Rob Stuart, who passed away recently and who was instrumental in the creation of the nonprofit technology movement always had a favorite question, “What tools are in your tool box?” It was always a terrific conversation starter with nonprofit techies because knowing the right tool for the job is important. As I’ve been working on “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit” with co-author KD Paine, we’ve come to the chapter on measurement tools. I sent out a query nonprofit tech colleagues who are social media mavens and ask that age old question, “What’s in your social media measurement tool box?”
Because specific tools come and go and always are changing, we wanted to avoid writing something that would be out of date as soon the book came out. The important thing is to pick the right tool for the job — and that job is collecting data to measure progress towards a goal or objective.
Why is that so hard?
Social media measurement tools give you data. The problem is that data everywhere! Almost every click we take, it leaves a data trail of data that can be captured. Measurement tools or perhaps more accurately, social analytics tools collect that data. The challenge becomes figuring what data really matters.
As much as we’d like it to be so, the data we need to measure progress on goals will come from a variety of sources and tools based on our objectives and KPIs. There isn’t really any one-stop shopping, although some of the tools that combine social media measurement with social management are attractive to nonprofits because of their simplicity. (One place to look).
Social media metrics mavens know that both qualitative and quantitative data is needed. Quantitative is counting or the numbers — all those pretty charts and graphics. The qualitative comes in the forms of comments and can often the why the numbers are moving in a particular direction
Measurement should not, ideally, be driven by a tool. It should be driven by what you want to learn. As soon as you have articulated a SMART objective and KPI, it should guide you to what data you need to collect and transform into insights That prevents you from collecting data you don’t need and being overwhelmed. If you create the discipline to collect data weekly, then it won’t be overwhelming. Don’t wait to collect a year’s worth of data in a week. Finally, avoid getting into data collection and analysis ruts – and evaluate your approach.
Sometimes we think that because we’ve purchased a fancy software package, that it will give us actionable information with just one click. That usually isn’t case. Measurement and monitoring tools are great at scooping data from the social web, but the act of sense-making and getting aluable insights actually requires additional work. That work isn’ t root canal – it’s actually fun.
KD Paine offers a great framework for matching tools with data collection and analysis tasks.
If you are measuring sentiment, then you’ll need a content analysis tool. If you are measuring attitudes, perceptions, or behavior change, you’ll need to use survey research tools. If you are measuring reach, engagement or action, you’ll need an analytics tool.
Nonprofit social media peeps identified four categories of tools as their favorites:
- All Purpose: Spreadsheets, both google spreadsheets and excel spreadsheets
- Measurement and Management Combo Tools: Sprout Social, Thrive, and Spreadfast
- Analytics Tools: Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Twitter Tools (Socialbro, Hootsuite, Bit.ly, Twitalyzer)
- Content Analysis Tools: Radian 6 and Netvibes
Here’s a round up of specific tools and tips:
Social media metrics mavens are members of the Spreadsheet Association Society, whether it’s a google spreadsheet shared online or Microsoft excel spreadsheet. Shonali Burke says, “Especially for nonprofits with limited resources. As long as you are tracking data points consistently, you can use simple correlation formulas to see how your efforts are impacting your outcomes.” Burke also likes RowFeeder to collect Twitter and Facebook metrics because it is very easy to use and not expensive.
Holly Ross, NTEN, also loves spreadsheets. “I pull in metrics from all over the web to get instant snapshots and create graphs that show changes over time. While it takes a little bit of time, the tool is free. Ross says being focused is very important because the more you track, the more time it takes. She advices subjecting your data to the so what test. When she isn’t playing with spreadsheets, she uses google analytics, tracking the traffic to their site from social sources, where they go and what they do. [Google Analytics recently integrated social analytics tracking and multi-channel funnels]
MMM Tools: Measurement, Monitoring, and Management
A number of nonprofit social media mavens reported their favorite type of tool is a MMM or Measurement-Monitoring-Management combo tools. While they are not free, they’re not beyond nonprofit budgets. These tools combine what’s needed into one application. They also say that a single MMM tool won’t solve all your needs and that Google Analytics is another must have.
