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Giving Guru Holly Ross is the Executive Director of NTEN, where she has spent more than five years leading the organization in finding ways to help their members use technology to make the world a better place. She is also editor of the book, Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission: A Strategic Guide for Nonprofit Leaders. Holly will be available to answer your questions about social media for nonprofits on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 1PM EST. Submit your questions in the comments of this post, or check out the many ways to ask our Giving Gurus.
I'm a closet numbers geek. After a lifetime of shoe shopping, I can calculate the extra 20% off the already 40% price reduction in nanoseconds. It comes in handy as a nonprofit leader. I use metrics to evaluate the health of my organization every minute of every day. But as much as I want to dive into ALL the numbers related to my organization, I have to focus only on the metrics that will help me better understand if we're meeting our mission. My shoe mission? Maximize savings. My NTEN mission? Help nonprofits change the world. One is easier to measure than than the other.
And therein lies the rub. There are two pieces to this metrics puzzle that you have to get right if you don't want to just spin your wheels. First, you have to know what you're measuring for. Then, you figure out what metrics will help you understand your impact.
What are you measuring? When I'm out talking to folks about social media, I like to ask how many have a blog, a Facebook page, or a Twitter account. It's nice to know what you're audience is up to, but I think the rubber really hits the road with my next question, "Why?"
I get a lot of great, well thought out responses. But just as often, I hear "My board member told us we should," or "I saw that Group X raised $10,000 and we wanted to do that too." Those, my friends, are not good reasons for engaging in social media. You should enter the world of social media with the same purpose and care that you undertake a capital campaign, a board meeting or anything else you do at your organization. Know what you're there to accomplish, and set SMART goals that will help you understand if you're getting there.
For example, you may want to use social media to engage new donors. Set a clear goal like:
- 100 new donor prospects identified via Facebook in Q1 2010.
Don't meausure for the sake of measuring There are more metrics to track than we could possibly manage. So, we tend to measure the stuff that's easy to figure out and ignore the rest. We can measure the number of "retweets" or "thumbs up" for our Facebook posts, so we settle for those stats and pat our selves on the back for measuring at all, instead of measuring what really matters.
Measuring the right things may take time to figure out. Let's take our sample goal for instance. Here are some of the things that people tell me they track in Facebook:
- Number of fans / group members
- Number of "thumbs up" per post
- Number of comments per post
But what are those numbers telling you? Are they telling us if we are creating donor prospects in Facebook? You tell me. How and what would you track? And what are your social media metrics challenges?