Measuring Social Media Impact—A Great White Whale?

Shore Research

Welcome to the new Shore Research website! Lately, we’ve been asked by more and more clients about measuring social media impact, so we thought what better topic to kick-off our website launch than a blog post about social media measurement

and evaluation. Social media is a key part of organizations’ efforts to reach clients and engage stakeholders. Given the amount of resources that some organizations put into social media, it’s no surprise that a host of tools and methods have been developed to help measure the impact and value of those social media efforts. Of course, the first question to ask yourself when designing an evaluation of your social media efforts is “what is my goal?” What goal do you have for your social media efforts? What outcomes are you expecting to get from your social media? Once you have that answer you can begin the process of deciding what to measure. For instance, is your goal to reach a specific number of people through your facebook page? If so, then you could measure the number of likes and unique visitors to your page. This would measure the potential exposure of your page and the message that you might have on it. You could even measure the level and type of engagement that people have with the page by analyzing posts and comments. Unfortunately, what this doesn’t do, however, is measure impact. People may view your page, but do they actually take action or change because of viewing it? In social media, it is especially difficult to directly measure impact, particularly if the behaviors or attitudes that you want to change go beyond the web. Most likely, if you want to measure impact, you will need to use a method that allows you to go straight to your intended audience or client group—the people exposed to your social media. If you have direct access to them, you could send them surveys, conduct focus groups, or interviews. Depending on what your goals are, you might even try to observe their behavior. Don’t let this scare you off. Measuring social media impact is not a great white whale. More and more tools and knowledge are being produced and tested to help organizations determine impact. There is a wide variety of free resources and tools on the web to help you get started in measuring social media. The CDC’s National Prevention Information Network published a short video just last month describing some basics of social media measurement and providing helpful case study examples: http://onlinevideoservice.com/clients/npin/danya0604/stream.aspx. Beyond the web, there are great resources out there for organizations looking to leverage their social media and determine its impact. For instance, Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine, recently published “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World”—a follow up to “The Networked Nonprofit” by Kanter, Allison Fine, and Randi Zuckerberg. If you are looking for tools that help you measure your social media efforts (some of which are free or have low-cost options), these are a few you might want to check out: Tweetreach, SocialBro, Twitalyzer, Topsy, Google analytics, Bottlenose, HootSuite, and Bitly.