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Evaluating your social media activities

Posted by on May 22nd, 2014 Posted in: Practical Evaluation


For public sector and nonprofit organizations, social media can be a cost-effective way to engage with users and supporters. However, social media is not without its cost, particularly in terms of staff time.  So organizations have an interest in assessing the value of their social media activities.

One great resource for social media evaluation is Paine’s book, Measure What Matters.  The book contains detailed guidance for evaluating social media use by different types of organizations. A great supplement to Paine’s book is The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide by Idealware, which has worksheets that will help you plan your social media strategies and implement recommendations in Measure What Matters.

Below are the key elements of Paine’s evaluation framework:

  • Begin with a solid social media plan that identifies specific goals and objectives. As with any project, you need a plan for social media that links strategies to the organizational mission and includes objectives with targets and key performance indicators. Objectives for social media in the public-sector often belong in one of two categories: helping users find information they need; or building user awareness, engagement, or loyalty. (To inspire you, The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide provides a list of potential objectives on page 52.)
  • Define your target audience: Organizations often have many stakeholder groups, so you want to identify the groups most attuned to social media. On page 54 of The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide, you’ll find a worksheet for narrowing down your stakeholder audiences to those most receptive to your social media activities.
  • Pick your metrics: Metrics such as views, followers, and measures of engagement with online content will help you monitor reach. Conversions, defined as the actions you want your social media followers to complete, might include becoming members of your organization or actively recommending your organization to colleagues or friends.
  • Identify a source for benchmarks. Benchmarks provide a basis for comparison to assess progress. Organizations often use their own histories as benchmarks, comparing progress against baseline measures. You also may have access to data from a competing or peer organization that you can use for comparison.
  • Pick a measurement tool: Paine’s book describes different measurement methods for evaluating social media, such as content analysis, web analytics, or surveys.

For more information, check out the resources used for this blog post:

  • Katie Delahaye Paine, Measure What Matters: Online Tools For Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2011.
  •  Idealware. The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide, 2013.

Image of the author ABOUT Cindy Olney
Cindy Olney is the Assistant Director of the NNLM Evaluation Office. She leads NNLM's evaluation efforts, designs evaluation methods, and guides analysis and reporting of evaluation findings.

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