Winning the Internet

If you don’t know what you want, it doesn’t matter how many people “like” you

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

Measuring tapeDeciding how to measure your social media efforts can be a frustrating undertaking. Number of likes? Number of followers? Level of engagement? Which measures are right for you?

Believe it or not, these measures are virtually meaningless. In fact, all measures are meaningless—unless they are tied to your goals.

Think about it—an organization working to raise awareness about an issue and an organization working to pass legislation are likely to have very different goals, even though they are likely to use many of the same tools (ex: Facebook and Twitter). One-size-fits-all “Top 10 social media metrics” lists can be tempting but dangerous. Each organization should choose measures that align closely with their goals.

Figure out what you want

Your first step is to figure out what you really want to do, how and why. I highly recommend using the following strategic planning process. Don’t let “strategic planning process” scare you—one or two well thought-out bullets for each step is sufficient:

  • Step 1: Goal & Objective
    Your first step is to carefully define a high level goal (ex: Pass legislation) and a measurable objective (ex: Get 6 key legislators to vote for the legislation).
  • Step 2: Strategy
    Next, you need to decide at a high level how you want to go about doing this. (ex: Influence newspapers in key districts to write stories about community support for the legislation).
  • Step 3: Tools/Tactics
    Once you’ve got your strategy, map out an action plan for using new media and other tools to execute your strategy. (ex: Follow local newspapers on Twitter and engage in conversation with them, breaking news related to the legislation and target communities when possible.)

Decide how to measure it

Once you’ve clearly mapped out your goals, etc., selecting the right measures is dramatically easier. Think about it first in real-world terms: How will I be able to tell if I am successful? In the example used above, we will know the organization is successful if local newspapers report on the issue.

Next, think about how you can measure that best, given the tools you have. For this example, we may want to measure the number of articles and posts on Facebook and Twitter by the target newspapers.

It’s true—this process takes time. However, the measures you end up selecting using this method will be much more informative than measures chosen from a top 10 list. If the example organization hadn’t gone through the strategic planning process and instead chose to measure their total number of Twitter followers, they would have no idea how well they were actually doing.

Photo by michaelaw.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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