The following is Michael Hamill Remaley’s, president of Hamill Remaley Communications, summation of the meeting and what he learned from Fenton.
The January 2011 meeting of Public Policy Communicators NYC focused on Evaluating New Media Effectiveness – What are the best ways to measure and track the impact of new media efforts?
PPC-NYC member and Fenton Chief Strategy Officer Lisa Witter is a widely recognized leader in helping nonprofit and foundation communicators think through how to take full advantage of social media and systematically collect data providing guideposts to this largely uncharted territory. She and her Fenton colleagues John Gordon, Hugh McMullen and Julie Leung lead our discussion.
A quick show of hands indicated that almost everyone in the crowd of 50 communications professionals was on Facebook, Twitter and/or YouTube (not surprising given the topic at hand). But then Witter showed a slide featuring the logos of dozens of other social media that one could be using, some of which are gaining considerable traction in key segments of the general public. So the first set of questions was, “Why are you using the social media you are? Are you using certain tools because you think you should? Or are you using the tools to achieve specific goals?”
GOALS SHOULD DRIVE TACTICS, not the other way around.
In traditional media relations efforts you don’t send out a stream of press releases every month with nothing particularly insightful to say or any specific audience in mind to say it to. So it is with new media. Communicators need to start by establishing clarity about the audiences they are trying to reach and what mechanisms those audiences use to get their information. But the big difference with social media is, of course, that it is not a one-way broadcast mechanism. These tools are equally, and perhaps more valuably, about listening to audiences and involving them in fulfilling your organizational mission.
One of the main early points of the Fenton team’s presentation was this: Whereas in the past nonprofits were looked to as the “hero” who would save the day in solving social problems and communications reflected that position, now social media is shifting the “hero” status to normal people – and nonprofits must show leadership by engaging followers, fans and friends to participate in addressing societal challenges. Our social media communications and the metrics we use to assess those efforts must reflect the new reality. Therefore, the depth of social media assessment metrics should equal the depth of engagement with your audiences though these channels.
The New Metrics: See, Say, Feel, Do
In traditional media relations efforts we are starting to talk less about the number of reports we print and the number of “media hits” we get as authentic indicators of effectiveness. Instead, thoughtful communications pros are focusing on how effective we are at changing the direction of public conversation. This is also true for new media metrics.
“See” Metrics. The Fenton team first talked about a kind of metrics that I tend to think of as new “old school” ways of measuring social media effectiveness. “See” metrics track how many followers, friends, fans and subscribers you have, how many page views you get, etc. These measures, like traditional impression and circulation figures in media relations, are all about potential. “See” metrics, say the Fenton team, are a measure of reach, but they are not a measure of success.
“Say” Metrics. This second level of measuring social media focuses on message acceptance. It looks at things like how many Re-Tweets your messages get, how many “likes” you get, how many of your advocacy emails get forwarded, etc. “Say” metrics are a good indication of messaging success and affinity for your organization or cause. They are critical to extending your reach and influence. However, they are still not a true measure of influence.
“Feel” Metrics. This level of metrics gets at the degree to which your messages are being picked up and “remixed” by the public with their own thoughts and feelings. These include things like Re-Tweets with personalization, posting of your information on Facebook pages with personalized messages, blog posts that pick up your information and comment on it and forwarded advocacy emails that add to your original message. The Fenton team says that “Feel” metrics are a true indication of influence and affinity, and a goldmine for insights on messaging development and identification. However, “Feel” metrics require significant research and human interpretation – they’re not simplistic numbers.
“Do” Metrics. This is really the ultimate level of measuring new media impact, and certainly the ones that have proven the most elusive for most nonprofits and foundations. These measure how many people have been driven by social media interactions to do things like volunteer, donate, take action, sign up, attend events, send letters, etc. These metrics really indicate the degree to which your social media efforts have helped bring people into the public conversation. Most of your social media efforts, say the Fenton team, should be focused on serving the Doers. You should use social media tools to be useful, to be relevant and to be social. But “Do” metrics are not the end of the line.
How do you use social media to serve Doers?
Influence is the holy grail of social media. Influence determines whether people say and feel and do the things you want them to.
You want to build influence with staff, members, volunteers, media and policy makers as well as target audiences within the public. The key to influence: BE USEFUL. Useful is not just having a worthy mission, but giving the audience the information, tools and resources that allow them to carry your mission forward.
According to the Fenton team, content drives influence. That’s why your expertise (and I would add your opinion), stories and data are more important than ever. But that’s not to say you should be yelling all you know all day and expect to get traction in social media.
The Fenton team made the good point that social media is sort of like a party. Who do you want a party? A person who stands up and screams his opinion and makes everyone miserable? Or a “cool DJ,” who is knowledgeable to start with, but listens to what people want to hear, responds to the feelings of the crowd and gives their audience what they can really groove to. To be a cool DJ, your organization has to establish a system for creating an authentic loop that starts with listening, then sharing what you have, creating new works based on what you have and what you’re hearing, promoting the thinking and products of fellow creatives, and feeding back into the loop by listening to what your hear.
