“Are social media measurable?” It's the question that the experts (if there is such a thing) have been debating since MySpace was just a glimmer in Tom's eye. Turns out the answer is both “yes” and “no”, with practitioners falling on either side of the debate.
From my own experience, I have found both a “yes” and “no” to be helpful as well. “Yes” you can quantify how many tweets, shares, comments, views and stumbles a piece of content gets. “No” you can't measure the relational attraction and bond those quantifiable numbers create. It's a both/and. Or is it?
Measuring the Wrong Social Media Metric
If you've ever tried to measure your social media efforts, your probably measuring the wrong thing. Don't feel bad, we've all been there before. This is such a new field that we're bound to make some errors along the way.
Here's what the pros over at the MIT Sloan Review have to say:
Traditional media measurement seems almost quaint in today's dynamic and increasingly complex media environment. Marketers are struggling with social media measurement partly because the frameworks are still largely driven by “reach and frequency” and are ill-suited to the interactive media environment.
You heard it here first, folks. Old measurement tools don't work.
Old measurements gauged things like watching eyes, listening ears and papers purchased. This is what the article is referring to as “quaint.” It's quaint because it's simply too easy to look to these indicators and pat one's self on the back. “Job well done!” as the saying goes.
The Engagement Theory (Not) at Work
You can't count on these old metrics alone to inform your social media strategy. Counting comments and conversations is simply not a good way to measure your social media effectiveness. Bottom line. Add to this the pervasive messiness of ministry and you've got yourself a real dilemma.
How do you know what works? How do you know if you're getting the most out of the resources that you put in? Thankfully, it's not a guessing game. At least not totally. You can start to get a feel for what works and what doesn't.
Measuring Ministry Effectiveness Online
Ministry, by and large, is relational by nature. This is where the “yes/no” strategy comes in handy. “The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable,” says social media strategist Jason Falls.
You can't quantify human relationships, but you can quantify the by-products of human relationships. Donor or offering dollars, discipling relationships, attendance numbers, website traffic. These are all by-products of relational connections that can be measured and tracked. Social media can increase all of these areas. I've seen it with my own eyes!
While I can't tell you exactly what will work for your situation, I can give you some starting points to get you going. More specifically:
- Define your organizational big idea. What is it that you've been uniquely ordained to do? Yes, you've been called to share the Gospel. We get that. But what is special about your church or ministry?
- Define KPIs based off your big idea. KPIs (key performance indicators) are so vitally important for any strategy, including your social media one. What's a “win” for your strategy? (Think back to the by-products if you need ideas.)
- Select a few metrics to track. Chances are you're just getting started with social media measurement. Don't overdo it. You don't need to start out tracking every metric under the sun. Pick two or three of the following: Exposure, engagement, influence, sentiment, reach, increased site traffic, etc.
- Tweak as necessary. Fairly straightforward, but you need to know if your KPIs are getting accomplished by the measurements you put in place. Don't get saddled with sacred cows. Don't be afraid to have a BBQ once in awhile! If something doesn't work, change it.
And that, dear brothers and sisters, is how you begin to measure social media ROI in ministry.
If you're looking for more meat, we'll cover all of this and more this week at our newest social media webinar, “Establishing ROI for Social Media and Ministry“. I'd love it if you'd consider attending and inviting a friend while you're at it. We'll give you some practical tools to start looking critically at your church or ministry social media strategy, all for free.
What measurements are you tracking? What tools do you use to measure? What's working? What's not? Please share in the comments below!