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Social Media: Measuring the Right Things

You’ve heard it time and again: Reports, analytics and tracking are critical to social media success.

But why are they important? And what should you be tracking, exactly?

Before we get to those questions, let’s define “social media success.” It’s a little bit of a misnomer, because your organization’s success is more important than any individual program’s or strategy’s success. So let’s define social media success as “organizational success driven, in part, by social media.” More often than not, social media is becoming an integrated part of a bigger campaign and serves as an amplifier for the campaign’s existing communications. When aligned properly, there is no doubt that social media work can have a positive impact on your organization’s mission and, ideally, its bottom line, whether it’s increased donations, membership, or advocacy actions.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s examine some questions about social media reports, analytics and tracking.


Why are analytics important?

Through effective analysis, you can determine whether your messages are resonating. Social media work involves a bit of trial and error, and you’ll want to be sure your messages are delivered with the right words, at the right time, and with the right frequency.

The “right words, right time and right frequency” will vary between organizations, so it’s important to experiment. By tracking your results, you should be able to replicate successes and avoid repeating mistakes. Further, tracking your results gives you good ammunition for justifying your efforts to your organization’s higher-ups and your board.


What should you be tracking?

In short, track everything you can, but pay attention to a few key metrics:

Performance of individual posts

Track how many comments, replies, and retweets your content received. People’s willingness to share/respond to something is probably the best indicator of whether your content is interesting, useful and worth passing on.


Use bit.ly or a similar service to see which links get the most clicks, then post more content similar to that which is most popular.

Your power players

This is an often-overlooked, but critical piece of the puzzle. By finding the people who retweet you and mention you the most and engaging with them, you can gain access to their networks too. (Brief plug: Thrive, Small Act’s social media software, can help you easily discover your power players.) These power players are instrumental to getting big results (donations, actions, etc.).  Because of the combination of their social influence and their personal passion for your mission, they are the most important people for social media success. People are influenced by their friends more than any other source and shotgun/blast approaches are simply not as effective. Keep very close tabs on your power players.


How many followers did you gain vs. lose in a given day? Look to your content (and how often you post) to see what compelled people to follow, “like” or unfollow you.

How all of the above help your org’s mission

This is a squishy measurement, at best, and will vary from organization to organization. Can you correlate your actions on social media with increased membership and donations? Can you track those who become engaged with your organization by discovering it on social media? Consider how you can best illustrate the bottom-line mission impact of your social media work, whether it’s through numbers or anecdotal evidence.

So, to amend an earlier statement, reports, analytics and tracking are in-fact critical to social media success...provided you’re focused on your org’s mission, measuring the things that matter and adjusting your tactics accordingly.

How does your organization approach social media measurement? What are the most important analytics you focus on?

*Casey Golden is the CEO and founder of Small Act, a firm that empowers nonprofits and associations to nurture key relationships through its social media software, Thrive, and various consulting services. A frequent speaker at national events who also donates his time to serve on several nonprofit advisory boards, Casey recently won the “35 Under 35” award for top entrepreneurs in greater D.C. and was honored as a leader for social change as part of the Class of 2009 of Greater D.C. Cares


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