Everyone who works in communications is in the business of influence. We use words to bring changes to society, to shape public perceptions and alter how we understand the world. It is through our influence that nonprofits seek to raise awareness of the issues and bring changes to communities.

The key to gaining influence is to continuously evaluate and monitor communications, identify what works, what doesn’t work, test, evaluate, analyse and make informed decisions that enable you to increase awareness and change behaviours that support your cause

The great thing about social media, is that it is easy to monitor and measure how you are going. Every post can be tracked and measured so you can test and adjust so that you can continuously evaluate and monitor what people are talking about that is relevant to your organisation, adjust your communciations to engage with supporters and develop relationships that enable you to build infleunce and support your cause.

What does success look like?

There are many metrics you can use to measure your campaign and many of the tools that measure this will have their own metrics, but which actually matters? Determining the success of your social media strategy will depend on what your objectives are.

Before we can think about the tools that we use to measure and make improvements to social media communications we need to understand what we are measuring, what outcomes we are seeking and how we define success.  A lot of organisations don’t set the right kind of targets for their social media activity, which makes it difficult for them to measure success or spot opportunities for improvement.

The most effective way to measure the impact and value of social media is to create metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) that align with your key business goals, whatever they may be. These goals will vary between different business groups and even for individual campaigns but, while they will need to be assessed individually, there are some broad metrics that should form the basis of most social media goals, or that can be adapted to measure specific goals.

What is the size of the conversation about your brand?

Collapsing together information about your audience and the audience of those who shared your content provides information about potential impressions your content receives and how far your content has been disseminated. This is normally referred to as your reach. Reach is a measure of potential audience size and therefore provides a good way to determine brand awareness online.

As it is determined by the propagation of a post this will vary widely so these measures should be averaged over longer periods to provide a clear pattern of awareness. There are a range of tools that not only measure the impressions of posts and some also provide analytics that enable users to target posts at times when followers are most active to increase impressions.

Is your content socialised?

Most social media interactions involve sharing links. So that clicks reveal how successful our posts have been, while Google Analytics tells us more about how people engaged with our content. Then of course, content exists, has been created, for a specific purpose against which even this can be measured. (It is of course possible to have content on your site that has no purpose, but it is impossible to measure something that has no purpose, and furthermore this type of content has no place on your site so should be removed immediately.)

A web page does not exist in isolation. It exists as part of a collection of content that forms a task or goal and it is this goal that we are able to measure. Dependent on your aims you will have to adjust how you measure but most goals can be connected to accessing a web page or making an action that can be measured such as completing an online form.

How well do people know your brand?

As well as determining general awareness of a brand more specific measures might look at awareness of key messages or other communications objectives by applying and monitoring project specific hashtags or by measuring social mentions of keyword terms using tools like Social Mention or Topsy.

These tools allow you to monitor how and when these terms are used. This also provides other benefits as it enables you to track how and when people are communicating about your brand and identify your key influencers.

How much do people care about what you do?

To a large extent you can measure the depth of a relationship online by assessing how engaged your audience is with your organisation and the cause you are campaigning for. Social media provides data that enables you to measure if people are participating in the conversation about your brand, how they are sharing your content and how much they care about the ideas your organisation represents.

The level of engagement with your organisation is formulated through a measure of how people are interacting with a brand through shares, retweets, comments and replies.  If you are more focused on generating interaction (replies, comments) or on spreading a message (retweets and posts) then this is the metric for you.

There are a range of different tools that analyse engagement and identify how and when people are engaging with content, what types of content they are responding to and provide information about your audience that enables you to take a more targeted approach to social media communications.

How influential are you?

All of these factors inform our understanding of our influence online. Influence can be seen as a measure of your capacity to induce people to take action or change their behaviours.This type of social influence measurement is an emerging technology and our understanding of how influence should be determined online is still unclear.

Currently measures of online influence are limited to measuring online interactions to determine our capacity to generate activity and engagement with brands and the capacity to connect online activity with offline behaviour is very limited.

Klout, the most well-known of these products, has in the past been criticised for inaccuracies, and it remains imperfect, but they are an interesting if fallible guide that is widely used by industries to identify individuals who are able to influence the decisions people make online.

Applying measurements to specific objectives

The most common mistake when defining what to measure is building a strategy around metrics that happen to be easily measurable – for example the number Facebook ‘fans’ or the number of followers they have on Twitter without being clear on whether value lies behind such a metric.

The best approach is return to your business goals, review how social media can be integrated into these objectives and refine how and what you will measure. Sometimes this may be challenging, but often you can apply the general types of metrics outlined above to more specific goals relating to individual projects or activities that have tangible organisational outcomes.

The first step is to identify and clarify your objectives. These may be long term objectives or they might be short term objectives tied to campaigns or events. Once you have determined what these objectives are you can review the types of measurements to apply and measure the performance of your campaigns.

Measures used to determine brand awareness can just as easily be applied to any set of keywords and might, for example, reveal how effective a campaign has been in raising awareness of particular issues. By creating a hashtag that connects messages relating to this issue we can easily segregate these messages and measure the reach and engagement of these types of post.

Alternatively measuring mentions of key messages might be useful if your organisation has amended their key messages to define different objectives or a change of focus and can therefore identify how effectively these have been communicated. It could also be used to measure the awareness of a campaign message that has recently been launched.

Measures of influence could be applied to more specific aims by narrowing the focus to individual accounts or groups of individuals. For example the It’s Not OK campaign aims to end family violence by changing attitudes in the community. They might identify key influencers in the community, policy makers, journalists who have the ability to deliver change and measure interactions with these key influencers or the prevalence of third party content that include our communications, themes or issued being raised, as a method of measuring how successful they have been at raising the issue with these influencers and supporting change within the community.

Finding the right measurement tools

The need for organisations to measure the impact of social media has led to the development of a range of different tools to monitor and track social media activity. There are a range of different tools on the market that provide different mechanisms for measurement and that provide different services, or provide measurement tools that are limited to individual channels. When deciding on what to measure think carefully about your social media goals and ensure they are focused on metrics that reflect what’s important to your brand right now.

It should also be mentioned that measurements are not limited to social media and that other methods might be more appropriate to measure your success against objectives such as surveys, subscriptions, registrations, completion of online forms, web traffic data or help line calls.

The need for organisations to measure the impact of social media has led to the development of a range of different tools to monitor and track your social media activity to ensure it’s working for you or you’re reaching your targets.

The list presented below provides a few to get you started. I don’t recommend you use them all at once, but find the ones that fit best for you and make sure you continually measure and record results, to see how your social media activity is performing overall and to make changes to your communications.

Adobe Social | Measure, analyze, and understand
Argyle Social | More prospects, better leads and stronger relationships
Commun.it  | Track your mentions and identify influencers
Facebook Insights | Measures Facebook activity on a domain
Google Alerts | Keyword alerts via email
Google Analytics | Insights into which social media channels are driving traffic to your site
Google Trends | Web content trends over time
Hashtracking   | Real-time Insights for Hashtag Campaigns and Events
HootSuite | Social media management and measurement
Klout |Leading influence metrics tool
Mention | Keyword alerts via web app
Peer Index | Another influence measurement tool
SocialBakers | Social media analytics platform
SocialBro  | Comprehensive Twitter management and measurement tool
Social Mention | Search for mentions about your brand
Sprout Social | Manage multiple accounts, engage, publish and analyze
Technorati | Blog directory
Topsy | Real-time search
Trackur | Social media monitoring
TweetReach | How far does your tweet reach
Twitalyzer | Twitter analytics for social business