How will you measure your local government’s social media success?

I spent the better part of the past two years talking to local government officials about Facebook plans for their governments or the public office they held. More than once, I was asked “I have a Facebook page, why isn’t it working?”

Well, that depends on how you want it to work.

What are you using to measure your government’s social media plan’s success?

  • Number of likes or comments on Facebook?
  • Followers, retweets or mentions on Twitter?

What if you were a business? How would you measure social media ROI? Increase in number of sales, right? Well, in this case, look at your media plan as advertising. You want to get your message out, bring new people to your “business” and get them engaged by responding your your message. Decide on your goals before starting or redesigning your media plan. It will help you work within existing boundaries and with those who may already be working on the future of your overall public interactions.

As you measure social media success, first identify what your government’s overall goals are.

  • A safe community.
  • Involved parents of school children.
  • A healthy economy.

Now decide how you’ll measure those goals.

  • More community group meetings with local police or more neighborhood watches.
  • Better parent-teacher meetings.
  • New business openings or local business sponsorship of local events.

Make sure the messages you send out through your social media channels are targeted to the police, homeowners, school officials, or business professionals. You won’t have any way to know if your Facebook campaign is working if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

So, what measures of success have you adopted in your government’s social media plan?

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Corey McCarren

I think that the biggest problem facing people who are just getting into social media is that they often go into it without a plan. Social media is not an exception to the rule in marketing that you should have a clear campaign plan written before you execute it. Otherwise A) BIG mistakes will be made and B) it is much more difficult to measure success if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Neelu Modali

It seems that most government folks are starting with those citizen facing initiatives – i.e. communicate information from this platform that people want to digest all the time. Emergency closures, infrastructure reporting, traffic etc etc. While this is a good start, it seems that many of them get mired in this function, and don’t push forward to the next level.

Aaron Matthew Pritchett

We at Newport News Television, the video production department for the City of Newport News Virginia, started our deparmtental social media endeavor back in 2009- after our city spent money on a Granicus Agenda Management Streaming system that has proven beneficial in the overall sense of providing content for the citizens, but lacking on user friendliness and layers of trying to find exactly what you are looking for! So we initially started with Facebook and that was okay- neat but not as dynamic as the next, because our biggest player has been YOUTUBE- because we have been able to reach a world-wide audience for FREE, unlimited length of program duration for upload a big plus, and most importantly in HIGH DEFINITION which is a big plus! WE have quite a few subscibers and alot of viewers which definitely allows us to see how many are watching compared to just putting it on TV! It is so cool to produce a program or a long list of varied stories and see how fast it spreads and the comments you get in return! Nothing scientific here or really a strategy other than getting good, solid, positive story telling and information out to the citizens! Check it out for yourself-



YOUTUBE ***(in High Definition)


Emily Landsman

Neelu…I’ve seen that also. How can you encourage them to share other info? Success in one are should encourage use in another area. (And hi!)

Neelu Modali

Encouraging folks to share is the tough part. It’s like asking “how do you get people to engage”?…

Truth is, organic social engagement will climb over time, and there is a curve that applies. Find a common platform to explore around…and make sure there are multiple touch points for your message. i.e. you have to have multiple champions; this is not the effort of one. Some simple places to start – contests (encourage people to engage with one another on social platforms), myth busting (tell them facts and fiction about social) and such.

We’ve just started doing this in our company and i’m continually amazed by the people we meet and learn from along the way. Quite a journey…

Jill Parker

Corey, I couldn’t agree with you more. I work for a public health agency in Utah and within our agency as we started using social media we were not incorporating it into our overall marketing plan. BIG MISTAKE! We found ourselves “rambling” as it were on Social Media. Over the past couple of years we have integrated social media in to are overall marketing strategy. We now know what we are looking for and while it may not be as tangible as it is in traditional media it does not make it any less successful or important for us.

We were believers in a large number of followers equated successful, effective social media. We do not measure success using that tool any longer. For us 10,000 follower from all of world is not nearly as effective as 100 from our community who are willing to “talk to us”

I look forward to hearing from others. This is a tricky matter.

Neelu Modali

‘For us 10,000 follower from all of world is not nearly as effective as 100 from our community who are willing to “talk to us”‘

Love this comment by Jill. Quality engagement is so important; engagement cannot be quantified.

