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Simon Hancox explains why charities have to link their social media metrics to strategic objectives – and the tools you can trust
One of the greatest challenges with using social media strategically is measuring its success. Boards need to understand how social media is helping meet their strategic objectives and need to set goals and define success early in the planning stage. Measurement is crucial to understanding whether these goals have been achieved.
Our latest report, ‘Growing communities: How charity leaders govern social media globally to thrive online’, shared insights with charity CEOs from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the US, and discovered that while there are many tools out there to help, investing in the right ones can be hard.
This sentiment is shared by the Irish Cancer Society who told us, “If you have analytics but no events and goals, you just have a fancy hit counter. It’s not about how many visitors, it’s about what they do.” Enthusiasm for analytic tools can also be tempered by cost as not every charity has the budget to employ them.
By tracking and analysing referrals, views and usage over time, the success of campaigns can be inferred from the data. The principle is to link back to strategy: have the right people been targeted, what proportion can be expected to respond, and what is the long-term result? Investment in resources, training and creating social media guidelines will be easier if management have a firm and fixed notion of value, and analytics are the way to achieve that.
Some charities are already ahead of the pack in terms of introducing third-party analytics tools to measure effectiveness. These tools allow them to understand movements online and how they affect their strategy by simplifying the data and collating it to allow for easier comparison and reporting. Social media monitoring tool company Brandwatch, for instance, even offer preferential rates to not for profits. The Leprosy Mission Canada told us about their excitement over the analytic tool SumAll, while the Irish Cancer Society shared their enthusiasm over the social media data aggregator Sprout Social.
Several of our interviewees had experienced the value of these tools. One charity, tracking the referrals from a YouTube advert they had filmed, found 30,000 views led to only one donation. Another analysed data to find that asking people to fundraise for them over Facebook had twice the return on investment as asking directly for donations on the same platform.
These tools are evolving fast: new sentiment analysis programmes such as ForSight track feelings in language, giving an insight into emotional engagement and attitudes. Charities and not for profits can also benefit from tools such as Sysomos, Market Wired and Radian6 – but, crucially, only if they know what their social media goals are.
Simon Hancox is national leader – Not for Profit, Grant Thornton Australia.