David J. Neff, Lights. Camera. Help., likes Sprout Social. He says, “It measures all the small stuff and can give custom reports as well. It also at a glance let’s you see the 30k foot view.” He also likes to use TweetReach. “Both are easy to understand, export reports and good for mid level and senior managers to look at without heads exploding.”
Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation, also includes Sprout Social among her favorite tools because it is helpful to track the performance of content across channels. She turns to Small Act Thrive for managing relationships and tracking keywords, for example “birding.” She has discovered that there isn’t a Swiss Army Knife for social media measurement, monitoring, and management tools and will cobble together data from different tools into a spreadsheet.
Caryn Stein, Network for Good, also uses Thrive. She says, “We track social reach, engagement and track keywords and mentions. Like many other tools, it’s a quick dashboard that can help guide your efforts and add a layer of context over general impact numbers provided by other analytics suites, such as Google Analytics.” Her tip is to have an analytical framework before begin and be consistent. If you are just getting started, pick one or two indicators.
Shari Ilsen, VolunteerMatch, prefers Spredfast which is another combo tool that tracks their activity (inputs) across channels as well as reach and engagement. What she likes best is that the tool can help them tag specific campaigns and do more fine-tuned analysis. Shari warns that there’s a lot of data points to collect,”so choose a few things to monitor or track, and then develop a workflow that will allow you to gain a big picture view. You don’t need the bells and whistles if you’re just starting out.”
Kami Huyse, Zoetica, points to Lithium, a monitoring and measurement tool. She likes it because it can track sentiment fairly well and the backend is easy to use. She warns, “You can’t rely on a single tool. My second favorite is Google Analytics because that’s how you track actions.” Huyse says it is important to set up a dashboard workspaces.
Social Media nonprofit mavens also like free analytics tools. There are many to choose from that will collect metrics from Facebook, Twitter, and other channels. Danielle Brigida says that the tools are often changing and don’t be afraid to explore, however, don’t let it get in the way of being a consistent measurer.
Debra Askanase, Community Organizer 2.0, feels strongly that smart use of Google Analytics as a first step will help nonprofits take that first step on the road to being a metrics maven. “I help clients tie their social media actions to their web site. We identify where we want social media referrals to go on the web site and track how many are getting to those pages.” Askanase says that Google Analytics is a must-have for campaign tracking, especially the annotation feature.
Askanase’s other favorites include bitly.com and Metricly – all for tracking her network on Twitter. Susan Tenby, TechSoup, loves Social Bro which helps her identify influencers and makes sure that her Twitter interactions are spreading across their network. She checks three times a week. Tenby, a maven of free and low cost tools, also likes Twitalyzer and Nutshell mail because they are really easy to use.
JD Lasica, Socialbrite.org, says his favorite is Google Analytics. “It’s the grandpappy of measurement, and it measures not just website referrals but social media kahunas you should be paying attention to, too!” Dan Portnoy, Portnoy Media, loves Facebook Insights, but because it can track so many data points – he is very choosy about he collects and analyzes. He also uses Hootsuite for tracking Twitter and Google Analytics.
John Haydon is a fan of Hootsuite. He uses Hootsuite to build custom reports that include Facebook Pages, Twitter and Google Analytics. Says John, “The reports are very simple to understand, and are automatically emailed to me.”
Some social mavens also mentioned monitoring tools as their favorites which are useful for content analysis as KD Paine notes above. Allen Gunn, Executive Director, Aspiration likes NetVibes for monitoring. Gunn says, “I’m mainly looking for activity around tags and who to thank for mentions. And, the prices is right: free.”
While not free, another favorite tool mentioned as Radian 6. Amy Sample Ward, NTEN, uses to see how much they are engaging with the sector and whether NTEN is tiny fraction or sizable porition of the nonprofit technology conversation on social channels. Amy advises proioritizing your data because Radian 6 can give you a lot. For those getting started, Amy recommends starting with free tools to understand the work flow. Rachel Weidinger, concurs, “Start a measurement habit, don’t wait for a budget for fancy tools – senior leaders rarely see it as important investment. Start with building your practice first.”
What are your favorite social media measurement tools? Why?