Last week I was in Orlando, Fla., speaking about measurement to the Public Relations Society of America chapter there. And I realized that while I speak and teach often on practical measurement for public relations, I haven’t really written about it here at Socialbrite all that much. So below I’ve outlined my approach. If you have a small budget and don’t have access to fancy dashboards, then this might be especially helpful.
Before getting to that, though, I have a few don’ts.
Things to avoid when measuring
- Don’t get caught up in shiny new measurement tools. Because then you start trying to measure the tools, and not what you should be focusing on. Experiment, by all means, but don’t get lost in the tools; keep your focus on your objectives and desired outcomes, and select the tools accordingly.
- Don’t get stuck just counting Twitter followers, Facebook fans, media impressions, yada yada. Note I said “just counting.”
- Don’t go crazy trying to find the one-size-fits-all measurement solution — because it doesn’t exist.
- Don’t get caught up in the misguided use of the term ROI (return on investment). ROI is a financial formula and should only be used in that context. You simply cannot try to calculate the value of “likes” on Facebook, for example, in terms of ROI. What you should instead be looking at is whether your activity in social channels is resulting in the kinds of outcomes – actions – your organization needs to succeed.
- Don’t try to measure influence in terms of scores. Just because a supporter might be deemed “less influential” by virtue of a score, doesn’t really mean that he or she is. We’ve seen time and time again that building community is one of the smartest ways for nonprofits and businesses to use social media. Initiate conversations that will help you. Then look at the outcomes that you’re trying to generate, and see who helped you get closest to those. The answer might surprise you.
5-step exercise in creating a measurement program
Now that you’ve read the don’ts, here’s what to do.
Typically, I undertake this very simple five-step exercise:
1Identify what the business objectives for your program/campaign are. Based on these, what do you need people to do? For a nonprofit organization, for example, it might be to increase members of an online community … because those are the people it can start trying to convert into members/donors.
That last bit is what’s most important. That’s what you’re going to work backward from, because while all roads might not lead to Rome, they should lead to that business objective. Your business objective(s) should be at the core of your measurement program. So before you do anything else, figure them out.
2Identify how you will measure the success or failure of these objectives.
For example, if your objective is to increase sales, what percentage do you want your sales to increase by over the last fiscal year? If you want to increase the number of volunteers working for your nonprofit, then by how much? If your objective is to grow your email list, because that is where you convert the most prospects into customers, by how much do you want to do this? In what time frame?
Get as specific as you possibly can. This means not just quantifying what you’re trying to achieve, but identifying the time frame within which you’re going to try to do this.
3Now outline your communication strategy. The most important thing here is to remember that you don’t work out your strategy first. You look at what the business objectives are, and then decide how you can use various communication and marketing vehicles to achieve those objectives.
To do this, you must have an understanding of how your audience reacts to and uses different communication mediums. Because your program/campaign is probably going to be more effective if you include those mediums in your plan. This means that you didn’t seize the shiny new toy du jour and say, “Oh, everyone’s on ____! We’re going to use _____!” Or: “Let’s make a viral video like Stop Kony!”
You don’t have to be everywhere all the time. Be where it makes the most sense.
4Figure out how you’re going to track your efforts. This is the part that is a lot of fun for me. With so many of our communications moving online, it’s possible to track a lot of things.
But don’t get caught in tracking nonsense numbers. I mean – going back to the “don’ts” above – you might get an ego boost out of seeing your Twitter followers grow, but if that growth isn’t helping you reach your business objectives, what’s the point, exactly?
Tracking URLs has become commonplace now. Use them. Get comfortable with Google Analytics and Google’s URL Builder. You will be amazed at how much insight these tools give you, particularly when it comes to understanding what is driving actions, clicks, downloads, purchases, sign-ups, etc.
And that helps inform your strategy, to make it better, and even more effective. It will also tell you what’s not working, so that you can decide whether or not it’s important enough to fix. Smart tracking lets you know what worked, instead of making you guess what worked.
5Correlate. Even if you’re not a statistician, I’m pretty sure you already know this principle. Correlation is basically when one thing is related to another in a way as to have an effect on it.
For example, if you get a terrific “hit” in X blog that you know is popular with your target audience, and you see traffic to your site/desired landing page increasing more than usual when that post runs, there is probably a correlation between the two. This means keeping track of your outbound activities — e.g. new blog posts, news releases, e-mail campaigns, and so on — and watching what effect those have on your desired outcomes.
You should also be keeping track of everything anyway so that you don’t mistakenly draw a correlation where there isn’t one.
Free approaches to keep track of key metrics
Because most of the time I don’t have access to fancy dashboards, I’ve found the easiest way of doing this is combining a few things:
- Using Excel or a Google spreadsheet to track outputs and outcomes
- Making sure the time frame within which I’m tracking different things – e.g. traffic, downloads, purchases, whatever – is the same
- Watching analytics at the same time, and regularly look to see if there is a correlation between outputs and outcomes.
If you’re keeping an eye on everything you’re doing, as well as looking at the back end, pretty soon you’ll be able to tell what’s working and what’s not.
And if you want to find the statistical correlation, Excel even has a formula to help you out, though I would work with someone who is really into Stats to make sure you understand what you’re doing.
Put these five steps to work for nonprofit, your business, your campaign. Rinse and repeat and I’m fairly certain you will be taking giant steps in demystifying measurement. Who knows, you might even start having fun! Take a look up top to see the presentation I gave at PRSA Orlando. I hope it’s helpful, and if you have any questions, give me a holler, or leave a comment, please!
This article originally at the Waxing Unlyrical blog.Shonali Burke is VP Digital for the digital communications agency MSL, Washington, DC (and a former Socialbrite partner). Follow her on Twitter at @shonali.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported.