December 15, 2010

How to measure your nonprofit’s social media success

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social media success

Metrics need to be tied to your organization’s business goals

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, NGOs, foundations, businesses, Web publishers, educators, individuals. This is part of Socialbrite’s series Guide to social media metrics. In this series:
Getting started with social media metrics
Guide to social media metrics (main page)

See accompanying article published on today: 10 ways to measure social media for business.

JD LasicaYour organization or business knows that it’s important to measure the progress you’re making with your social media program or campaign, as we discussed in Getting started with social media metrics. But what do you measure, why and how?

There’s no single, simple answer, but today we’ll offer a framework to guide you through the thicket of differing approaches you should consider before implementing a metrics program. (If you have other approaches that have worked for you, please add them to the comments!)

Creating goals to advance your mission

First off, don’t obsess about metrics. In fact, forget about the data altogether. What you’re really trying to do is advance your organization’s mission. Metrics are just a tool to help you do that.

Before assigning someone on your staff to take ownership of metrics, ask yourself: What are the key items we need to track to determine if we’re moving the needle? Have I clearly formulated a set of goals to advance my organization’s strategic or business objectives? Once you have a set of goals in place, then, and only then, should you begin considering which tools to use for your measurements. (We’ll cover tools tomorrow.)

Start by listing a series of specific, concrete, short-term, measurable, achievable goals that advance your long-term mission. Most of these goals should be short-term and modest in scope. Your organization may want to:


  • Grow traffic to your website or blog
  • Grow your newsletter list
  • Motivate people to donate
  • Move people to take a specific action, like signing a petition
  • Turn supporters into volunteers
  • Increase sale of a product or service
  • Build visibility and authority for your brand or cause
  • Solicit micro-loans
  • Boost your following on Twitter or Facebook
  • Spur people to register to attend an event
  • Reduce operational costs by crowdsourcing tasks
  • Test the efficacy of one donation button vs. another
  • Enhance your site’s search engine rankings
  • Increase the number of blog comments people post
  • Reduce your site’s bounce rate (and increase stickiness)

All of these goals can — and should — be measured. And you’ll notice that while social media will be used to pursue and measure your progress in achieving many of these goals, others don’t involve social media at all. That’s OK. Social media should fold into your overall metrics program, not the other way around.

KPIs: How you’ll measure progress

Now that you have a list of goals, you’ll want to map them to Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. A KPI is simply a metric that you track to assess whether you are accomplishing your business goals. There are literally hundreds of KPIs that you could be tracking in a spreadsheet, but your team will want to identify only a handful that matter most — the ones that will specifically help you achieve your goals.

For instance, if you want to grow your list of supporters, you’ll be able to measure the number of newsletter or RSS subscribers. If you want more interactivity on your blog, you can measure the average number of comments that people post.

Following is a partial list of KPIs/social interaction metrics put together by my friends at Econsultancy in London:

Key Performance Indicators

  • Blog comments
  • Downloads
  • Email subscriptions
  • Likes or Fans
  • Favorites (add an item to favorites)
  • Followers (follow something / someone)
  • Forward to a friend
  • Groups (create / join / total number of groups / group activity)
  • Install widget (on a blog page, Facebook, etc.)
  • Personalization (pages, display, theme)
  • Ratings
  • Registered users (new / total / active / dormant / churn)
  • Reviews
  • Time spent on key pages
  • Uploads (add an item, e.g. articles, links, images, videos)

There are dozens more, but you get the idea. Some of these social interactions may map to multiple goals. Last year the the Interactive Advertising Bureau released a document detailing social media metrics and definitions.

In addition, David Berkowitz offers 100 ways to measure social media and Sazbean offers 18 Things Online Measurement Can Tell You.

Get strategic: Determine formulas for calculating success

whitepaperWe know of a lot of nonprofits and companies that simply maintain a spreadsheet, check it occasionally to see if the numbers are trending in the right direction and pay little heed to what they could be learning if they dug a little deeper. That’s what the rest of this article is about.

In an April 2010 whitepaper by Web Analytics Demystified and the Altimeter Group, the authors propose aligning KPIs to social business objectives and offer formulas for calculating success.

