Spreadsheet Aerobics: Actionable Measurement for Social Media

by Beth Kanter

in Do It Yourself,Tech & the Arts

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I’m working with a small group of Packard Foundation grantees on a social media lab where they are implementing different social media experiments.  Part of the process includes regular check-in calls to reflect on what we’re learning.  I have been thinking a lot about actionable social media measurement strategies that are fit and trim and light on their feet!

Inspired by the Measure Everything:  Is Your Nonprofit Facebook Page Worth It?,
I thought I’d share how I look at my Facebook page data.

I’ve been collecting it during the past 9 months, with a little bit of spreadsheet aerobics.  It much easier to collect, analyze and take action with your data when you do a little bit each month or every other week.  It is a lot like trying to get back in physical shape after
you’ve slacked off.   It’s much easier to do a 20 mile bike ride when
you’ve been riding everyday!

We know that good practice is to establish measurable objectives for your social media strategy and identify the audience before you executive.  You should also be thinking about what to measure and an efficient method for collecting that data before you begin. And, of course, making the time to actually look and think about what the data means.  We get so overloaded by meaningless data collection, that we’re exhausted before we get to do the fun part:  making sense out of it.

My Facebook page is focused on a listening and engagement objective – starting and maintaining a conversation.  I view it as a focus group that offers content ideas for blog posts as well as to provide another conversation channel to share insights about social media.  The target audience is people who work for nonprofits.

Here’s my description:

This is a focus group and sand box to learn more about how nonprofits
can use social media effectively, especially Facebook. You are all the
experts here!

That statement guides how I engage and what content I share.  That in turns drives my measurement strategy.   It makes it a lot easier to cull down what I data points I’m collecting.

The one strategy step that I didn’t do at beginning and that I’m doing now as my blog is going through a redesign under the capable hands of Allyson Kapin – is to figure out an integrated content strategy between my blog, Facebook page, and other social media outposts.   This is multi-step process looking at your web site content, events, and social media properties.

You also need to think through the details of your content and engagement tactics.  Your Facebook Page is like a garden that needs regularly tending.  While automatically streaming content can give you some gains in efficiency, you can’t be an absent landlord.  You need to visit your page every day – especially if your engagement strategy is working and your fans are posting content, questions, or responses. One participant on my Facebook page, Maggie Leifer McGary discovered this as well about her nonprofit’s fan page (check out her case study)

While it is possible to go back and download an export of daily metrics from the Facebook insights tool from the beginning, it can be a huge pain.   It’s better to set up your trusty spreadsheet at the get go so you can track monthly or every other week.  The challenge, of course, is that you have to make it habit and grabbing data, cutting and pasting it into a spreadsheet.  It isn’t the most thrilling activity.  I try to do it monthly, but maybe your organization add this to your intern’s work tasks.

The data collection tools for Facebook are still evolving. There are some new third party analytic tools

(and some are free) that can more easily gather up metrics into a
spreadsheet than the insights tool, but you do have to talk with a
sales person first. They recently announced a new analytic product called “insights for your domain” which allows you to gather FB
insights data if you add a like button to your web site. (To install
the new Insights, you can visit the Facebook insights page
and click on the “Insights For Your Domain” button.)

It’s still in the
early stages of development, but if and when more sites adopt adding
the Facebook “like” button, collecting this data will be become more
important to informing your strategy. alled “insights for your domain” which allows you to gather FB
insights data if you add a like button to your web site.

I don’t look at all the metrics that Facebook insights provides because it I find it overwhelming and a lot of won’t help me measure and refine my strategy.   The key here is actionable data.  What does that mean?

  • Measurement should inform specific decisions and/or actions.
  • Do not measure everything, but do measure what is most important to your goals.
  • The data you gather should help you learn

Here’s my spreadsheet aerobics.  I grab the monthly daily data from the insights tool and download into a spreadsheet.  I have separate worksheet for each month and run totals.  I look at the following metrics:

  • Total Interactions
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • New Fans
  • Unsubscribes
  • Page Views
  • Unique Page Views
  • Photo Views

I also have columns in daily spreadsheet for labeled “content” and “promotion”.  In the content line, I put a link to the actual post noting the type, voice, or if it was a fan posting.  I also make notes about what promotional tactics I used.   Then at the end of the month, allocate a half hour to look at the numbers for the month in comparison to other months – and look for insights and trends.

In reviewing my spreadsheet, I discover what works. For example, questions work, particularly those that accompany a link to a good post.

I’ve also learned what content my audience responds to most:

I note the type of content and engagement.

Link to an article with a question
Link to an article summarizing best tip
Post w/ a live experiment or sharing something I did on the Fan Page

I’ve looked at frequency of posting and the sweet spot for me is 3-5 times per week.  I haven’t analyze day of the week because it was extra piece of data to collect and was more interested in click thrus by day of the week and found a good secondary study.

It is also important to track exactly how you promote

your Facebook page and what helps you recruit more fans.  I keep notes
on when I’ve tweeted a link, speaking dates, posting updates in my
status about my fan page and all the multi-channel ways you need to
promote your page.

I also do the same sort of notes for different promotional techniques and I look at the increase (or decrease) in the number of fans:

  • Suggest to friends
  • Status updates
  • Tagging photos
  • Tagging a person
  • Visiting other fan pages and participating
  • Promoting through other channels (blog post, Twitter, speaking engagement, etc)

I’ve also discovered that it is important to identify as many opportunities to set up experiments that you measure and learn as you go.
This is where I’ve gleaned most of my insights – a combination of
quantitative metrics culled from Insights and what people are saying on
the page.

As look back on my Facebook page experience, collecting some data points related to objectives and spending some time to think about what it means is very valuable.

What are you learning from your measurement strategy?   How have you kept your data collection trim, fit, and actionable?  What is the most compelling thing you learned about your Facebook Page through measurement?

-Beth Kanter

Beth is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media (http://beth.typepad.com), one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits and co-author of the fortcoming book, The Networked Nonprofit, to be published by J. Wiley in 2010. Beth is the CEO of Zoetica, a company that serves nonprofits and socially conscious companies with top-tier, online marketing service. Beth’s audio recording of our recent Leadership Teleconference, Using Social Media Strategically For Theatres is now available for download HERE.