Measuring Social Media Outcomes Is Easier than Measuring Hurricane Strength | Beth's Blog

Measuring Social Media Outcomes Is Easier than Measuring Hurricane Strength


Source: Nasa

I grew up in a small town by the New Jersey shore in a house a block from the Atlantic Ocean that my elderly parents still live in today.       With Hurricane threatening a direct hit and potential devastating damage,  emergency officials called for a mandatory evacuation — something that hasn’t happened in many years.

While my family and their home dodged a bullet, like millions in NYC, other locations  had catastrophic flooding and there was a loss of lives.    We learned that it predicting the path of hurricanes is a more precise science than the measuring their destructive force.

We have to respect Mother Nature – and whether we live by the Ocean where Hurricanes can hit or along a fault line where earthquakes can shake down our homes.       Do we take natural disaster seriously?    Are we prepared?

A few weeks ago,  HandsOn Network  launched The Good & Ready Campaign that leverages interactive technologies and social networking to support their partners, The American Red Cross, and FLASH by recruiting, inspiring and mobilizing volunteers in support of their goals for September, National Emergency Preparedness Month.

I was lucky enough to snag an interview with Jessica Kirkwood from HandsOn Network who oversees social media strategy about how the strategy and measurement component for this campaign.

1.   What are the key results of this campaign?

Points of Light Institute’s primary mission is to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.    We believe that civic engagement is a vital part of a healthy democracy and therefore promote and support volunteerism in the broadest sense. That said, we are especially committed to achieving focused impact in the areas of Education, the Environment, the Economy and Emergency Preparedness & Response.

Our partners had four specific goals which included encouraging volunteers to:

Create a personal or family emergency plan;
Create a personal or family emergency kit;
Host a kit building party (and donate the assembled kits to those in need; and
Get affiliated (trained/certified) (so that an emergency response organization can put you to work in a leadership position immediately in a time of disaster.

While these results seem relatively straightforward on the surface, structuring an online campaign around them proved more challenging than anticipated.   This was primarily because the type of emergency plan, kit and/or training that an individual or family should create depends on their geographic location.

Some families will need to plan and prepare for the threat of wildfires, while others will have to prepare for hurricanes, flooding or tornadoes. Trying to provide all the proper links and information within our microsite and Facebook application proved too cumbersome, and so we chose to go with a user flow that included a pledge, followed up with an e-mail offering all the details and links to get the precise information needed for a participant’s location.

2. What does success look like?

Establishing metrics for this campaign was difficult in that we didn’t have anything to use as a benchmark.

Our digital engagement success is evolving based on our experience and it is difficult to outline what metrics of success might look like.  In the end, we decided to set a super conservative expectation about success.  We decided to try to get 500 emergency plans pledged; 2,000 emergency kits built and 250 service leaders affiliated (meaning certified as first responders.)

At the time of this writing, one week into the six week campaign there were 1,337 actions pledged.  A breakdown of the engagement and site visit stats are below.  (Since starting this reply, we’ve added to this significantly – we’re over 2100 actions pledged now.  But the recent full breakdown uses the 1337 number)

3.     Do you have a model for a ladder engagement?  I see where you are trying to educate, get donations, get people’s email addresses, but I don’t how you move people through?

You may remember that last year we ran an online campaign called “Tag,” where participants pledged volunteer time and then “tagged” their friends to do the same.   We were experimenting and learning about what an online community organized around service might look like.

What we learned from Tag and it’s follow up campaign, “Follow the Leader” was that for us, people that wanted to engage in a learning community around volunteerism were different from those that wanted to respond to a straightforward call to action.     This insight helped us develop a ladder of engagement hypothesis for our community engagement.

For example, we might use online community tools for our network of “service leaders” – individuals who play leadership roles in recruiting, managing and recognizing volunteers or developing, managing and evaluating service projects.    This group, super-users of a sort, are more interested in the online community tools that allow for best practice sharing, crowd-sourcing, idea development, etc.   Individuals that simply want to be able to join in on calls to action that resonate are less likely to use the online community functions.

Last year, our Tag and Follow the Leader campaigns were organized and run as those two things merged – straight up call to action combined with online community. The net result was that we engaged about 8,000 people in the calls to action and about 10% in the online community functions.

