts with a link from those without a link and set goals for the weekly post balance.

Get your copy!

I am giving away a copy of Beth and Katie’s book to be sure that I do my part to spread the knowledge and share the insights. But, I don’t just want to mail it someone, I want to use this as an opportunity to catalyze some peer sharing! Please leave a comment below about how you’ve used data to help make a decision about the social channels you were already using. Just getting started? Share what you’d like to try! I’ll select a comment at random to win the book and we can all win by learning from each other. (I’ll pick someone on Friday, December 7th – so hurry!)

Why the dog photo? Well, that’s my dog and he’s pretty cute, but Beth and Katie are also running a dog vs cat photo contest.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Beth-Kanter/504747699 Beth Kanter

    Thanks so much Amy for the review!!   And I love your dog Simba .. 

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Beth! So excited to share the book!

  • Jimbracken

    This work is so important. Thank you. Having worked for 20 years in nonprofit communications I am always amazed at how this kind of “connecting the dots” (and seizing on the goodwill of relationships and results gathering)…how these practices are overlooked. Simple adjustments in how nonprofits do things can make such a big difference.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Jim!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001012247584 Ingrid Dulanto Bernuy

    I can’t wait to read the book. I haven’t done much with data to have impact in social channels, otherwise I’ve been using social networks to have impact in my home town, I’ve been encouraging  people to do something about to stop pollution, something like use a bike as a sustainable transportation, talk about the benefits and the huge impact it has in the planet. Also I have use twitter to get connected with people around the would who as me is really concern about the environmental change. 

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thank you, Ingrid!

  • Joyce Klemperer

    I’m trying out an online fundraising site (Razoo) to help raise funds for the Windcall Institute (an amazing residency program for organizers and social justice activists). In addition to sending emails, I’ve posted on Facebook and LinkedIn and tweeted about it. A very unscientific study with a small sample size, but interesting to see where donors will come from. 

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Please come back and let us know what you see working for your social fundraising campaign!

  • http://karmakorn.com Bill Scheurer

    We’re trying to learn why some of our Facebook posts at On Earth Peace get lots of response relative to other posts — kind of like a social genome of our users. Of course, it was the dog that hooked me!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Please let us know if you start to see some trends with your posts – would love to learn!

  • Linda

    LOVE that the non-profit world is talking results as it relates to Social Media. 

    We have not had a focused social media strategy with clearly articulated objectives.  It is something our organization is working on for the new year which will include meaningful measurement to better understand how to interact with our constituents to create stronger engagement!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      That sounds like a terrific New Year’s resolution, Linda – I love it! And am always here if you want some feedback.

  • Jo Murray

    I’m interested in how Facebook postings can increase traffic to physical sites like our local non-profit museum gallery cafe wine centre and a our local farmers market. See Copping convict and colonial collection and Bream Creek Farmers Market (both on Facebook). We would really appreciate learning more about how to use social media channels from Beth et al’s book. Now I have to enter the dog/cat comp.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Jo – yes! You do have to enter the dog/cat comp!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.fair.39 Dan Fair

    We’ve found our followers have different interests on Facebook and Twitter. Our Twitter followers seem to be more interactive for policy/advocacy issues, whereas our Facebook followers seem to be more interested in the community building side of our organization. We’re trying to slightly shift posts/updates accordingly and see what happens. 

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      I’ve seen that difference with most organizations I’ve worked with, Dan – do you see different web traffic levels as well?

  • http://twitter.com/JimmySW Jimmy Young

    I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to get a copy of this book as I will be teaching a social media class next fall and I am already planning on adopting the Networked Nonprofit in the course. That was such a great book that I imagine this book will add more richness to the overall learning experience. Of course it would be great to have before hand to read and review :D 
    Thanks,
    J.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Jimmy – where do you teach?

  • Sarah

    Insights, Analytics and Firestats are key for us! 

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Sarah!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Beth-Kanter/504747699 Beth Kanter

    Trying an experiment with FB Promoted Posts … I promoted a FB post on my brand page this morning at around 7 am  — so new comments as of this morning, curious how you heard or saw this post?  

