Originally published in CharityVillage.com on August 30, 2012
By Claire Kerr
So much activity on social sites! So much to measure in a pie chart and slap into PowerPoint presentations for your quarterly meetings...am I right?
If you're a social media community manager at a charity or nonprofit, questions like these may be familiar to you (especially if they're coming from your CEO):
"How many people like us on Facebook? How much Klout do we have? How many retweets did it get?"
Some charitable sector leaders are obsessed with the answers to the questions: "How many?" and "How much?" Unfortunately, those answers won't give your organization a full picture of your performance online. Community managers can no longer rest on the question: "How many did this?"
Let's take social media monitoring to the next level by also asking: "What did they do?"
The next level is conversion
For social media measurement, "conversion" means the ratio of visitors who convert to an action that your organization has defined as important. Typical conversion action points for charities and nonprofits include: Making a donation or purchase, joining a newsletter, sharing a blog post, signing a petition, or registering for an event.
I'm often asked: "How do I know if my organization has 'good' conversion?" As if there is an easy equation to put charities and nonprofits into 'good' and 'bad' categories! Relax, it probably doesn't make sense to compare yourself to Charity:Water or the American Red Cross.
When you keep an eye on your own conversion statistics and note that over a period of time you've been able to shift your own metrics positively...you're doing 'good'! The only conversion numbers that really matter are your own.
Here's a pocket guide to taking your measurement to the next level on some popular social platforms.
You already track: Followers, mentions and retweets.
Start tracking: Traffic from Twitter to your web properties.
You're already excited by the number of mentions you get on Twitter. It's great to be enthusiastic about the conversations you're generating and the amount of brand awareness that Twitter can raise for your cause. But, what about the percentage of your time on Twitter that you've allotted to bringing your supporters back to the actionable elements on your website? It's easy to note how many times your links on Twitter are clicked. It's another thing entirely to pay attention to what users do on your website when they are directed there from tweets.
Go one step further: How does Twitter convert?
Here's where Google Analytics (or a similar professional web-tracking software suite) is your best friend! Did those "Donate Now" tweets actually result in donations? How long do Twitter visitors spend on your website before leaving? More or less time than the average visitor? You should have an end-to-end picture of what Twitter users do on your site once visiting. If you're like most organizations, you may notice that Twitter is not a top referrer to your site, but can you identify trends that are unique to your Twitter visitors?
Most of Twitter's users (an estimated 60%) now access your tweets from a mobile device.
If you're noticing that referrals from Twitter are not completing goals you've assigned on your website, ask yourself if pieces of your site perform poorly on a smartphones or tablets. If so, reconsider the contentyou share on Twitter.
You already track: Likes and comments.
Start tracking: Engagement and virality rates.
Peep into the Facebook Insights section for your organization's Facebook page. The numbers you'll find here go far beyond the question "How many?" These metrics tell you how the content you're sharing is performing relative to your previous updates. "Likes" alone will never give you the full picture. You need to know if your content is viewed, clicked and shared.
The Performics Life on Demand study pointed out that Facebook users are more likely to engage with a brand's post when they post visual content. If you discover this insight is true for your followers too, how can you use pictures or videos to encourage your followers to take action?
Go one step further: How does Facebook convert?
What role does Facebook play in generating action for your cause? Facebook is the most popular commercial social network, and a natural platform for sharing petition requests and donation appeals.
Our research at Artez Interactive shows that for fundraising events where participants ask friends to donate, 15-18% of the campaign's donations are referred directly from Facebook. Is this true for your organization as well? You can't really understand how Facebook impacts your campaigns without tracking what users referred from Facebook do on your website.
Some of the insights might surprise you. For instance, if you discover that a significant percentage of your new newsletter subscribers are coming from Facebook, will you then tailor your content to speak to that demographic?
You already track: Number of unique views and comments.
Definitely track: Referrals from other websites and blogs.
Everybody wants to know "how many people read my article?" It's fabulous to earn lots of views, but eyeballs on your content alone shouldn't be your end goal. When your article is viewed, that's great. When it's shared, even better!
