Fri, June 26 2009

What are the metrics of success for your online community?

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Social Media •

I get asked this question a lot.  What is the ROI of social media?  So I asked some experts.  This question will be answered today in a guest post from Bob Cramer, CEO of ThePort Network, a social media solutions provider and great resource for nonprofits..

Bob Cramer_Headshot

By Bob Cramer

In rolling out an online social networking community, your nonprofit’s objectives should be all about your organization’s constituents. Certainly, fundraising campaigns and dollars raised are the bottom line, but as part of that, building engagement and passion among supporters is crucial.

However, actually measuring success around such themes can be difficult. To this end, physicist and mathematician Albert Einstein aptly noted, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

By taking into account both qualitative and quantitative measures, it is possible to get a more comprehensive and accurate look at the real impact your social community is having.

Measuring Qualitative Success by the Relationships You Have With Members

It’s easy to overlook qualitative measures for social networking success, because they are intrinsically abstract as compared to “hard” quantitative measures such as membership growth or increases in the number of page views. From a traditional business perspective, it’s like trying to measure customer loyalty and brand perception – such elements are vital, but measuring them can be infinitely harder than simply looking at quarter-to-quarter sales comparisons.

But skipping qualitative indicators would be a big mistake, since they reveal success in strengthening the ties between you and your advocates, as well as reinforcing the bonds between community members themselves. Remember that such qualities set the stage for healthy fundraising in the long-term.

Here are some examples of qualitative success measures in a nonprofit social community:

• You are building better relationships with constituents by learning more about them to fine-tune your nonprofit’s focus and programs.
• Messages delivered to the community are being shared member-to-member and with the outside world.
• Your blog posts are building momentum in the number of quality comments that give insight into supporters’ opinions.
• Members are using the community to actively trade knowledge and insights and are meaningfully supporting fellow constituents’ concerns, passions and goals.

Such indicators reveal how well you are communicating to your members, and how well they are communicating back to you – and with each other. Again, all this points back to more engaged and passionate supporters, something essential to meeting fundraising goals.

Selecting Metrics to Track Quantitative Trends

Similarly, from a quantitative nature, what social networking metrics should nonprofits generate to validate community success? Some basics might include:

• Increases in the number of people joining the community.
• Increases in page views on your website, and in the average duration of site visits.
• Conversion rates of member to member-donor.
• Number of days from community registration to first donation.
• Increases in donation averages, or in members who donate multiple times.

Analytics tools are available to help you track and analyze many important quantitative trends. Such indicators assign hard numbers to validate community success, which are important for justifying budgetary expenditures.

Social networking ROI measures are still evolving, but as you can see there are methods that you can use now to determine your social community’s progress and success.

Thanks, Bob, for your great advice!


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