Two Ways to Measure Social Media

Andrew Shaindlin is an independent advancement consultant who delivers workshops, seminars and presentations worldwide. He is also a faculty member for the 2011 CASE conference on Social Media & Community.

Measuring social media activity is a very hot topic.

In its simplest form, measurement of social media activity takes one of two forms. Organizations generally measure either:

the things the organization does,


the things its audience does.

For example, an alumni association might post a series of photos on Facebook. Later, when reporting on its activity, the association would include the number of photos shared on Facebook.

Alternatively, there might be a number of “Likes” on the photos, plus comments from alumni or students. These comments are “user-generated content” and will be reported as outcomes of the photos having been posted.

The first kind of metric (“what the organization does”) shows only how active the organization is (inputs).

The second metric (“what the audience does”) shows the type and quality of interaction the inputs generate (outcomes). To assess your social media effectiveness you need to identify, record and compare both kinds of activity over time.

Knowing you posted a lot of photos doesn’t tell you anything about your success. Knowing alumni left many comments on the photos doesn’t tell you much either – unless you look and see which types of photo content engendered the comments, and whether the comments in each case were positive, neutral or negative.

By identifying 1) the inputs that trigger user reactions and 2) the kind of reaction each type of input creates, you can increase the likelihood that your content will engage alumni over time.

This approach to metrics combines behavioral information (how alumni interact with you) with attitudinal information (how they feel about you), providing a more complete picture of social media outcomes than you would gain from recording and reporting only your own actions, or only those of your audience.

Combine this information with strategic goals for alumni engagement, and you’ll be able to assess more accurately how using social media is helping you reach your objectives.

“Two Ways to Measure Social Media” is cross-posted from the Alumni Futures blog.

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2 responses to “Two Ways to Measure Social Media

  1. Thanks for the comments Chris (and on both sites where the article appeared!!). We certainly agree that the outcomes are what we need to look for. Sure, someone may have doubled the number of members in their LinkedIn group – but what is the result of having those extra members? And this means, the result for the organization, as well as for the members themselves. I appreciate the mention of the two books (which I have not seen), and appreciate you taking time to comment.

  2. Measuring social media is a hot topic–thanks for helping us navigate it. I find that there is some confusion involved in measuring social media–especially if people haven’t been used to measuring traditional media in terms of outcomes. I hope we are first asking, “why do we want to measure?” and then “what are measuring?” The answer to the second should not be a tool, but an objective. I am thankful for two new books: Katie Paine’s “Measure What Matters” and Oliver Blanchard’s “Social Media ROI.” Both are nuts and bolts and should be required reading for every social media manager in the land. We have to be prepared to prove how social media integration helps accomplish the marketing goals of our organizations. As Paine said, “counting just adds things up and gets a total. Measuring takes those totals, analyzes what they mean, and uses that meaning to improve business practices.” I hope we all aspire to measure and not count. Thanks for the good thoughts.

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