September 2, 2010

Actionable analytics for your social media efforts

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How to keep data collection from being an onerous task

Beth KanterLately I’ve been obsessed with the idea of SpreadSheet Aerobics, an actionable social media measurement strategy that is fit and trim and light on its feet. When I coach nonprofits on tactics and talk about measurement, their facial expressions change from happy to annoyed. Collecting data is often viewed as an onerous task. It doesn’t have to be that way.

We know that it’s good practice to establish SMART objectives for your social media strategy and identify the audience before you execute. You need to think through your content and engagement strategy. You should also be thinking about what to measure and set up an efficient method for collecting that data. And, of course, making the time to think about what the data means.

We get so overloaded by meaningless data collection that we’re exhausted before we get to do the fun part: making sense out of it. I don’t try to measure everything. I find it overwhelming and a lot of it won’t help me refine my strategy. Spreadsheet aerobics is actionable data. What does that mean?

  • Measurement should inform specific decisions and/or actions.
  • Do not measure everything, but do measure what is most important to your objectives.
  • The data you gather should help you learn.

Avoid drive-by analysis

insightsAnother pitfall is doing “drive by” analysis. Let’s take Facebook Pages as an example. Rather than download a spreadsheet of the most important data points for a month from Facebook’s Insights analytics tools and comparing it against content, engagement and outreach strategies, administrators glance at the summary insights on their page and draw subjective conclusions.

Avoid this measurement-as-therapy trap. When we see the green arrows pointing up and the numbers look good, we might think, “They like me, they really like me.” But you can’t really put that data into context and learn from it.

Here’s my spreadsheet daily and monthly routine. I grab the monthly daily data from the Insights tool (old version) and download into a spreadsheet. Out of the 25 or metrics I could look at, I only collect the following metrics:

  • Total interactions
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • New fans (Likes)
  • Unsubscribes
  • Page views
  • Photo/video views (optional if I’m testing as content strategy)

I also have columns in a daily spreadsheet for labeled “content format,” “content topic” and “promotion.” In the content line, I put a link to the actual post, noting the type, voice or if it was a fan posting. I also make notes about what promotional tactics I used. Then, at the end of the month, I allocate a half hour to look at the numbers for the month in comparison to other months – and look for insights and trends.

In reviewing my spreadsheet, I discover what works. For example, open-ended questions work, particularly those that allow people to share their knowledge or ones accompanying a good resource link.

  • Questions that encourage people to share wisdom about their social media strategy or tools: Anyone Using Flowtown to track social behavior of people on their email lists? Anyone Play With New Insights Tool?
  • Questions that encourage people to share their take on a research report: Seniors Embrace Social Media Faster Than Other Segments, What Does That Mean for Your Nonprofit?
  • Questions that encourage people to share resources: What are the Best Social Media ROI Posts?
  • Questions that encourage sharing of stories, or What are the best approaches to managing bilingual Facebook Pages?
  • Blog posts that summarize a discussion thread from the Facebook Page. For example, What Tools Does Your Nonprofit Use To Make Your Social Media Efficient?

I’ve looked at frequency of posting and day/time of the week but have learned what my sweet spot is for my audience on Facebook and no longer track it on a regular basis.

Final learnings

It is also important to track exactly how you promote your Facebook Page and what helps you recruit more fans. I keep notes on when I’ve tweeted a link, speaking dates, posting updates in my status about my Page and all the multi-channel ways you need to promote your page.

I’ve also discovered that it is important to identify as many opportunities to set up experiments that you measure and learn as you go. This is where I’ve gleaned most of my insights – a combination of quantitative metrics culled from Insights and what people are saying on the page.

What are you learning from your social media measurement strategy? How have you kept your data collection trim, fit, and actionable? What is the most compelling thing you learned about your social media strategy through measurement that lead to better results?

Image at top on Flickr by Anne Helmond

The original version of this was published at BethKanter.org.Beth Kanter is CEO of Zoetica, a consultancy for nonprofits. See her profile, visit her blog, contact Beth or leave a comment.

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