Social Media Management - How do you know if you're wasting your time:?

Like businesses, nonprofits need to be critical when placing valuable resources into their marketing activities. It’s essential to continually review your efforts to guarantee you’re using your time and money efficiently, and to make sure that your marketing efforts are leading you where you want to go.

Whether you’re just getting started with your social media campaign, or you’ve been doing it for quite a while, the only way to gauge whether it’s working (and to find ways to improve it) is to be consistently engaged with your social media metrics.

Here, we break down everything you need to understand your social media metrics, gauge your efforts and effectively evaluate your results.

Social Media Management - What metrics matter?

Before we dive headfirst into the numbers, let’s briefly touch on what we like to call your campaign evaluation “punch list.” These are three basic elements you need to possess before you can effectively evaluate any campaign:

  1. The Plan: What was your goal? Your plan gives you something to judge your results against.
  2. The Tools: Good tools will grant you the ability to easily find the data you need — and present it in a way that’s easy to understand. 
  3. The Knowledge: The best thing about online marketing is how trackable it is. But there can be A LOT of numbers. Knowing which metrics are important will help you know where to look to find the information that you need to make decisions about your plan.

The Plan

Understanding your social media plan — the reasons behind the decisions you made and the actions that you took — is fundamental to evaluating your campaign. Beyond simply interpreting your results, you have to understand the pieces of your campaign so that you can adjust it to get better results in the future.

Social Media Management - Your Social Media Plan: 1. Goal 2. Strategy 3. Creative 4. Follow Through

1. Your Goal

The first piece of your social media plan is the goal. What (precisely) are you trying to achieve?

Maybe you’re trying to heighten awareness about an issue. Maybe you’re trying to raise the profile of your organization. You could be trying to connect with potential volunteers. You may even been reaching out to your supporters for potential donations… but you need a clearly defined goal in order to assess your results. 

2. Your Strategy

Strategy includes concrete details like the networks you plan to use, how many times you plan on posting, the market you are targeting, and whether or not you’re going to use paid social media advertising.

Did you execute your strategy? When evaluating your strategic elements you should be able to “check boxes”: 

  • Did I place a post on Facebook? Yes!
  • Did I post on LinkedIn? Yes!  
  • Did I make 20 posts? Yes! 
  • Did I do them at different times of day? Yes!
  • Did I target them with information that young moms would be interested in? Yes! 

Check those boxes. 

3. Your Creative

Your creative is your message — what you’re going to say, and tone — how you are going to say it.

Creative can be the hardest part of your social media plan to evaluate because it can feel like it’s subject to opinion. When evaluating your creative, just remember to judge it against your strategy. 

Strategy vs. Creative

Does the style of photography you chose speak to your target audience? Does your witty copy match the tone of the subject you’re talking about? Is your graphic formatted properly for the network you are posting to? 

These are examples of creative elements you can easily identify and evaluate.

Sometimes there seems to be a grey area between strategy and creative, like when choosing post types.

Post type is the physical way that you communicate your message: Are you going to be posting videos, photos, or links? The way you communicate your message is creative, but here it’s also a checkbox. If part of your strategy was to utilize video, then actually producing the videos becomes a box you can check, however what’s inside the videos (the content) is creative. It’s important to evaluate these two things separately.

Is the strategy of producing videos working for your campaign? Are they cost effective vs. using an image instead? What about the creative of a particular video — was this video or series of videos effective? Did people watch/engage/like them? In other words: did this video effectively communicate your message? 

4. Your Follow-Through

Last, but not least, the fourth part of your plan is the follow-through. It’s all about execution.

Did. You. Do it? 

Can you check the boxes that your strategy outlines? If not, why not? Where is the process going wrong?

Your strategy and creative direction can be spot on, but if you can’t get all your posts out at the time your strategy dictates because of a logistical problem like, say, because it’s when your sleeping — you don’t have a strategy issue — you have a follow-through problem.

Your plan doesn’t work if you don’t work it.

Parts of a Bigger Picture 

Understanding each component of your social media plan is fundamental because it will allow you to make adjustments and course-correct when alerted to a problem by your social media metrics.

If your numbers are suddenly different or simply showing you something you don’t like, you can go to the individual parts of your plan and ask yourself where you need to change:

  • Is it that I just didn’t make the right amount of posts? 
  • Is it that I need to do more posts? 
  • Is it that my creative was off-target or my video was poorly shot? 
  • Or is it that my goal is unrealistic? 

