Simplifying Social Media Metrics

This is a photo I found on GlobalGiving of four women holding four buckets. Cheeky, right? Find out the real story behind the photo here:

This is a photo I found on GlobalGiving of four women holding four buckets. Why the buckets? Read below. Or find out the real story behind the photo here:

For as many social media platforms as there are out there, (hundreds,) there are equally as many social media metrics you could track to figure out if your content works.  How do you break it all down so that you’re only keeping track of the most important stuff (ehemmeasuring what matters)? I’ve found that most important metrics for the content we create can fall into four buckets:

  • APPLAUSE: do people like the content of your post?  
    • Examples: Users click on a URL in your post to read an article, or they like your photo on Instagram.
  • AMPLIFICATION: do your followers share your content with their personal networks?
    • Examples: Twitter users re-tweet your content, Facebook users share.
  • CONVERSATION: does your content spark engagement through back-and-forth conversation?
    • Examples: Twitter users reply to a tweet or Facebook users comment on your post.
  • CONVERSION: does your content move people to act, ultimately helping you meet your objective?
    • Examples: Readers donate, purchase, or sign up as a result of seeing your content.

These four buckets help me make sure I’m looking at the whole picture when measuring the success of my social outreach. Sometimes I just want to focus on one element, amplification, for example, if I’m just trying to get my message seen by as many people as possible. If success seems heavily weighted in one of the buckets, (if I got a lot of likes for example, but no donations) it’s an easy way to see whether I’m meeting my overall goals or not.

The interesting thing about the two middle buckets (amplification and conversation) is that while it’s easiest to track quantitative measuresthe number of likes, or re-tweets, for exampleit’s harder and more interesting to track the quality of the amplification or the conversation. We all know that a thoughtful, engaging reply is worth a lot more to your brand than someone’s cut-and-paste self-promotion on your Facebook wall, (or even a negative reaction to your content) but each response simply counts as one comment if you’re only tracking engagement rates. That’s why I recommend keeping a record of engagement quality with your content using a tool like Storify that can provide color to your numbers.

And one last thing. There’s actually an important fifth bucket that I also use that’s almost purely qualitative. You could call it Brand, or if you’re a nonprofit, perhaps you’d call it Alignment. It’s about how well your content reflects your overall mission. Don’t forget to keep track of qualitative feedbackor even your own gut feelings about how well your content reinforces your ultimate purpose. Did you create a hilarious .gif that virtually went viral, but makes some of your staff feel kind of icky inside? Or are your metrics driving you to create generic inspirational quotes that distract from your mission or doesn’t reflect your organization’s voice? That question is important to consider, too, when determining whether your content is working. So don’t forget to ask for feedback from your own team to make sure that doing what works is still doing what’s best for the people you serve, helping move them and your organization forward.

Alison Carlman

As Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications, Alison has the privilege of telling GlobalGiving's story and the stories of our inspiring nonprofit partners. Follow her on twitter @acarlman.

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