September 13, 2012

Dipping Your Toes into Metrics Tracking

If your organization is not tracking activity on its website or social media pages regularly, getting started can feel like an overwhelming task. There’s no one magic formula, but there are some great ways to get started. Here are some beginning steps to getting your toe in the water with basic metrics tracking (along with some resources to help along the way).

Know your goals
Before you even start thinking about metrics and measuring, check to see if you know the goals for what you’re doing. For example: What does your organization hope to achieve with its website (or landing page)? Or, why did you start a Facebook page? Why are you sharing the types of content you post?

If you’re not sure, go back to your organization’s mission statement. If you’re in a position to create a goal, make sure that it ties to your mission. Chances are your mission statement doesn’t say that your organization is committed to having at least 3,000 Facebook fans. However, it might say that it strives to connect with all parts of the diverse community you serve. By having a Facebook page, and by documenting increases in basic page metrics (or, for example, looking at your fan demographics) you can start determining your success meeting that part of your mission.

Don’t forget to determine what your goals are for tracking and analyzing your metrics. Why have you decided to start doing this? What do you hope to achieve with it? Don’t track a bunch of information you’re not going to use or that doesn’t help you make decisions. It might take a while for your organization to figure out what’s useful and what’s not, but the best way to know is to start.

Resource: Nonprofit tech expert Amy Sample Ward shares some great resources for aligning goals with social media strategies on her blog.

Start Small
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed when diving into metrics and measurement. Start small. Choose 3-5 things to track. You could start by measuring web metrics for a short-term project, or start with just your Facebook page – don’t try to do all your social media and your whole website at once. Once you get the hang of it, you can add more pieces.

Get organized
Many organizations are strapped for time and resources – few people are available to do this increasingly important work. Determine the following before you start tracking anything:

  • Who’s responsible for measuring/tracking data?
  • Who’s responsible for analyzing? (Not always the same person who fills in a tracking spreadsheet)
  • How often will this be tracked and analyzed? (I recommend weekly, at least at first, to help build familiarity with the numbers and patterns).
  • How will this information be shared throughout your organization?

Then, set up a system for tracking and sharing your information.

Resource: The Social Media Handbook on NCME’s site (created specifically for public media) has some great suggestions for what to measure, what tools to use, and what to look for in the numbers.

Try some analysis
Once you’ve tracked numbers in your small data sample for a while, try to determine why you’re seeing what you’re seeing. If you’re tracking your web stats, do the increases and decreases in activity make sense to you? Are they following the pattern of activity on your website, or for your station? It may help to include a notes column in your tracking spreadsheet for a quick list of what happened that week, as a reference for later if needed.

Now that you’re familiar with a pattern of activity, you’ll have a sense of what average activity is – which helps you spot those times when things trigger large changes in this activity. Is the current activity you’re tracking demonstrating that you’re achieving your goals for your website, your social media presence, or whatever you’re tracking?

Make a change, see the result
Now that you know the patterns, what would you like to see change, and why? Experiment with different types of content and techniques, and see how that affects your metrics. Start small, keep tracking, and you’ll have the evidence you need to demonstrate the effect of your work. Know that you may need to revise what you’re tracking over time, as you learn what metrics help you, and which ones don’t.

There are tons of experts out there you can turn to (in addition to the resources listed earlier). A little reading and research can go a long way! Here are some that have inspired and educated me on this topic.

This post was originally published on the National Center for Media Engagement Blog. You can see more posts or subscribe to the blog here.

Jess Main
Jess Main is Operations Manager at the National Center for Media Engagement (NCME). Her work includes grant and project management, reporting, metrics and more. Jess holds an M.B.A. from the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.A. in Communication Arts and Women's Studies. Prior to joining NCME, Jess' worked with film and literary festivals, performing arts organizations and governmental arts agencies.