The Three Social Media Measurement Questions

6 Comments 05 September 2012

Image courtesy of melkiad, Creative Commons license


Over the summer, I’ve thought a lot about social media metrics, and what particular data organizations need to capture in order to measure social media effectiveness. While every social media strategy is different, each rests on knowing what the conversation should be about, who you’re talking to, and how you want to eventually move people to action.

So often what data we are able to capture leads our analysis, but the real truth is that questions should ignite the search for data, and not the other way around.

As complex and wide-ranging as data-gathering can be, the bottom line is: what do you really need to know? Measurement, simply put, comes down to three data sets: whether or not the conversation compelling enough to create engagement, information about who is more and less engaged within your social media channels, and whether or not your social media efforts are producing desired results. The image below, taken from an upcoming presentation, offers both the essential data measurement questions, and suggested tools that you can use to gather your answers.

Though the questions are relatively straightforward, there are infinite possibilities of how to gather and segment the data. For example,  one could measure to what extent social media content is or is not engaging, further segmented by channel, further segmented by time of day, etc. Or stakeholder insight data could be segmented by fans who care a great deal about your content, and those that are merely followers, their demographics, their influencers, to what extent they are engaged, etc.

In the end, you could continue to dive deeper and deeper into the data, until you are in a sea of data.  It’s not an exercise to gather as much data as you need, just as much as you need to know. Start with the questions you can answer, gain confidence that you are gathering the appropriate data that you need, and then decide how deep you want to dive. Your social media effectiveness is guided only by what is truly useful to you as you implement. And the three social media measurement questions you need to answer.

  • I definitely agree. It’s so easy (and tempting) to get caught up in measuring anything and everything that can possibly be measured.  I think you’re right on that starting with goals and figuring out what is actually useful to measure can go such a long way.

    Great post.  Thanks for sharing it.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     David – thanks for your thoughts – it’s so easy to go down that rabbit hole of measuring it all, isn’t it…


  • JillFarrow

    Yes! Thank you for highlighting both useful tools and how they can be
    usefully applied. “Behind the curtain” of a job well done is the right
    tools used in the right ways. Too little- or too much- data does not
    provide an understanding of impacts achieved or necessary refinements of


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Jill – agreed that the right tools are so important. With so many tools out there, it’s so hard to choose between them. The list I provide is just a start; the important thing is to find the tools that do what you want them to do, whichever tools they are. Would love to hear of any tools you find especially useful for social media measurement!


  • Melinda Lewis

    I see parallels in other arenas of evaluation, too, Debra–I’m working on an advocacy evaluation project right now, and there is an almost instinctive reach for data that are readily available, instead of what would really tell us what we need to know. There, and, I would imagine, in online engagement measurement, too, there is a temptation to say that we can’t possibly know ‘real’ impact, because there are so many other variables (and, I think, because we’re often not clear about the true goals), so we measure something that we hope is a proxy, without necessarily knowing that it is. Starting with the goal is essential; how do you help organizations clarify what their goals for different online strategies are?


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Melinda – it is so tempting to “measure what you can!” I imagine in evaluation, it’s the same way, as you say.

    In terms of helping organizations clarify what their goals are for different online strategies, I start with the simple question of “what’s a SMART goal for the organization?” and move outward from there. So, if the goal is to get more people to re-enroll, then the tactics and strategies on social media channels should follow suit. There can be an occasion for setting different goals for different social media channels, but they need to all fold up to the organizational goal level. Make sense? Happy to answer further questions.



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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