Google Analytics gives you a "big picture" of how visitors arrive on your blog post. You're likely noticing that search, email and social sites (mostly Facebook) are sending new visitors to your content.
Be sure to drill down and note if other blogs and websites are linking to you. This is valuable information because external links are important for your search engine optimization (SEO), and improve your page ranking.
And on a practical note, your team needs to know who is commenting about your organization and what they are saying so that you can reach out to them and build stronger partnerships online.
Go one step further: How do your blog posts convert?
When writing blog posts, do you include a call-to-action? If you're not providing actions for your readers to take after reading your content, you may be noticing a high bounce rate on your blog posts.
Even the most innocuous "message from the chairperson" can include a thoughtful call-to-action - and it doesn't always have to be "Donate Now". After all, there are so many things your readers can do to help your organization online.
You can make your blog content work harder for you in many different ways. At the simplest, go cross-channel and ask readers to join you on Facebook or Twitter. If you're including a Facebook "Like" box widget, you'll see the number of people who converted to new page members from that box in your Facebook Insights!
You're already tracking: Re-pins and followers.
Start tracking: Content pinned from your website.
Pinterest! It's so new, most of us hardly know what to do about it other than marvel that it has recently become the third most popular social network in the world. At heart, Pinterest is a visual platform. Charitable organizations have been experimenting by sharing photos, memes, and of course, (the now ubiquitous) infographics!
You probably started with Pinterest by pinning images to your organization's boards and watching to see if they are re-pinned. Are you also noting how often content from your web properties are independently shared by other Pinterest users? There's an easy way to find out. Use this URL:http://pinterest.com/source/YourWebSite.com/, replacing "YourWebSite.com" with the website you want to track.
Go one step further: Track conversion.
Don't see a lot of pins created from your organization's websites? It could be that your web properties or blogs don't contain pinnable items. Too much un-pinnable Flash animation? Not enough visual or share-worthy content? These questions give your team something to think about when designing future communications pieces. What good is a "pin it" button on the bottom of your pages if there's nothing to pin?
Pinterest may be a new platform, but that hasn't stopped marketers from eagerly jumping aboard. Shopify.com recently released a study showing that visitors referred from Pinterest are 10% more likely to make a purchase on its e-commerce sites, when compared to visitors from other social media networks.
Note, that doesn't mean to expect the most traffic from Pinterest! It means that Pinterest converts the best in that scenario. Does your organization sell items like t-shirts or jewelry online, or do you have an alternative giving catalogue? In the run-up to the busy holiday period, now's the time to examine which social sites are converting the best online for you.
What does looking at conversion do for you?
Conversion metrics are not just useful for understanding your overall web strategy; they also arm community managers with the weapons they need to justify the time and resources spent on social sites.
Essentially, the next time your boss says: "CharityX has a higher Klout rating. Are we failing on Twitter?"
You can reply with: "Users from Twitter were twice as likely to sign our petition and spent three times more time reading our blog articles this month."
You'll be armed, like Conan, if he were more articulate.
We looked at four popular platforms your organization is probably using, but your followers might be big fans of Google+, YouTube or LinkedIn. Every community is different when it comes to their favourite networks, but one thing is certain - you can always keep an eye on your conversion metrics from those sites.
Wondering how to segment out social traffic to your web properties? Here are some great resources to help you understand how to measure activity online.
Watch a webinar: Google Analytics is Magic: Gremlins, Unicorns and Fundraising!
Use a checklist: Read Google's checklist for the most common analytics questions.
Third-parties in the mix? No problem.
You may want to track items that don't exist on your organization's website. For instance, donations, purchases, registrations, newsletter sign-ups or petitions are often processed by a third-party company.
Most software platforms are optimized to allow Google Analytics integration. Ask the vendor handling your transactions how they can provide analytics allowing you to identify your social referrers.
You should be able to see your supporters from the beginning to the end of their action. If a user started on Facebook and ended up donating or signing a petition, that's important information for you to know.
Want to know more about social fundraising for nonprofits and charities? Download our FREE Friendship Powered Fundraising whitepaper.