Tips to Collect and Track Social Media Data to Further Your Cause

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In her presentation, Social Media: Paint by Numbers, Holly Ross, Executive Director of NTEN (The Nonprofit Technology Network) reminds us that we need to look at the “big picture” when it comes to social media. Holly points out that when we paint by the numbers, we focus on painting one square at a time. Yet, we don’t fully understand how all the colors work together to create the bigger picture. It’s the same with social media and your cause.

It is easy to get hyper-focused when we are busy trying to manage our Facebook page, post on Twitter, follow up on LinkedIn, send out our weekly newsletters and update our website. We spend a lot of time working with each individual technology but rarely take the time to understand how these technologies can inform and support the rest of our work. What ends up happening is that your social media activities occur largely outside your organization’s broader communications and fundraising strategies.

In order for us to “see” the bigger picture, we need to find a way for social media, communications and fundraising to work together. If we are successful at achieving this, the potential to further our mission through increased commitments of time, talent and money across a diverse spectrum of constituents is greater. Where do you start? You start by regularly collecting, tracking and analyzing social media data about your supporters.

Social media data can tell us a tremendous amount about our supporters– what interests and engages them and what they need from us. You can discover and track information about who is re-tweeting you on Twitter, liking your stuff on Facebook, commenting on your blogs and donating via these channels. All of these are data points you want to capture — together they provide you with a new kind of database on your supporters, which can help you see a broader, more colorful picture.

Tips to collect and track social media data

Create a customized listening dashboard using iGoogle. Pull in RSS feeds of Twitter mentions, blog searches and specific news. Use this as your homepage for monitoring your online brand and supporter activity.

Noteworthy Listening Tools
Google Alerts
Social Mention
Radian 6
Scout Labs
What the Hashtag?!

Source: Convio Social Media Guide

Start small. From Facebook posts and tweets, to actions taken and donations sourced, there are seemingly endless metrics that can be tracked in social media. Rather than trying to measure everything, start small. Begin with measuring your top 8 to 10 metrics.

Facebook Metrics Twitter Metrics
1. Number of “likes” on your page 1. Number of organization mentions
2. Number of "shares" on specific posts 2. Number of retweets
3. Number of "likes" on specific posts 3. Number of followers over time
4. Number of comments on specific posts 4. Pick-up of tweets by influencers
5. Sign-ups via Facebook (ex. newsletter) 5. Twitter-sourced donations
6. Influencer pick-up of posts 6. Referring traffic to your website
7. Funds raised on Facebook Causes  

Source: Convio Social Media Guide

Collect social media profile IDs. Just as you’d collect business cards at an event, ask supporters if you can use social media as a contact point. For example, would they rather receive a message via Facebook or direct mail?

Follow or add to your list of friends key people. Advocates, influencers, bloggers and mainstream media relevant to your cause should be followed. You can then use segmentation tools to create a feed (or list) on Twitter or Facebook to monitor their activity for collaboration opportunities.

Create a regular report to show growth and trends over time. Although there are various applications and tools out there that can automatically generate reports of varying levels for social media metrics and activities, I recommend creating a simple and intuitive report with only the metrics that matter to you.

Convio’s guide, Going Social: Tapping into Social Media for Nonprofit Success, provides a great example of a simple metric dashboard.

Dashboard of Metrics | Social Media Guide for Nonprofits

Time and again we have heard that targeting and personalizing messages do a better job in retaining and engaging supporters. However, this is hard to do if we don’t have a social media database that we can integrate with our existing fundraising and communications databases. What it all boils down to is that our nonprofits need to start tracking social media interactions.

The challenge collecting more data presents, of course, is that we might end up with multiple, independent databases (clients, emails, donors and social media interactions), aka data silos. Our task is to find a way to get them to talk to each other. What are some ways you have found to integrate social media data into your fundraising and communication databases?

4 Responses to "Tips to Collect and Track Social Media Data to Further Your Cause"
  1. 40deuce says:

    Great advice Rosita. It’s true that there are a lot of different things that can be measured in the world of social media, but the key is to pick a couple of metrics that really relate to your goals. Rather than choosing to measure everything under the sun, you should be able to find a few metrics that are easily measurable and relate closely to your objectives. If you can pick these out, you should be able to make measuring a lot easier than you thought it was going to be.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  2. Susan Chavez says:

    Thank you for this post summarizing Holly Ross’ presentation. I can’t wait to share this.

  3. Rosita, great insight. I recently started working at a nonprofit in IT and they are thinking about getting started in social media. This blog article has some valuable information. Keep up the good work.

    Derrick G.

  4. Imfine says:

    thanks.. your advice

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