    • Linda

      Beth I started following you on Twitter in February during #takebackthepink.  At that time I liked your FB page.  It seems like your experiment worked as you showed up in my FB stream!  So glad it did!

  • Jessica

    My organization shares blog posts as well. We were thrilled to see a growing number of likes and comments on Facebook when we tapped into the use of photos to “please EdgeRank” to promote the posts. However, it seemed through Google Analytics and Feedburner that our activity on the blog itself was down. So…we went back to posting a direct link to the blog. We decided we’d prefer more traffic on our website than likes on our Facebook page, and things seem to be running smoothly.

    We are tracking engagement scores, # of messages received, # of stories created, etc. in a monthly dashboard. However, I know there is so much more we can do to dig in deeply and build a strategy for content based on data. I would love to win this book!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Great example, Jessica – and there are so many tricks and apps to help make sure you always have an image with a link on FB. Better to beat the EdgeRank with!

      • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

        Hi Jessica – I took all of the comments and did a random drawing for the book, and you won! Please email me your address and the book will be in the mail for you!

  • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

    Cute puppy!!!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Ha! Thanks, Jeremy!

      • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

        Hope all’s going well. :) 

        • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

          All is well over here – hope 2012 is ending on a great note for you!

  • Delena Meyer

    After a decade in the field, it is encouraging to see this topic addressed, and by people who really know what they are talking about!  Thank you for giving us solid information that isn’t impossible to navigate and implement!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks so much, Delena – I, too, am so excited people are diving into the measurement conversations!

  • Davethecfre

    I’d like to look at more detailed demographics of the people who ‘like’ us on Facebook to see how to better target the message of posts we’re putting on our timeline

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Great one, Dave!

  • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

    Susan – thank you SO much for sharing here! 

  • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

    Catherine – thank you for adding a photo with your dog! And thank you for sharing some of the resources you’ve been using; hopefully others will test them out, too.

    • http://twitter.com/CStarek Catherine Starek

      Happy to! Thanks for your comment. I am excited to learn about social media measurement and capturing the value and impact of social engagement with nonprofit organizations and their work on social networks. I’m looking forward to reading others’ comments as well and continuing to share ideas! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1076807949 Dayamudra Ann Dennehy

    beth kanter helps those of us patching together our own tiny non-profits approach our work in new and creative ways. i was very inspired by a workshop she led at the foundation center and am eager to check out her new book, which my tiny crew will use as a handbook in the year ahead to take our work further. thanks for your voice in this conversation!

  • http://twitter.com/EliseJGHilton Elise Hilton

    I would like to have the book. Does the dog come with? He’d be a nice addition to my brood!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      The dog does not come with, this time :)

  • Mnkaren

    Wow.  OK, I am new to much of this – have been following Beth K for a while now, she is great – so I don’t have any tips to share YET but I know that were I to get this book and learn enough to start doing things which would lead me to be able to give advice in the future –  well, then I would be here in a flash sharing tips for your NEXT giveaway, promise!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks!

  • Marylee

    It’s essential for our future use of social media to have a better understanding of our audience, our metrics and how to set up goals for social media measurement in facebook and twitter. Beth has always inspired me to do better, and even if the book doesn’t come my way from you, I’ll get a copy!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      That’s great to hear, Marylee!

  • Cancerwarrior

    Soulful eyes on that adorable pup! :)

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      It’s true!

  • Erick Powers

    Posting for book giveaway! :D

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Interesting, Erick; thanks for sharing!

  • Claudia Scholz

    I’d love to read this book.  I’m teaching a class on grant-writing and fundraising next fall to help students at my liberal arts college prepare for careers in non-profit management.  Social Media will be a big unit in the course!

    • http://twitter.com/CStarek Catherine Starek

      I am just finishing a course in fundraising, which is contributing to my master’s degree in arts management.  We discussed crowdfunding in last night’s class! 

      Where will you be teaching? :)

  • DebM

    I love the dog photo. It would be great to win this book, since I’m learning social media and fundraising at my current job and any information I gain I share with my coworkers. {I have learned a lot from Beth Kanter’s blog posts in the past.}

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      So much to learn, Deb – great to hear you’re already sharing with your colleagues!

  • Tizzielish

    I’d love to read this book.  Pick me.