These are the specifics they provided on the “Cool DJ” loop approach:
LISTEN to what people are talking about on blogs, social media, and Old Media
SHARE interesting and useful content you find with your audiences
CREATE something interesting – an opinionated blog post, video, or graphic
PROMOTE content appropriately to bloggers or websites
Fenton then used a brief case study on American Jewish World Service to show just how this “Cool DJ” approach can play out for a nonprofit. They detailed exactly how AJWS listened to a controversial discussion involving Monsanto occurring online, then simply added to the conversation by taking what they knew and adding some pointed questions to Monsanto. Their “creation” was essentially a simple remix, but they used AJWS’s expertise on the subject to enter the conversation and followed it through on a variety of channels, eventually resulting in their contribution to the discussion being widely disseminated and editorialized on a diverse array of sites, and forced Monsanto to issue an official response. This single piece of content led to an increase in Twitter followers up by 100, retweets and mentions up from 11 to 63 from the previous month, Facebook fans increased by 60, engagement up 50% from previous month, increased ‘footprint’ – at least 27 more AJWS blog posts outside the site than before, and at least 1,000 clicks to AJWS advocacy forums from blog posts and social media engagement. See more details on the case study in the Fenton presentation, click here.
The Fenton team then gave some additional tips, like using very specific hashtags on Twitter, responding quickly to posts and queries from followers with useful information, and making sure that you’re not treating Facebook and Twitter audiences the same and posting monotonous information.
The Importance of Monitoring
One of the key points during the conversation was the importance of daily monitoring of what is being said about your organization, the topics of concern to your organization and what other key thought leaders on your topic are saying. “You need to be listening to the conversation before you jump in and start talking.” On Twitter especially you need to weave your messages into the existing conversations to maximize influence. It was noted that Google Reader is one of the most important and powerful tools for monitoring what is going on across the internet/social media. The Fenton team provided an exceedingly valuable list* of listening and tracking sites that I am sure many PPC members will be checking out if they haven’t already.
Questions had been asked by the group throughout the presentation, but as the Q&A took off, it became clear that there were many questions about how to staff this kind of effort and what, if anything, could be moved down on the workload priority list to do this kind of measurement and social media monitoring.
Witter had noted early on that a recent Pew report indicates that social media is changing the way people live their lives, interact with others and receive information, and that our new communication practice simply needs to reflect that.
Some of the other practical tips that came out during the Q&A included:
-Don’t have a bunch of “logos” talking on behalf of your organization. It’s better to have just one “logo”/organizational Twitter feed and then empower many individuals in your organization to Tweet what they know and care about.
-Social media is the crisis communications professional’s best friend – but you have to be in it and active in conversation before crisis hits.
-If you are still doing lots of press releases, it may not be the best use of your time. Sure, the process of honing a message and creating a short, effective headline continues to be extremely valuable, but actual press releases are antiquated and annoy many journalists.
-Look for ways to use social media to reward and reinforce your audience’s actions.
-Even though you get 140 characters on Twitter, it’s best to aim for 90 characters and a shortened URL so that followers have room to Re-Tweet with personalized additions.
-Blog posts are in some ways more effective in social media than video because followers really can’t chop up and talk through video as they can with your blog posts.
-It is very important to follow the reporters who cover your issues.
As is usually the case with PPC sessions, the conversation could have spilled over into several more hours and many were left wanting more. Alas, we’ll have to pick up the conversation another day (or on Twitter, Facebook and other new media!)
*Fenton’s recommended sites for Listening & Tracking:
Google Alerts: Collects the daily, weekly or monthly mentions of particular keywords. You can receive these alerts in your email inbox or through your Google Reader.
Social Mention: Measures the social media traction of a topic or keyword.
Compete.com: Provides ballpark estimates on the traffic of popular sites.
Google Adwords/Keyword: Tests the popularity of your keywords, finds alternative keywords that may be more popular and make your content more SEO-friendly.
WTHashtag: Provides definitions for and measures the tracking of a hashtag.
Google Trends: Tracks trending topics by country, city and language and finds the articles that are driving interest. Searches for relative popularity of your issue or organization and compares it to other issues or organizations.
YourOpenBook.org: Searches Facebook for conversations on any topic.
Blekko: A search engine that helps you cut through the noise and find the most relevant information.
Netvibes: Collects the feeds of multiple blogs/sites and displays them in a dashboard format for easy reading.
Topsy: Tracks the flow of content across the Twitterverse. Good way to find influentials.
Bit.ly [or J.mp]: A URL shortener site that also measures number of clicks, where people are clicking through and conversations around the site.
Google Analytics: Tracks traffic levels, its increase, traffic sources, trafficked key terms and/or phrases.
Feedburner: Measures the number of RSS and e-mail subscribers.
Tweetburner: Tracks the number of clicks on the links that you send out via Twitter, also shows how active your Twitter followers are with your content.