February 14, 2012

To create a metrics program, first identify your goals

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If you don’t know what you want to achieve, it doesn’t matter how many people ‘like’ you

This is the first part of a two-part series on creating a strategy for your nonprofit or social cause.

Target audience: Nonprofits, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, cause organizations, brands, businesses, government agencies.

Guest post by Melissa Foley

Deciding how to measure your social media efforts can be a challenging undertaking. Number of likes? Number of followers? Level of engagement? Which measures are right for you?

Believe it or not, these measures are virtually meaningless. In fact, all measures are meaningless — unless they are tied to your goals.

Think about it: An organization working to raise awareness about an issue and an organization working to pass legislation are likely to have very different goals, even though they are likely to use many of the same tools (eg., Facebook and Twitter). One-size-fits-all “Top 10 social media metrics” lists can be tempting but dangerous. Each organization should choose measures that align closely with your goals.

Figure out what you want

Your first step is to figure out what you really want to do, how and why. I recommend using the following strategic planning process. Don’t let “strategic planning process” scare you — one or two well thought-out bullets for each step is sufficient:

  • Step 1: Goal & objective
    Your first step is to carefully define a high-level goal (eg., pass this legislative bill) and a measurable objective (eg., get six key legislators to vote for the legislation).
  • Step 2: Strategy
    Next, you need to decide at a high level how you want to go about doing this. For example, influence newspapers in key districts to write stories about community support for the legislation.
  • Step 3: Tools and tactics
    Once you’ve got your strategy, map out an action plan for using new media and other tools to execute your strategy. For example, follow local newspapers on Twitter and engage in conversations with them, breaking news related to the legislation. Target communities when possible.

Decide how to measure your outcomes

Once you’ve clearly mapped out your goals, it becomes easy to select the right measures or metrics. Think about it first in real-world terms: How will we be able to tell if we’re successful? In the example above, we will know the organization is successful if local newspapers report on the issue.

Next, think about how you can measure that best, given the tools you have. For this example, we may want to measure the number of articles and posts on Facebook and Twitter by the target newspapers.

Sure, this process takes time. However, the measures you end up selecting using this method will be much more informative than measures chosen from a top 10 list. If the organization hadn’t gone through the strategic planning process and instead chose to measure their total number of Twitter followers, they would have no idea how well they were actually doing.

Agree? Disagree? How do you begin formulating a metrics program?

Melissa Foley is New Media Program Director for Netroots Foundation and Lead Mentor for New Media Mentors. Follow her on Twitter at @melfoley. This article originally appeared on the Netroots blog.
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7 thoughts on “To create a metrics program, first identify your goals

  1. Hi’
    I liked your post, most of all because you pointed out the main thing one should bear in mind before starting any action (on the internet, or anywhere else) :
    the first step is to figure out what your real goals are !
    Remember what Seneque (the famous latin philosopher) said : “No wind is favourable to a sailor who does not know what port he is making for”

    I posted something similar on my blog, one month ago (in french language, I’m sorry. Nevertheless, you may like the diagrams and pictures) :

  2. Yes! Those groups that develop FB (etc) just so they have ‘presense’ are missing a huge opportunity and could find themselves in “tail wagging dog” mode. Start with the end (goals) in mind and 1) the whole thing will practically design itself and 2) you’ll know when your efforts are a success.