The importance of measuring the effects of your
organization’s social media outreach is not in question. But what
metrics should you track? What analytics tools do you need? And what
can you do with those numbers, once you’ve got them?
The whole point of social media measurement, after all, is to enable you to assess whether you're meeting your goals for social media, and to make your social media strategy more effective. I see this as basically a three-step process:
- Data Collection
- Analysis and Interpretation
More and more nonprofits are getting onto Twitter as it's now clearly entered the mainstream, so let's take that platform as our example.
Monitoring and Analytics Tools for Twitter
(and of course the desktop clients like Seesmic and Tweetdeck) will
give you current data on basic measurements: Your account’s followers;
how many people you’re following; how many tweets you’ve published in
total; how many Twitter Lists you’ve created, follow, or have been
added to (and how many other people follow each of your lists); and how
many direct messages you’ve received.
(Twitter’s off-again-on-again new Retweet feature attempts to add
data on how many times you’ve retreated other people’s tweets and who
has retweeted yours, but at the moment I don’t find it very useful: it
will only show (some of) the actions made via the website’s Retweet
button, and doesn’t seem to be very accurate at that.)
We’ve talked here from time to time about tools like SociafyQ.com,
which tracks all your social networks and presents your basic
followers/following type of data in a convenient graph format — giving
a useful quick overview of growth trends over time — and about how to use shortened URLs to track clicks on your tweeted links, helping you to gauge what topics are of greatest interest to your Twitter audience.
You may also be interested in Five Simple Ways Nonprofits Can Measure Social Media ROI (Return on Investment) at Nonprofit Tech 2.0, as well as these two posts
in particular from Beth Kanter, acknowledged queen of nonprofit social
media: Using Metrics To Harvest Insights About Your Social Media Strategy and What are the best Twitter measurement tools and how are you using them?
There’s certainly no shortage of third-party Twitter analytics tools
out there, and most of them are free or at least offer a free version.
Here are some lists of Twitter tools you may want to explore:
Great… now, what do all those numbers mean?
The most detailed measurements are of limited use to us, in any practical way, without the next two steps in the process — Analysis and Interpretation, and Action. Sounds a bit scary, doesn’t it? Like you’d need to put a half-dozen statisticians on the job…
I much prefer the way analytics expert Avinash Kaushik says it:
Most twitter analytics tools just do data puking…. You must pause and think: So what is this saying? What action can I take?
Now, that's concrete. Two simple questions that give focus to this whole business of measuring social media — and, most importantly, help to distinguish between truly useful metrics and, well, measurement for the sake of measurement. That's something we can work with!
In a must-read blog post called Social Media Analytics: Twitter: Quantitative & Qualitative Metrics,
Kaushik describes in detail his take on four new Twitter analytics
tools that, he believes, show promise for delivering better, more
useful data — numbers that give information you can actually use in
creating and refining your social media strategy:
Over the next few days, we’ll look at each of these tools from the perspective of nonprofit organizations, with the
focus firmly on Avinash Kaushik’s key questions — “What is this saying? What
action can I take?”
Let’s see if we can figure out together how these metrics can help your
organization to use Twitter (and, by extention, other social media platforms) more effectively, whether your primary
goal is awareness and public education, outreach and community
building, or perhaps even fundraising.
Are you up for a brainstorming session?