Points of Light routinely utilizes the “ladder of engagement” as an organizing principal. In this case, however, our partners weren’t trying to create a progression from one action to the other, but rather to encourage people to do at least one of these actions as part of National Emergency Preparedness month. It’s our intent to use a series of campaigns over the next few months to build a base of engagement on Facebook, and then to take a “ladder” approach with that base once it reaches a critical mass

4.    What are the communications tactics you’re using to drive people here?  Is there a web site or other ways that you communicating this message?

The campaign is running via a microsite ( as well as via a Facebook App running in HandsOn Network’s Facebook page as well as on generationOn’s Facebook page.

To promote the campaign, we have conducted traditional PR tactics, promoted the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and our blog, utilized e-mail marketing across a number of stakeholder verticals and we’re currently conducting blogger and key influencer outreach for support.  Our partners employed similar tactics to promote the launch of the campaign. Both Points of Light and our partners plan to release additional messages between now and the campaign end on September 30.

Additionally, for the first time, we experimented with advertising through SocialVibe instead of running a typical Facebook ad campaign.  The SocialVibe Network operates on a pay per engagement model, rather than pay per impression or pay per click, and so it lends itself to cash conscious and engagement specific campaigns.  In this case, we ran our preparedness quiz on the SV network and paid per user taking the quiz.  Results after 4 days are here.

5.  What  are your KPIs?

Week One Results:
Family Plans Pledged: 890 (Goal 500)
Emergency Kit Building Pledges:
Personal: 198
For donation: 120
Total # of Kits pledged to be built via these pledges: 2,254 (Goal 2,000 kits)
Pledges to Get Affiliated/Trained: 129 (Goal 250)

6.      Is the Facebook piece a part of an overall communications strategy that leverages other channels?  How?

Last year, when Points of Light ran the Tag and Follow the Leader campaigns, we used an online community built by made possible through a grant from The Kellogg Foundation.  While our experience with Kanu Hawaii was good, we wanted to try a campaign grounded in Facebook since that is where people are already spending their time.  Once the grant period ended, Points of Light decided to develop within Facebook in order to simplify access to the calls to action.  Interestingly, Kanu Hawaii has also redeveloped their whole site within Facebook

7.   What is your process for reviewing and improving your campaigns?  You’ve asked peers for feedback – but do you have an organizational process? Do you have a process to gather real-time feedback and use that to improve the campaign as it unfolds or do you use an “after action review?”

For the rest of this year, and into 2012, Points of Light anticipates running more frequent online campaigns to drive social action.  It is our hope that we can gather informal feedback throughout the campaigns as well as monitor the real time performance metrics and tweak the running campaigns as we go.  Additionally, it is our hope that lessons learned from each one can be utilized for the next one up.

Does your organization have a ladder of engagement model that you use to inform your  strategy and how you measure success?

9 Responses

  1. Chris Noble says:

    Nice writeup, Beth – thanks for sharing the interview with Jessica! We’re proud of this campaign and over the weekend Good and Ready rose to more than 3100 pledges!

  2. Beth says:

    Chris: I just noticed that – at least people will take the next disaster seriously!

  3. David Vyorst says:

    Beth, it’s a very insightful piece, but the title is a bit misleading. You’re really talking about outcomes and KPIs and not so much measuring social media metrics relative to outcomes.

  4. Beth says:

    David, you’re so right … I should make you my title editor .. I’m going to change it!!

  5. Dan Michel says:

    This is very timely as we solidify our goals for the next fiscal year, but we are reviewing our metrics as well. Do the right metrics help our overall goals? We are finding that we may need to choose new primary metrics.

  6. Beth Kanter says:

    Dan, what metrics are you thinking about?

  7. Dan Michel says:

    Sorry for delay. My boss, Tony Bagdy (and the true analytic brain of the team) is trying to figure out which metric really demonstrates social media’s effect on brand awareness — which is our overall department goal.

    We are comparing aspects of:

    Share of Conversation
    Share of Voice
    Social connections
    Monthly active users
    Potential Reach
    Social impressions

    We are still trying to figure out what is going to be best for the organization, our leadership, and for our own goals and what really will corrolate to our brand awareness goal.

  8. Excellent read on the constantly evolving science of the metrics of social media ROI. What’s really interesting is finding out what worked and what didn’t work for campaigns. This interview is like a case study, which is one of the most valuable ways to learn about successful initiatives. Everything makes sense in retrospect, but I like the takeaway that Hands on Network identified two types of engagement for their efforts: 1. the people who want to engage in a community about volunteering, who were different from 2. the people who wanted to respond to a straightforward call to action. Thak you!

  9. […] Measuring Hurricanes is harder than social media outcomes […]