Benchmarking: Networked Nonprofits Measure Their Social Media Results In A Context | Beth's Blog

Benchmarking: Networked Nonprofits Measure Their Social Media Results In A Context


I’m leading a  social media peer learning project called “Leveraging Social Media: Becoming A Networked Nonprofit.”    Devon Smith, who writes the 24 Usable Hours blog, and a self-described “data nerd” did a benchmarking analysis for participants.

Benchmarking is the process of comparing your organization’s practices and results with a group of peer organizations.    It can be an informal study and  simple to do.    You identify a list of similar organizations and collect specific metrics to compare.   You can gather publicly available data or  do a survey with a free tool like Google Forms.

Sometimes benchmarking studies can be more rigorous and survey a field.  Take for example, the NTEN Social Network 2011 Benchmarking Study or the Digital IQ Study of Government Sites.

Benchmarking, whether an informal or extensive research study, can be  an incredibly valuable exercise because the numerical analysis  can help you craft realistic measurable objectives.   And, the process of observing even 10 other similar organizations social media practices can give you lots of good ideas if you approach with discipline.

Devon’s benchmarking study collected social media data from a survey of 2o7 arts organizations, referred by participants in Track 2.   Devon summarized the data in the above presentation.

Let’s apply the benchmarking data for an arts organization that wants to be highly effective at using Facebook in the beginning stages of practice or going from crawling to walking as outlined in “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly Model.   The first step would be to identify the  intent.    A good early stage intent might be awareness or deepening engagement.     Next, the organization would need to identify a SMART objective.

Here’s where benchmarking can be useful:  identifying attainable objectives because  you’re  not picking a number out of the air.

Benchmarking Study by Devon Smith

If an arts organization’s intent in using Facebook was to raise brand awareness, they set a SMART objective based on the benchmarking study, specifically the metric of median network size for Facebook.

By the end of  2011, we will increase the number of people who “Like” us on Facebook to the median Facebook network or x%.

Benchmarking Study by Devon Smith

Another intent might be to generate fan conversations related to the organization’s audience art appreciation goals.  They might use the benchmarking study metric of post frequency and comments per post.    The SMART objective might look something like this:

By the end of Leveraging Social Media experiment, we will post content daily that engages people in our art and increases the number of comments per post by x

At a more advanced level of practice, one might do a benchmarking study and ask participants to share their lowest and highest Facebook Feedback percentage from Insights data.

Identifying a SMART objective is an essential to success, but your organization needs to measure results in context.   A benchmarking process can help.

I’m going to blogging more about how networked nonprofits use measurement and use data for making decisions about improving their practice and getting results.   So, I’m really interested your answers to these questions:

Does your organization benchmark its social media practices and results?  How?  What did you learn?

8 Responses

  1. Devon Smith says:

    Thanks Beth! Speaking of benchmarks, I’ve got a Facebook experiment that kicks off today. It explores why & how Facebook (nonprofit) Pages show up in a users newsfeed. If anyone is interested in joining, details are here: Hopefully it will provide us all with even better benchmarking data!

  2. Beth says:

    Thank Devon will check it out.

  3. Thanks Beth for as usual, interesting subjects. Let me share with you what I’m learning, when walking this road, about how to know if we are making a difference out there in the conversations or not, if I really have “fans” and “likes” that count. I kind of stopped counting “likes” and “friends” and started to focus on qualitative conversation. I would even say that would almost step back by not initiating the conversations but “interacting in them”. That’s where I think the value is because if you proof to those you follow that that you read what they write about and are interested, they will be interested in who you are and what you stand for. If you refer to them like “@anna you that knows a lot about football, what would you say about UNICEFs and Barca relationship, do you think its ok that…” and relate that to something you do or plan to do or want to do for your non-profit/company/product…that triggers conversation and your company is part of that conversation. Others will join and have opinions and launch recommendations. I find those conversations more valuable than a high number or likes (that may be passive). People see that you care, people look for who you are and people may “like” you for real and maybe even refer to your comments in other conversations they have. So Im think of bencharking what kind of tools are being developed to track conversations and quality of those (there are some I guess), not how many times my brand was mention or how many people that are friend of my page, I want to see where my brands (or my employees) makes a difference to peoples opinion or trigger a conversation. Its hard because you have no control, but that’s what this is all about, to let the conversations flow…so my reflection is “if social media is to be social, then be social; you don’t sit with 6 friends over a dinner and just launch questions that you want the rest to answer, you may be quite 50% of the time and listen and interact in others comments, and that’s where you normally find the value because you see how your friends strengthen their believes or get a different angle, and when they go home they would say “XX said that – that was interesting”, they will remember you/your brand ). Thanks for sharing, looking forward to the next posts!

  4. […] accepted. Beth’s blog captured certain aspects of the workshop including articulating objectives, benchmarking, and a case study of AXIS Dance’s use of Facebook […]

  5. […] Guide to A/B Testing” on SmashingMagazine, an A/B testing primer on A List Apart, Beth Kanter’s explanation of benchmarking, and the 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Report. Filed Under: […]

  6. […] struggle to find an attainable number. Benchmarking, comparing your organization’s past performance to itself, or doing a formal or informal […]

  7. […] struggle to find an attainable number. Benchmarking, comparing your organization’s past performance to itself, or doing a formal or informal […]

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