community, metrics, presentations

Content Alchemy: Building Community from Content Data

3 Comments 19 July 2012

How might we use content to develop and deepen community within our own own social media channels? With the right approach, any organization should be able to identify content that engages its community, optimize it, and create deeper community engagement using community-based content curators. The following is a summary of the presentation that Ash Shepherd of Minds on Design Lab and I developed for Nonprofit Webinars, which is embedded at the bottom of this blog post.

Understand engagement theory to understand building community from content data

Just like any social media activity or strategy, it’s critical to think about why people engage with your organization in the first place, and what type of actions or activities encourage online relationships. Thinking about what moves people to purchase, 22Squared found that social media fans who engaged in actions to create social media content generated 2.5 times the amount of online conversations about a brand than those who merely consumed content. Interpersonal tie theory states that people create strong ties with each other when they interact over time and have affinity for each other; they trust each other and there is reciprocity in the interactions. Extrapolate that to content, and it’s this simple:

Encouraging your social media followers to create content that they find valuable adds reciprocity, trust and interactivity into the relationship, important elements of community-building.

Know what content you want to track

What content do people REALLY engage with, why is that, and who is engaging? Knowing which questions to ask and what data to track is the first stage of content-based community-building. I ask these four questions at the beginning of every data gathering period:

1. What content do my social media followers/fans care about and why?

2. Are the content-producing activities within social media channels sending people to the website?

3. More specifically: is the content and conversation sending people to the right action pages on the website?

4. Who are my biggest fans on social media, and what do I know about them?

If I assume that the website is the hub for calls to action, then I might want want to know: is the content I’m producing for social media channels (photos, video, updates, tweets, links) sending folks to take the action that I want them to take?

I’m betting the million dollar question we want to know the answer to is: when fans/followers really engage…what happens? Research your native social media analytics, DIY social media dashboard, and Facebook Insights: I’m betting that more people are sharing the content, bringing more visitors to your social media channels, building community, moving people to action, and engaging with the content in a virtuous cycle.

Know how to organize what you track…so you can see the patterns and information quickly

I use a social media metrics dashboard (see the dashboard here) to compile content data from four free metrics applications: Google Analytics (I use Advanced Segments and Social Sources a lot within Analytics), Facebook Insights (and YouTube Insights if applicable), Crowdbooster (for Twitter) and Rowfeeder (for Twitter or Facebook). Within the slide presentation below, there are several examples of how to use these metrics applications. Taken together, they can provide the answers to the four questions posed in the previous section.

Optimize what engages

In the case study presented in the slide deck below, my colleague Ash Shepherd and I dove deep into the Facebook analytics and found that videos had a disproportionate reach and engagement than any other type of post, followed by photos. After that, the organization tested content optimization through different types of videos and photos, until it knew what Facebook fans most wanted to Like and share. The organization dropped non-performing content based on the data.

Use content to build and engaged community

Once you understand what type of content engages and moves people to action, open up the doors and invite the community in! Develop a community of content contributors and curators.  Livestrong, TechSoup, Humane Society International, and the Sightline Institute encourage their communities to contribute and create content within their social media channels. What’s most important is to find a way to create a community around the content by inviting them to become part of the content-creation cycle.

Some approaches:

Identify your most frequent contributors and invite them into a private online group to think about and curate the community’s social media content.

Direct message through Twitter, or message them personally through Facebook asking them to become contributors. When I was the Digital Engagement Manager at FirstGiving, we asked our two most engaged members of a Facebook group whether or not they’d be willing to be guest blog contributors for three months; they both happily accepted.

Hold a weekly content contribution theme and ask for submissions.

Hold a content contest such as TechSoup’s digital storytelling challenge.

The enormous amount of data we can collect about our content continues to grow. However, the important question about content for any organization is:

Are you transforming data about content to strengthen and build your online community?

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  • Melinda Lewis

    Debra, I needed this SO MUCH right now! I’m helping with content creation for an internal social site for an advocacy fellowship (for alums), and this is tremendously valuable as we think about both the process and the products we’ll need to make engagement likely. THANK YOU!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     You are so very welcome!! I’ve worked with a lot of organizations on content calendars, and creating community around content is challenging. Hopefully, the process outlined will be helpful. In the end, it’s all about engagement, and what resonates with your stakeholders. Best of luck with the advocacy fellowship social site!



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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