These are the areas that you can adjust to make your campaign better.

The Tools

So, enough about your plan.

Next up on the campaign evaluation “punch list” is the tools of the trade. These tools are how you’re going to evaluate the metrics of your social media activity. There are many resources available and, for some of them, you don’t have to go too far to find them.

First off, you’ve got what I call the native tools. These are native to social media platforms you’ll be posting on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn — they’ve all got it.

Without ever leaving these sites, you can track your posts and evaluate their effectiveness. Some platforms, like Facebook, provide powerful analytics tools that go beyond simple metrics like reach and engagement. 

You’re not limited to these native tools, however. There are many social media publishing platforms that go above and beyond built-in tracking. If you post on more than one platform, then chances are you could benefit from an integration program like Loomly or Hootsuite. These allow you to simultaneously make and schedule posts on multiple mediums while tailoring to each platform’s requirements. This will save you time, money, even your sanity.

In addition to being stellar posting tools, platforms like these offer aggregated feedback with more depth and customization. This lets you look at the top-level metrics for all of your platforms in one place.

One great tool we like to use at MayeCreate is called Cyfe, which is a dedicated dashboarding software. Through Cyfe, we can pull data from social media platforms, online advertisements, websites and more, allowing us to review the big-picture of our overall marketing performance. It’s also super configurable, letting you reorganize and break down those metrics.

Social Media Management for Nonprofits - Cyfe Dashboard

Disclaimer: I have experienced some inconsistency issues — namely when tracking ad performance. That said, it does what we need it to do, and at an attainable price point. Cyfe works for us, but perhaps another dashboard would work better for you. Be sure to go through your options before choosing one.

Another notable one is Google Data Studio. First off, it’s free. It’s a great platform for reviewing your ad performance, so if you run ads through Google — it’s a no-brainer. There’s a catch, though – you have to purchase API connectors to link it to other forms of media, and if you use several mediums, that could get pricey.

Last, but certainly not least, there is Google Analytics. Now you might be wondering why this would be beneficial for reviewing your social media. If you’re not familiar, Google Analytics’ primary goal is to track the metrics of web pages. Where does your social media campaign fit into this?

If your non-profit relies on a website as your bank of information, you’ll need to be driving people to it. Social media is an excellent way to direct traffic to your website, and guess what? Google Analytics allows you to track the sources of website traffic, which means you can see how many individuals on your site came from a social platform, even down to the post. This can provide valuable insights on what is working with your social media and what needs improvement.

Once you’ve chosen your tools — whether it be a posting platform, a dashboarding software or even the built-in social media analytics — and once you’ve set them up properly, you’ll need to decide what metrics you want to see.

It is important to have a direction when evaluating your numbers. You’ll need to learn what these metrics mean, and how to use them, hence element number three.

The Knowledge

Before you dive into the details, think about the big picture of your campaign. Your goals are the primary determinants for deciding which metrics matter. For my own business, my team and are continually looking for engagement. We want our audience to like posts, follow our page and engage in conversations. Why does this matter? It matters because our business is driven by relationships – relationships that may begin with a brief interaction on social media.

What is your goal? Are you trying to spread awareness of a greater issue? If so, your campaign should be designed give exposure to your cause. You’ll want to focus on metrics like impressions (how many times a post is seen) or even unique impressions (how many individuals see your post at least once).

Perhaps you’re using your social media as a channel to find donations. In this case, you’ll want to track your metrics through the entire process. Similar to using the “sales funnel” model, you’ll need to follow the impressions, click-rates, conversions (donations or pledges), and every step in between. By viewing these metrics together you can determine which pieces of the chain work, and which ones don’t.

How will you use these metrics?

These numbers are great, but you have to know what to do with them. You should always strive for improvement. If you meet a goal, your next goal should be greater.

The data you get from your social media campaign is critical for making those improvements. Use these numbers to set realistic and comparative goals for the future – your past performance can serve as a benchmark for your campaign.

It is important to look at your performance on multiple timelines:

Weekly

We like to start our evaluation by looking at the week-to-week data. While this dataset is too limited to gauge performance by, it provides an opportunity to find the bugs.

If you find a week with a big dip in numbers, it’s possible that something went wrong. This is an opportunity to locate and troubleshoot these issues – an opportunity you might not get if you’re only looking at your metrics by the month.

Monthly

Now, on the other hand, week-to-week data isn’t generally indicative of improvements in your campaign. After you scan for the weekly bugs, take a look at your data in monthly blocks. Patterns will begin appearing here.

