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How do you measure social media success?

15 April 2014

Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters.” Working in a data driven area like digital marketing means there’s a lot of pressure to demonstrate impact in hard numbers and show colleagues you’re not just messing around on Facebook all day.

Few areas of digital feel this pressure like social media. As a result, there are a plethora of tools that exist to measure the impact of your social media efforts, like Facebook Insights, Hootsuite,, Tweetreach, Buffer and many more.

But they aren’t enough.

The problem

The difficulty with measuring the impact of social media is twofold.

First, there’s a problem with the question. Scott Stratten, author of Unmarketing, responds to the question ‘What’s the ROI of social media?’ with the pertinent question “What’s the ROI of meetings?”. To a large extent, the benefits using a medium like social media are only there if it is done right. And if it isn’t, it’s not the medium that’s to blame, it’s the person using it.

Secondly, tools (like those mentioned above) can measure the reach and engagement your posts get, but that’s not the end of the supporter journey. Ideally, once someone has retweeted your tweet or shared your post, you’d like them to go on to take an action that really matters, like signing an online petition or making a donation. Most of these tools can’t measure social media’s contribution to actions like those.

The solution

You want to measure the whole digital journey your supporter takes. Google Analytics, if set up right, will tell you which social network someone who made a donation on your website came from. And if you get a nice dashboard going, you can print it out and show in pounds and pence the real impact your social media efforts have on your charity. Definitely something to wave in the face of any colleague who dares to question social’s effectiveness!

If there are other things your supporters can do, like signing up to run a marathon or to volunteer, set up contact forms on your website and measure how many people hear about you on social media and fill these in.

Tips for measurement success

Remember your charity’s overall aims

Think about what your boss wants to hear, no matter how it came about. A thousand petition sign ups? 50 people reading an advice page? Ten new fundraising leads? Once you know, start using that language in your conversations about social media measurement.

Keep it simple

Just because you can report a number, doesn’t mean you should. As Beth Kanter, author of the excellent Measuring the Networked Nonprofit says, data without action is trivia. If you’re reporting which tweet got the most retweets, make sure you’ve analysed why that is and attempted to repeat the success in future content. Only report the numbers you can take action on.

Educate your colleagues

Do a ‘lunch and learn’ on your social media efforts. Explain how it helps your charity spread the word, what elements are important and what’s hard to measure. Tell them a story about one supporter’s journey that involved social media – it’s always easier to understand one over many.

Make the case

Don’t forget to sing social’s praises. How else could you reach that many people, for free, in seconds? There are few other mediums that are so instantaneous, global and interconnecting. Sometimes the real impact is in new conversations and ways of thinking – no matter how hard that is to measure, few would claim that they don’t matter.

Matt Collins

managing director, Platypus Digital

Matt is a digital marketer who helps charities use digital channels to raise more money and reach more people. He spent 10 years working for charities large and small, trained with General Assembly and delivers campaigns and training for charities who want to use digital better.