They set out a simple framework of four Social Business Objectives and associated KPIs:

  • Foster dialogue: Share of Voice, Audience Engagement, Conversation Reach
  • Promote advocacy: Active Advocates, Advocate influence, Advocate Impact
  • Facilitate support: Resolution Rate, Resolution Time, Satisfaction Score
  • Spur innovation: Topic Trends, Sentiment Ratio, Idea Impact

Download the full report (PDF) to get the complete context and actual formulas for these KPIs.

How to measure: Yes, social media can be quantified

You may have heard the cliché that social media can’t be measured. Let’s bust that myth. Here are some practical metrics methodologies to get you on your way:

My friend Katie Paine, known as the Queen of Measurement and the author of the Complete How-To Guide to Measuring Social Media, offers several resources that can help. She lays out this sensible approach:

Super Six Steps to Measurement


  1. Set your objectives
  2. Define your stakeholders
  3. Determine which metrics to use
  4. Benchmark against yourself over time or your competition
  5. Pick your measurement tool/technology
  6. Analyze the results and start over

Katie debunks the myth that social media can’t be measured in a 26-page whitepaper, The Social Media Measurement Manifesto: Yes we CAN and already ARE measuring Social Media. It’s a smart read and addresses topics such as changing how we quantify success, how to reach the right stakeholders, how to perfect an online measurement program and much more. (One word of advice: Browse the sections you want to probe and then dive in more deeply.)

Earlier this year Katie published a free Social Media Measurement Checklist that you should check out and adopt to your organization’s needs.

She also offers a smart approach in Toward a Definition of Engagement: Who is a lurker, who is engaged, and who is addicted?

Don’t overlook keyword search

Finally, don’t forget keyword search! It’s one of the key components of search marketing and should be a part of any metrics program you undertake. By analyzing your site and social media accounts for key words and phrases, you’ll be able to correct bad keyword choices and begin to drive more traffic from people searching for information about your cause or sector.

See two primers on our sister social media consulting site:

Guide to keyword research tools, search marketing, data mining and competitive intelligence tools

Launching a new site: 18 steps to successful metrics & marketing

All of this may seem a little overwhelming, but if you begin modestly and start racking up small but important successes, you can scale your metrics program in the years ahead.

Let us know if we can help!

In this series on Socialbrite

Getting started with social media metrics
How to measure your social media success
14 free tools to measure your social influence
Guide to social media metrics (main page)

Other metrics resources

Using Metrics To Harvest Insights About Your Social Media Strategy (Beth Kanter)

Five Simple Ways Nonprofits can Measure Social Media ROI (Nonprofit Tech 2.0)

Commonsense Social Media Measurement: Setting SMART Objectives (Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones)

Commonsense Social Media Measurement Part 4: A’s of Social Media Measurement: Attention, Attitude, Action (Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones)

Better Twitter Analytics for Nonprofits (Wild Apricot)

• The 2010 Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmarks report is an analysis of mobile advocacy and mobile fundraising metrics for nonprofit organizations. Download the report for free.

Social Media Metrics: Listening, Understanding and Predicting the Impacts of Social Media on Your Business (SAS, free whitepaper)

10 ways to measure social media success (Econsultancy)

35 social media KPIs to help measure engagement (Econsultancy)

Secret To Winning With Web Analytics? Starting Right! (Yahoo! Analytics Blog)

Beginner’s Guide To Web Data Analysis: Ten Steps To Love & Success (

100 ways to measure social media (David Berkowitz’s Marketing Blog)

18 Things Online Measurement Can Tell You (Sarah Worsham at Sazbean)

Site Statistics and User Privacy for Nonprofit Websites: Learn the facts before you install analytics tools (TechSoup)

Is Your Nonprofit Facebook Page Worth It? Analytics and Measurement Techniques (free ebook by Shabbir Imber Safdar)

Related links from Zemanta

JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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7 thoughts on “How to measure your nonprofit’s social media success

  1. You guys do some great work here! thanks for the great post and all the related articles/links.

    This one article has given me a weeks worth of reading. Thanks!