From here you’ll be able to see real changes in your numbers, and you can easily attribute these to actions you’ve taken.

Yearly

Monthly data is not exempt from anomalies, either. Events and yearly cycles may cause spikes in your engagement and impressions. So lastly — you guessed it — you’ll want to view your year-to-year performance. This is the most digestible dataset, and it is the one you should use to create your goals for the future. Newer organizations won’t have this advantage, but it should go without saying that you should start tracking your data as soon as possible.

Engagement

Engagement is key for determining the effectiveness of a campaign. Does your message speak to your audience well enough for them to take action? Your engagement rate will tell. 

Different platforms will display the engagement metric differently. Facebook presents data for engagement as a count of instances. One of the reasons I enjoy Loomly is that I can see engagement metrics as easily comparable percentages. This helps expedite my evaluation process.

Loomly also gives me the ability to break down engagement by type, allowing me to see the specific actions people are taking. After all, if people are taking action, I’m doing something right.

Social Media Management - Post Engagement Metric
Social Media Management - 3 Most Engaging Posts metric

So what makes a post engaging? To inspire action, even as small as a click, you must show people something that resonates with them. The more appropriate your message is, the more engaged your audience will be. Non-profits generally enjoy an above-average engagement rate, as the messages are generally in line with their causes.

It is important to focus on this metric, because it will help get your content in front of more people. When an individual likes or shares your post it tells their friends that your content is worthwhile, prompting them to engage as well. The friends of those friends will see those engagements, and engage as well. This can go on and on — a phenomenon called viral reach. Similar to word-of-mouth advertising, this costs you nothing. It starts with good content. 

Organic reach is only half of the equation, however. Social media platforms use algorithms for what users will see in their feeds. When a post gets a high rate of engagement, the algorithm will pick up on it and give that content better placement on other user’s feeds. Remember, high engagement leads to high exposure.

Different platforms will prioritize different types of engagement. For example: Facebook gives more weight to comments than any other post interactions, so it would be beneficial to get your audience to engage accordingly.

The last piece of engagement I want to touch on is clicks. Clicks can be a number of things: clicks to your website, clicks to your page, images being expanded, and more. Whenever you evaluate this metric, use your analytics tool to break down what type of clicks you’re getting, because each type of click contributes to a different goal. Don’t go changing your website because you got 20 clicks on your Twitter page.

Social Media Management for Nonprofits - Woman on laptop scrolling through Facebook

Page Likes and Follows

A Like or Follow is when a social media user subscribes to your presence on a platform. This means they are willing to see all of the content your organization creates.

Measuring Page Likes and Follows is a very tangible way to gauge your progress on social media, which is why I include these metrics when I review my monthly reports with clients.

One of the things that Loomly does very well is it tells me how many Likes and Follows I have and how many I lost. That’s handy, because sometimes it looks like I got a lot of followers but my total page following didn’t adjust that much, which means I lost followers. If I’m starting to lose a lot of followers, it might mean that either my content doesn’t resonate with them anymore, or it could also mean I’m posting way too much.

Facebook pages have both Likes and Followers. A Like means, “You’re cool,” and a Follow means, “Hey, show me your content in my newsfeed.”Cleary, Follows are more valuable than Likes.

The other great thing Facebook lets you do is invite people who engage with your content to Like your page. This is a great way to get people who like, comment or share your posts to become followers.

Posts per Month

Social Media Management for Nonprofits - post metrics

So the third metric I look at is how many posts I made this month. This lets me see if I have follow-through and am being consistent.

Also, this helps explain any huge deviations I might see when benchmarking other metrics against last month or last year. Because if you only post twice vs. 20 times, you might see less traffic or a decrease in another metric.

The next thing I look at as far as posts go is which topics had the best engagement based on reach or impressions. This lets me understand what my audience is interested in and helps me gauge my creative.

One of the nice things about Loomly as a tool is that it gives me a really quick overview of my posts with the best engagement. I’m not making a sales pitch for this software, I just think this is very handy, especially if you’re making upwards of 20 posts a month. It can get a little exhausting trying to compare all the data and numbers. I’m a creative person so I don’t really see numbers, I see shapes. So for me, comparing everything in a table gets really taxing. And not all of the systems will let you sort by all the metrics that you want, so this helps me see everything I need at a glance.

