I had the privilege of presenting at the Dallas and Austin Social Media for Nonprofits Conferences this month on the topic of social media metrics. As some readers may know, I’ve recently started a collaboration with colleague Allison Fine to create Matterness Consulting, a consultancy focused on bringing Matterness to the way that mission-driven organizations work. As a result of our Matterness work, I’ve shifted how I think about social media metrics. While many track “What actions are stakeholders taking as a result of our social media communication,” I believe that the real question we want answered is “What actions are stakeholders taking that show that our organization matters to them?” It’s a subtle shift, but an important one: shifting our thinking about data tracking from us-centered to stakeholder-centered.
Three Data Questions
There’s a LOT of data out there to gather. The important data that tells us if our organization matters to others, we can connect to those who will take action on our behalf, we are meeting our SMART goals, we are working as we should, and we are recognizing and valueing our stakeholders. In other words, we want to gather the answers to:
- What data will truly inform the way we work as an organization, or how certain programs and staff operate?
- What data tells us whether or not we are making progress towards our goals?
- What data tells us that we Matter to our stakeholders?
Beware the Vanity Metric!
Vanity metrics are metrics that we track because it makes us feel…great! However, vanity metrics typically do not give us information about the important questions listed above, and do not inform the direction of our work. Typical vanity metrics include impressions/views, social ad reach, your own Klout, and number of blog posts or social updates. Sometimes we have to track vanity metrics to make our supervisors happy…but know that they don’t truly offer a picture of the value of your organization to its stakeholders.
Designing Your Metrics Dashboard for Matterness and SMART Goals
If we were to add the answers to our data questions a into a metrics dashboard, what data points would we choose? This slide captures my thinking about it, also including metrics around communication SMART goals (e.g. what actions do you desire stakeholders to take, that you can measure).
Creating the Dashboard
In order to discern the important data signals through the data noise, it may be useful to build two distinct dashboards: a primary dashboard to know if you are meeting your goals, and what you are doing matters…and a secondary dashboard that includes non-critical information.
For the primary metrics dashboard, think about how to capture the data needed to make decisions about the organization’s time and investment in certain activities or approaches. a primary dashboard includes:
- Define your social media communications SMART goals
- These are often based upon what you want your communication to do for the organization — more petition signatures, calls to Congress, donations, memberships, volunteers, etc.
- Track those social activities that lead to SMART goals, and track them against defined goals
- Track your activities that show you matter, and your content/conversation matters (see chart above)
All the other data might be called either “getting to goal data,” or vanity metrics. Whatever you want to track from the other data is shunted into a secondary dashboard. A secondary dashboard might include:
- Size of community
- Intermediate goals: those points you need to know that your community might ultimately take action
- Other community engagement metrics
- …and much more
The full slide deck (below) expands on these points, includes a peek at a metrics dashboard, and suggests where to find the metrics that matter. I’d love to hear from you how you determine what metrics to track, and what metrics matter.