Social Media Benchmarking: Gauging Success for Project and Organizations in Global Health and Development | Beth's Blog

Social Media Benchmarking: Gauging Success for Project and Organizations in Global Health and Development


Flickr Photo by Kevlar

Note from Beth: You need a identify a measurable goal for your integrated social media strategy that can be linked to your organization’s overall results and pick a data point  or KPI that you will collect along the way to measure success.   Let’s say you want to improve engagement with stakeholders and your KPI is an increase in the number of comments on your social platforms.     How do you pick that number?  Measurement is a comparative science, so you have to compare that number to something you done in the past or to peer organizations.

A benchmarking process can be as simple as finding a handful of similar nonprofit organizations and comparing your key performance metrics.     Take this example comparing nonprofits performance in pinerest.  Or you may use a sector wide benchmarking study such as the NTEN Social Networking Benchmarking Study.

But if you are working with a network of similar nonprofits, doing a more formal benchmarking study can offer a lot of benefits.  You can compare your organization’s performance with an average for the group and know where you need to improve.  You can also look for colleague organizations that done a great job in a particular area and learn from them.     Stowe Boyd wrote about  this “bench learning” and there are a few examples from Aquariums and Museums.

But bench learning can be richer than simply collecting numbers.  That’s why I have developed the “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly” maturity of practice framework into a benchmarking tool – so it can quantify the level of maturity of one 13 different practices in the areas of:  culture, capacity, measurement, monitoring, engagement, content, and network building.   Using it as a diagnostic to help networks of similar nonprofits learn best practices from each other.    Here’s a guest post about the a group of organizations and projects working Global Health and Development are using it.

Social Media Benchmarking: Gauging Success for Project and Organizations in Global Health and Development

By: Rebecca Shore

In October 2012, the Beth Kanter came to speak to Social Media for Global Health (SM4GH) an interagency working group and space to connect and share experiences around the integrated use of social media to share the messages and products of global health and development organizations. The focus of Beth’s talk was measurement and social media, promoting her recent book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World.  This in-depth discussion resulted in a push to create a benchmarking activity to gauge where organizations and projects are in terms of their social media presence in the global health and development world.

From this need, Co-Chairs, Lauren Alexanderson, Amy Cotter and I created a benchmarking survey focused on some of Beth Kanter’s indicators such as the Crawl, Walk, Run, and Fly index and other social media concepts such as social media goals, measurement and limitations from SM4GH member experiences. The survey was reviewed by several social media and research experts then released to the public January 29, 2013. To date the survey has received 131 responses; 45% projects and 55% organizations.  We are aiming for about 100 projects and 100 organizations to fill out the survey and we’re almost there. We are looking for nonprofits or organizations working in global health and development to take the time to fill out the benchmarking survey and tell your friends and you could win a copy of Beth Kanter’s book.

At last month’s Social Media Week Washington, DC 2013, the SM4GH leadership team presented Benchmarking: Stop Comparing Apples to Potatoes. This event when over initial findings and had detailed discussions around emerging themes to see if these were consistent with what was discovered in the survey results.

The good news is based on survey results, it seems organizations and projects are connecting through similar channels to where they see their audience connecting. Also 92% of the respondents of the survey overall felt their project/organization goals were in line with their social media goals. These two results show that organizations and projects are heading in the right direction keeping their audience and overall goals in mind when using social media.

Another  interesting find was the overwhelming use of newsletters and email correspondence as a means of communicating. With social media on the rise, it was interesting to see how much people are still connecting through email and newsletters, through the survey about 95% of both projects and organizations are using newsletters as a form of online communication. This was supported through discussion at the event. One individual supported using newsletter because her organization had been collecting emails for ten years and had built a base of readers or followers, this was not the case for Facebook or Twitter. Another attendee of the event, highlighted that newsletters are often monthly or quarterly and require a minimal amount of time, whereas social media is extremely time consuming and requires a great deal of engagement.

Further, the survey examined the culture of data collection and measurement at a given project or organization. It showed that for projects, 56% were unsatisfied or felt neutral about the way their project was using data to improve its social media and for organizations it was about 70%.  When asking the event attendees their perceptions of data collection many felt it was extremely important to collect and look at relevant data. However many had struggles with data included reliability of social media metric tools, not knowing the right metrics to track or tracking too many data points.

We are in the beginning stages of understanding the survey data and how we will share the results more widely. In the preliminary analysis we are seeing some useful trends and some areas that will require more examination. To keep up to date on survey results and other information concerning social media for global health and development, join SM4GH at We hope that this benchmarking survey will help inform other organizations and projects as they create more strategic social media plans in the area of global health and development.

Rebecca is the Founder and Co-Chair of Social Media for Global Health and manages social media for several projects, mainly for the Knowledge for Health (K4Health).


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  1. […] Flickr Photo by Kevlar Note from Beth: You need a identify a measurable goal for your integrated social media strategy that can be linked to your organization's overall results and pick a data point or KPI that you will collect along the way to…  […]