Jill – can you speak to the learning curve you experienced? I hesitate to call anything a mistake in an endeavor like this because of the nature of the beast. It is a ‘new frontier’ and exploratory in nature. What did you do to move towards the 100 quality engagers vs. the initial belief in large numbers of followers?

Jill Parker

Sure, there was quite a steep learning curve for us! We dove into twitter the Monday after H1N1 has been discovered and tagged as a possible threat to the US. Well, that was a good and a bad idea. Quickly our number of Twitter followers began to rise. Because we were talking about what was at that time called “swine flu” we were getting followers from all over the world. And our numbers continued to climb. As H1N1 mellowed out a little, we thought great! Look at ALL of these followers what should we tell them. So immediately we began crafting 140 character tweet from all our division covering topics we thought would be so important to our Twitter community! Well there were a few mistakes right there. First it wasn’t about what we wanted to tell them, it was about what they needed or wanted to hear. And the bureaucratic list that we had whipped up was not what anyone wanted in their twitter stream! I didn’t want it in mine. They came off sounding like public service announcements instead of an engaged agency who was open to conversation. We have changed our dialogue in Twitter and have since engaged in Facebook and most recently You Tube. That learning curve I mentioned is still there and I learn something new and amazing about social media and government everyday, I have learned that people who would not come to the department to ask questions or access services will be very candid on facebook, that sometimes you post topics that create conversation that is different than what you were aiming for. But what an awesome way to better understand the population you serve. That, for me is what make this so amazing.

Glen Thomas

At Memphis Light, Gas and Water, we do measure the number of followers and likes, but realize that it’s folly to depend solely on that as a measure of social media effectiveness. For example, a negative event, such as a large storm, will cause rapid increases in these numbers as people seek ways to get information about restoration. Your followers/likes increase when the public needs something from you — when they know they can get that via social media, you’ll experience more rapid growth.

In addition, we measure the number of interactions, ratio of positive/negative interactions and “problems solved.” In other words, are people getting what they want from us via social media, and how often are we providing solutions through social media.

We also view our social media initiatives as supplemental tactics for our overall communications strategy.

Neelu Modali

Glenn, Jill and others…

Are any of you using any social analytics tools to understand how quality and quantity intersect? There are patterns that emerge mathematically…i’ve tooled around with Klout, Twitalyzer and comparable. I’m always interested to see how people are utilizing these tools to better promote quality engagement. This might be a little off topic, but I think there is some convergence.

Jill Parker

Glen this is magic! I would love it if our power and light were on Facebook. What a great way to get a message out. Thank you.

Glen Thomas

Neelu, yes, I just signed up with Meltwater Buzz to monitor our social media. It got to the point, especially during the storm season, that we couldn’t keep up manually with our tracking of positive/negative, etc. I have also heard good things about Radian6 and there are A LOT of services out there. Forgot to share our social media sites:





I have one primary admin for Twitter, another who does FB and the blog, and my webmaster is responsible for YouTube.

Neelu Modali

There are some fantastic tools available. Of course with the tool, it’s important to know how to use and analyze the metrics delivered. Radian6 is an exceptional tool and is pretty much industry leading, especially in a customer service type of setting. Thanks for sharing your social channels…i’m looking at them now 🙂

Stephen Buckley

Yes, Robert, you are correct in recognizing the larger issue that is NOT being discussed here, i.e., what are the “government’s overall goals”.

Success in social media is only an intermediate goal, not an ultimate goal. Social media can certainly help us reach our ultimate goals, but it is not an end unto itself. Yet, like Robert, I don’t see any discussion of that connection here.

In Emily’s blog-post, she suggests that a local government should figure out what its goals are, and then figure out how to measure them. I agree.

However, are the basic goals of local government so different — from location to location — that each one has to come up with their own individualized goals and, therefore, metrics for measuring progress? I think not. So every local government does not have to “reinvent the wheel” in that regard. Those standard goals and metrics already exist (it just that most people – mostly the younger ones – don’t yet know about them).

We all like to think that we are so different and special, but the fact is that we are almost exactly alike. We are all pursuing happiness. We created our Government to make that goal easier for us. If social-media can help reach that goal, then fine. But the ultimate goal still is, and always has been, our level of satisfaction, overall, with our government.

Check out that link and let me know what you think.