Beth Kanter, Social Media Guru
Over the past year, as more and more nonprofits have figured out how to integrate social networking and social media tools into their communications strategies, the question has remained: Do these tools and strategies really help nonprofits reach outcomes? While many of the tools are free, we still need to ask, "What's the value (ROI) of investing our time?"
Let me begin with some basic definitions from Social Media gurus:
Measurement is the process of determining the result of a strategy (source: J. Owyang)
- Metrics are the attributes or factors that are important for you to understand (source: J.Owyang)
- Standardized Metrics are those attributes that an industry might use to compare different organizations, media outlets, etc. (Think Nielsen Ratings).
- Mapping is the process of developing a map of all the things you are doing to generate conversation, share, and collaborate as a social media maker. (source: Chris Brogan)
- ROI (Return on Investment) determines whether the cost of your marketing investment paid off. Should we be spending our time or money on a particular social media strategy? Traditionally, this looks at dollars out and dollars in. It may also look at outcomes or reaching goals.
I started blogging and tracking conversations about these terms almost a year ago when I paused to consider how to measure the results related to my blog while producing a screencast about Google Analytics for NTEN. The bottom line is that the metrics for measuring nonprofit success in social media or social networks is different from traditional web metrics. It is, in fact, a moving target.
When metrics are discussed, people fall too easily into "mine is bigger or better than yours" comparisons or "data out of context thinking." Our brains naturally migrate to scoreboards, report cards, and stock market returns. It is important to remember that the focus should be on improving the effectiveness of your marketing strategy -- not wasting limited resources -- and encouraging more people to take action (push for a cause, donate money, or whatever). We also have to accept some flaws:
It's Hard To Put A Dollar Amount On Priceless. It can be difficult to put an actual value on the intangibles of social media. Think about the Master Card commercial illustrated here. Some of this depends on the organization's investment tolerance culture.
Data is not like Martha Stewart: it is far from perfect. Don't get distracted by the data you may or may not have. Look at more than one source of data (both quantitative and qualitative), look at trends, and always link information to decision-making. Still, it is important to understand how your web measurement tools measure up. If you want some tips on how to do that, see Avinash Kaushik's Convert Data Skeptics.
While it is important to read about social media strategy and measurement from gurus like Owyang to understand current practices and thinking, nonprofits often need to do a little translation. There has been some great conversations in the nonprofit blog space prompted by a recent Netsquared ThinkTank, as well as some good thinking on the topic, particularly by Wendy Harmon of the Red Cross, mostly focused on ROI. While I don't think we have a collection of nonprofit case studies yet that share real life experiences measuring results from social media and social networks strategies, a few bloggers -- like Tim Davies and Beth Dunn -- have contributed some terrific writing on the topic.
That's one reason I've jumped at the opportunity to be a session designer for the panel on Web2.0 and ROI at this year's NTC.
The highlight of the session will be a case study slam using the "Ask Later" format popularized by Ignite Seattle: 10 powerpoint slides (visuals only) with each slide on the screen for 30 seconds. And the presenter will not have control of the computer. That’s part of the fun. After each case study, the audience will get to ask a questions. Each case study will showcase a different outcome, metric, and tool, and offer some words of wisdom. The case study presenters will include representatives from nonprofits using social networks or other web2.0 tools -- Eve Smith, Danielle Brigida, Carie Lewis, and Wendy Harmon. I will kick off the session with a brief overview, and Justin Perkins will share specific techniques and tools like the Social Media ROI Calculator.
Since there is a lot of time before this panel, I would love to hear your thoughts. If your organization is thinking about the topic of social media measurement, metrics, and ROI, do you have any feedback? What information would be most useful to you? Any specific examples, case studies, or useful resources to share?
I'll include your input on a handout.