  • Jim Taylor

    The need to raise-up, encourage and develop young leadership is very important.  This is especially important among minorities that live in tough neighborhoods where opportunities are scarce.  I would use this book to give people hope and promise for a better tomorrow.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Jim!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1642494265 Victoria Boyd

    Results and outcomes are what nonprofits need to consistently measure and it is also what their community partners ( corporate sponsors etc) are beginning to demand. They must be able to rationalize the dollars invested. The days of buying banquets tables is gone. I am gathering data on this very topic, and teach NPO management seminars on corporate sponsorship and would love a copy of the book.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      The dollars invested or ROI part is huge, Victoria – thanks for sharing!

  • Gary Szabo

    In my efforts to help our partner nonprofits measure (and improve) their outcomes, this is our next frontier. I’d be glad to help bring the fire!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      I love the spirit, Gary!

  • Amy Spencer

    What a lovely giveaway – thank you! I’m super interested in this book and am eager to create a more thoughtful SM measurement plan in order to help guide how our (the org I work for) SM presence evolves, rather than flying by the seat of our pants.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Amy!

  • Alison Benney

    I work at OECD in Paris, and monitor numbers of clicks on links to decide which kinds of links are sexier to our community. And, perhaps like many others, I have noted the number of retweets compared to the time of day and the language I post in, and have been able to schedule weekend tweets at times they will reach the most readers. Very glad you mentioned this book on G+, looks like something I need to read!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks for sharing, Alison – scheduling posts for the weekends is a great idea!

  • http://lincolnmalymarketing.com/services.html Joanne Maly

    Thanks for the post and for bringing the ‘Measuring the Networked Nonprofit’ book to our attention. I have found that some nonprofit organizations pedal faster and faster – and ‘hope’ for good results – when it comes to their marketing and social media efforts.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Joanne – I hear you! Churning out “more” doesn’t automatically equate to “better”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesse-Bacon/1074956087 Jesse Bacon

    I went to a webinar on this and it was great! Also, I now have a dog. 

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Glad to hear it, Jesse!

  • Jamie Favreau

    I need help with measurement my current position does not do it very well.  I need to understand it better and your puppy is cute.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Jamie!

  • Ami Kim

    I’m just getting started trying to look at metrics in a disciplined manner, and it can be overwhelming. Would love some direction from the experts about which metrics matter, and which are worth the time! ~Ami Kim

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Ami!

  • Glennis Dolce

    not a non profit here but just an artisan making a living using SM as a tool to drive folks to my online shop and to take online courses etc.  have tried out all the usual-FB G+ T and more but things change so quickly and it’s hard to keep up AND keep in the studio.  Recently had over 100 folks sign up for an online class-from all over the world.  pretty cool.  just started several G+ communities…will see how that goes.  any tips are appreciated…

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Glennis – would love to hear how the G+ communities go for you!

  • Drew Bernard

    I want it! How we use data is a super loaded question for me, as you probably know, Amy :) We honestly don’t do anything within ActionSprout that isn’t informed by data. I am not sure how to get the data, but I would actually love to see data on what metrics orgs are honestly letting guide their decision making online and if and how those metrics are resulting in impact for the orgs. It seems so obvious it hurts to say this, but what we measure is always more important than how we measure. And, if what we measure is not dictated directly by our goals, well that’s just silly. Historically the social media field (is it a field?) has been plagued by false (dare I say vanity?) metrics. But this is changing fast. Likes on a post; the number of titter followers; the number of Facebook Fans are not worthy metrics unless they lead to a real outcome. Oh, and what’s vanity for one organization is gold for another. A cat vs. dog contest would probably not be of much value to ActionSprout even if led to lots of new fans. But it would be brilliant for an org like Best Friends Animal Society, especially if the org was getting the name of those who participate and can put that person’s animal preference into their database so they can use it to inform their relationship work with that person going forward.

  • Helen Kepler

    Amy,

    I just found your blog and love how informative and easy it is to follow.  I will be looking for the book.  Thanks for sharing

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  • http://www.leftygbalogh.com/tag/content-strategy Lefty Balogh, Content Strategy

    Cheers Amy. Nice one.