Reach and Impressions

Reach and Impressions — no, they’re not the same! Reach is how many people saw your content. One person may have seen all of your content 20 times, but you’ll still have a Reach of 1 because it’s measured on a per person basis.

I like to think of this number like the circulation of a magazine. When you have engaging content, social networks will circulate that content to more eyes that are not within your existing audience.

Then you have Impressions, which is how many times your content was seen. In the example above, your number of impressions would be 20, even if your reach was only 1. If I saw a piece of content three times that’s three Impressions. If you posted 10 times and I saw each of your posts three times – that’s 30 impressions. It’s sort of like the number of sessions on your website, or like the number of times someone reads a magazine. Reach is how many people read the magazine, Impressions is how many times those people read the magazine.

Now I just said Reach, Impressions, Viral Reach and Viral Impressions are the result of good engagement, but here’s the tricky thing – they’re the result of good engagement by your core audience

Sometimes your overall engagement rate will go down when you have a high amount of Viral Reach or Viral Impressions because your content is showing to people who don’t know you and don’t usually engage with you. But that’s okay! That’s why it’s so important that we look at all the metrics.

For example, last month I looked at quite a few clients, and their engagement rate had gone down. I thought, “Oh no, that’s not good!” and then I looked and found that they had more Viral Impressions than usual.

That just let me know it wasn’t that we published bad content — we published good content, but it just got in front of people who don’t know us yet.

Social Web Traffic

So the last metric you need to keep a thumb on is social visitors on your website.

Social Media Management - social media web traffic in Google Analytics

This screenshot is website data from last year’s ComoGives campaign. It got excellent social media traffic, and that traffic was highly engaged.

We had thousands and thousands of people who came to the website and lots of return visitors too. They clicked through to multiple pages and spent a long time on the site — almost four minutes in some cases.

We have conversion tracking setup on this website, which you should do for your site as well. This lets us know when people make a donation and where they came from. 

So in your strategy, you might want to know how much time you’re going to spend on developing social media content. You plan to post a lot on Facebook, but you’re also going to share the same content over on LinkedIn and see what happens. And then you’ll know, because you have conversion tracking set up on your website, that almost all of your big donations are coming from LinkedIn and not from Facebook. This information helps you know you should probably spend more time on LinkedIn and not as much on Facebook — then LinkedIn might become your main medium and you can just push that content out to Facebook.

You can’t know that if you don’t have the tracking set up to begin with!

Our Social Traffic

Our most valuable traffic at MayeCreate is organic traffic, and we get that through blogging. A lot of our social media is actually just to support our blogging and also to stay in contact with our current clients. Our current clients don’t need us as much on our website — they have our email addresses and contact information, so they’re not going to our website all the time.

You can see here our average Session Duration from Facebook is 37 seconds, and they only go to 1.3 Pages which is also highly indicative of the fact that we’re posting blog posts.

They click on that blog post and read it, and then they don’t go to any other pages. Or what that’s telling me is I need to do a better job on that post of drawing them into the other content on the other pages of my website.

It shows I’ve got room for improvement and that social media is not my main driver for my website. As you can see, none of my downloads are coming from social media.

Now my conversion tracking is set up to track Downloads and Email Subscriptions as conversions, but you can set up your website to track Donations. Then you can see where your traffic comes from for each of your donations.

Improving Your Campaign Through Tracking

So I talked a little bit about comparing year-over-year or month-over-month data, and sometimes that’s hard to do because you’re running reports all the time. I would suggest keeping it in a spreadsheet for easier review. I type ours into our project management system and I just look at last month’s data. 

Social Media Management - metric tracking spreadsheet

I made this little chart as a memory jogger for you as you’re going over your metrics. You can fill it in if you’re in a bind, because I’m not saying everything has to be digital — you do you! Then you can flip back to the same month last year see how you did, if you do it religiously.

The reason you’re reviewing these metrics is so you can pinpoint the areas of your social media plan you can improve upon. Do you need to adjust your strategy, your creative, or your follow-through? Reviewing your engagement, the number of posts you’ve done, your likes and followers, your reach and impressions, and your website traffic will help you answer this.

More about the Author

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Monica Pitts

Monica is the creative force and founder of MayeCreate. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in Economics, Education and Plant Science from the University of Missouri. Monica possesses a rare combination of design savvy and technological know-how. Her clients know this quite well. Her passion for making friends and helping businesses grow gives her the skills she needs to make sure that each client, or friend, gets the attention and service he or she deserves.

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