What’s Social Media Metrics’ Real Goal? Human Interaction
While social media offers nearly-boundless opportunities to communicate advocacy-related messages, understanding how successfully these messages have reached target audiences is a relatively complex process. Social media, after all, is a not a single medium like television but a collection of platforms, each with their own communicative nuances.
Tools abound to quantify different parts of the communicative process on mass email, Facebook, Twitter, etc., whether it be from what kind of device people looked at a tweet or what age group most often shared a post. Every single element of a message, from its wording to the image it includes to the time it’s sent out, can be measure and evaluated against all others.
In spite of this forest of information available, what I’ve heard time and time again from advocacy professionals is that the most valuable data that social media metrics and social listening can yield is the identities of people with whom they should have real, direct conversations with about an issue or campaign. This fact holds true whether the advocate is measuring the efficacy of social messaging among an audience of supporters or out there in the broad, vast Internet. Colin Delany made this point this morning at the latest Advocacy Leadership Network event on the importance of social listening. Ultimately, what makes tools like Attentive.ly, which can match existing email lists up to Facebook or Twitter users who interact with content, is the ability to identify the most engaged and enthusiastic recipients of an advocacy message. Asking those people directly to do something in the real world for a cause is vital to advocacy success — and it’s the best-case result of metrics work as a result.
During a recent Internet Advocacy Roundtable webinar, Beth Becker commented that she kept a hand-made spreadsheet of people who checked several boxes in interacting with her campaigns’ content. They may have opened an email, shared a link on Facebook, retweeted a Tweet. Keeping these people in a category of activist all to themselves was worth the work because they’ll be the champions a campaign can rely upon.
Several participants in this morning’s ALN roundtable mentioned direct messaging specific people on Twitter whose interactions with their advocacy campaigns were important to broader public perception. Finding those people requires no fancy analytics package, really — just some careful attention to a feed.
Proper social media metrics don’t just count knee-jerk responses like Twitter followers or Facebook likes, but record the quality interactions with content that require advocates to go one step beyond those efforts. Becker actually uses likes and follows as the denominator in her formula for measuring social media content engagement. Posts, shares, comments, retweets, and mentions – the things that require users to be seen interacting with content publicly — are her numerators.
Cross-platform products like Simply Measured or Radian6 can gather these kinds of interactions, while Peek Analytics and Hootstuite (via its recent acquisition of Brandwatch) offer detailed Twitter analytics. Facebook and Twitter offer their own free analytic information to account holders, too.
Certainly, people need to be inspired by the content an advocacy campaign puts out for that effort to succeed. Social listening can help hone a message as it’s being crafted to meet the interests or trends of the day. It can find the most fertile fields of public interest and bring the most pressing concerns of an amorphous mass of supporters into focus. But human-to-human contact is the end goal.