How do you measure impact of social media?

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Cottle 6 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #153595

    Steve Ressler

    Last week, I both presented and attended numerous sessions at Social Media Week DC. In multiple sessions, I heard people ask “how do you measure the impact of social media?”

    Sometimes it was in the form of a call for help – help me explain to my boss why it matters – what’s the report you use so I can copy it? Other times it honestly was a little critical – in the form of do you really think government should be spending time here – how do you know it matters (with the idea that in private sector you measure through revenue – how do you measure for government)

    So I thought it would make a good discussion –

    How do you measure the impact of social media for government? What do you do? Tactics/strategies/ideas?

  • #153609

    Steve Cottle

    Linking to some recent discussion about how to measure success of social media for local governments: The big question that remains for me is how to measure “meaningful” followers, interactions and outcomes, as opposed to playing a pure numbers game.

  • #153607

    Faye Newsham

    We track total numbers of users and new users each week/month for each tool, tweets/blogs/videos posted, the public facing fed website traffic, popular site pages, and a few other items. We can see upticks in social media folks signing up related to social media activity (posts) and website traffic (up) related to the same. We also have tools that capture the FAQ type questions and we can review those statistics in time-frames that allow us to draw some conclusions – such as the number of questions dropped the month a new section of the website went live on the same topic. The important thing, as explained to me several years ago, is to treat the federal website just like a marketing one, what “transactions” spell success? In the Fed case, this isn’t always directly money related so you have to dig to get at what is important to you and your audiences. Maybe it is how many people visit the FAQ pages and don’t ask a new question (you’ve already addressed it). Or, how many people sign up for an informational newsletter each month. It is different for everyone. You can also address cost over transaction if you must (for those critical folks)… how many person hours does it take to perform this FAQ work compared to answering phones and repeating the same answer all the time from several years ago? I ran into a case where a low-level contractor spent a significant portion of each day answering simple, repetitive questions that should have been on the website (and even the customer calling would say “I looked on the FAQ page and didn’t see this answer”) – by posting the answer to a single question, easily an hour a day of her time could be eliminated, a clear financial win.

  • #153605

    I came across this article the other day that I think is really relevant to organizations right now: Basic summary: many SM accounts are “empty” … there is no actual person behind them. I think the fact that more data is being generated around this fact will make companies re-evaluate how they are using SM. I don’t, however, think SM is going away anytime soon. I will be interested to see what the “Web 3.0” world looks like, though.

  • #153603

    Ari Herzog

    Say what, Dorothy? If social accounts are empty (which I agree) then how will evolution help? If you don’t know how to ride a bicycle then the fact there are new bike models manufactured is moot.

  • #153601

    Louise K

    Brit local govie here (disclaimer)

    Been thinking a lot about this lately. My thoughts:

    Why are you talking on these channels if you don’t know a) who is there and b) what kind of people they are? If you do residents surveys, tack a question on the end, if you do phone surveys, add it in. If we hadn’t asked the question we might have assumed our pop. tracked the national average usage (it didn’t, way under) and assumed our deprivation indices had an affect on Facebook connection (it didn’t, instead our skew to young people resulted in a 95% affirmative on Facebook use among our 16-24 year olds). We still get people telling us no one is on Facebook, mind.

    Evaluation comes in traditional and non traditional key performance indicator forms. So, yes, your followers, friends, retweets, reach, and insights are useful. For knowing what time of day to post, what content is popular or not etc. But the real gems for us were asking for case studies – that’s how we found out Paulo Nutini sold out in an hour after being posted to social media, or that a lady stuck on a bus in our local town found out why when we tweeted about a mini tornado. Trad is good. Non trad is almost better. And the approx. 7k call drops inbound to our call centre cos of a Facebook page, that’s pretty nice too.

    What are you saying? What you are you asking? If you only tell, people will be mute even if they found it useful. If you ask questions, they will respond. Do you care? We had a duty to consult which was abolished recently, but we’re still in the habit of asking our local populations what they think, especially on budget cuts – how do you do that?

    I started using social media in local gov thinking playing around was all that was needed, experimenting to see outcomes and find successes. Now I’ve moved to thinking the previous sentence is true but that wandering blind is an embarrassing situation to be in and that targeting the right channels is essential.

    We still use Twitter btw – we broadcast on it. Except in emergencies when we try and get hold of as many people as humanely possible across all channels. Right tool for the right job – but we wouldn’t have known that if we’d not asked the question.

  • #153599

    Jennifer Strickland

    The first place I start with this discussion is by comparing the potential reach of messages on social media to the reach of our overall online communication efforts. Currently, the only way my agency is really able to measure our effectiveness is by how many people view our content online. It’s impossible to measure how many people actually read a pamphlet provided at a refuge, but it is possible to measure how many people visited our website, and futhermore, how many people “clicked” to engage further with our content.

    I work as web manager and social media manager as well as the video producer for the southeast region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The regional website I manage is That site gets approximately 200 hits per day. (Fortunately, itself gets exponentially more than that.) But the point is, anything we post on that site has the potential to reach about 200 people per day and I know this because I carefully measure our traffic using Google Analytics. And considering that many employees have as their homepage, I can’t even say with certainty (due to privacy restrictions) that those 200 people aren’t almost all employees!

    However, any message, photo, etc. that I post on our Facebook page “reaches” (by Facebook’s definition, reach = “unique people that saw the post”) at least 200 people, but usually more like 300-400 people (and that number is steadily rising). Not only that, but I can measure concretely how many people engaged with the post by clicking on it, how many people spread the post by sharing it, and which posts fared the best overall in terms of views/clicks/shares. Therefore, in my mind, I’m being far more effective by sharing news on Facebook than I am if I simply expect people to stumble onto and read our news.

    The most important arguement, though, is this one: our job as government employees is to serve the public. To provide up-to-date information about what our agency is doing, to answer questions, and to serve as ambassadors on behalf of our agency. The bottom line is: just about everyone is using social media. And certainly more people visit Facebook and Twitter ever day than visit my website every day. When times are tough and budgets are being cut, it’s our responsibility to be present in the forums and communities where the most Americans are spending their time online. Why make the public come to us when we can greet them in their living room?!

  • #153597

    Vahagn Karapetyan

    Isn’t one of the main purposes of social media to garner attention for a particular issue and promote discussion by the public? I would think it’s also a way of spreading news about events and community gatherings related to the specific topic as well. For instance, a local transportation authority can use facebook to inform its constituency (especially the younger generation) about updates in the near future and information on upcoming public outreach sessions and community meetings.

    Let’s assume what I described above IS one of the main goals of using social media. To measure success, you would look at how many “fans” your facebook page has over time and if it’s increasing. On twitter, you can measure the amount of people that are “following” you. You can also see how actively your audience is re-tweeting tweets or “liking” and commenting on your facebook posts. Facebook also keeps track of a whole wide range of statistics for page owners. I am an administrator of a fan page on facebook and I get access to lots of data on how my page is performing, how many people I have “reached,” and how I can pay for very targeted ads to gain even further fans on my page. I am really simplifying it but the point is, there are LOTS of ways to track data for facebook pages.

    So, I think the methods for measuring success on your facebook and twitter pages are clearly there.

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