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Measuring the effectiveness of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Jun 29th, 2014 | By
measuring twitter linkedin facebook

How effective are your social networking tools?

Here you are. And you stare into a void.

You followed my advice: You defined your social media strategy, which fits nicely into your overall online media strategy. You set your goals and key performance indicators.

Based on all the good advice, you measured your success and now find yourself sitting on a heap of figures. While you understand each of them, it might be difficult to (a) relate one figure to the next and (b) see how well you do in comparison to your “competitors”.

Well, here is one example of what you could do: measure the “effectiveness ratio” of “your vapourware”, your tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Here is a real-life example of eight pretty similar organisations, “Org A” to “Org H”. These eight non-profits all work in scientific research. They defined, as part of their social media strategy, the roles of vapourware as: “to tease people into intermediate content such as blogs, videos and podcasts“.
I took the status of their Twitter and Facebook following on Dec 31 2013, and pulled up their blog traffic statistics between Sept 1 and Dec 31 2013.

webreferral traffic

There are three things we can now measure:

Measure the success within the tool itself

Each social media tool needs to have a significant momentum or “following” within itself, in order to be effective. So we measure the “Facebook Likes” and “Twitter Followers”. Clearly “Organisation B” wins on Facebook, and “Organisation A” on Twitter.
Note that it is far more difficult to measure “the following” in LinkedIn, as we will explain a bit further below.
But only measuring this figure, the success of a following, is not enough. You might have 10,000 followers on Twitter, so what? You need to measure the success of the tool within the function you attribute to it, within your social media strategy.

Measure the success of each tool’s function

One of the functions of the vapourware, for these organisations, is to generate referral traffic on their blog. So the next step is to measure the click-thru’s from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can do this, using your linkshortener click-stats or measuring the incoming referral traffic via Google Analytics. That will give you an absolute figure, which you see in the “Referrals” row in our table: the amount of incoming visitors which came onto the organisation’s blog, from each of the three vapourware tools.

And that gives a slightly different figure: In our statistics, we see how “Organisation C”, which only has 728 Facebook Likes, still managed to get 9,877 incoming clicks from Facebook. “Organisation E” wins for Twitter, with 13,628 click-thru’s from Twitter, even though they don’t have the highest number of Twitter followers from the bunch.

Measure the effectiveness of each tool

We could measure “effectiveness” by dividing the amount of referrals by the amount of followers, which is what we did in the “Ratio” row, in our example: how many click-thru’s do we get per follower?

It is clear that “Organisation C” is the most effective on Facebook, and “organisation E” for Twitter. For these winners, this ranking is the same as for the absolute referral traffic, but the scenery is different for the other organisations: for instance “Organisation B” has much more Facebook referrals than “Organisation D”, but the latter is much more effective in using its smaller Facebook following.

Same for Twitter: “Organisation B” has more Twitter click-thru’s than “Organisation C”, but the latter is more effective as it has only a third of the Twitter followers from the first.

The secrets behind the figures…

Where do the effectiveness differences come from? I have the advantage to know each of these organisations, and how they run their social media outlets. Allow me to use that knowledge to explain the differences:

For the winners:

  • “Organisation C” is the Facebook effectiveness winner. During the period we got the stats from, they ran an online competition on their blog, where the public could vote for the best blogposts. Each of the entries was heavily marketed on Facebook, with custom-tailored posts, purposely teasing people into the blogposts.
  • “Organisation E” is the clear Twitter effectiveness winner. They have a lot of content, and re-post each of those content pieces several times, in different timeframes.

The runner-ups:

  • “Organisation D” does pretty well on Facebook. Their secret is, again, highly customized and manually crafted Facebook posts.
  • “Organisation C” runs well on Twitter. Their online competition plays a role in that, and had a lot of retweets. Competitions always run well on social media.

Those who could improve:

  • “Organisation H” could do better on Facebook: they don’t have a lot of content, and could increase the interaction they have with their followers – After all, Facebook only shows your content on your following’s timeline, if you interact with your followers.
  • “Organisation A” has quite a bit of content, and a huge following, but all their posts on Facebook were automated during the time we took the statistics. It is clear that manually crafted Facebook posts are “read” and “clicked” more often than obviously automated Facebook posts.
  • “Organisation A” could also do much better on Twitter. While they have one of the largest following, their Twitter effectiveness is the lowest. Partially as they do not interact a lot with their following, but also as they don’t market their content aggressively enough on Twitter: they only auto-post every content piece once, even though their blog pieces are really good. They should manually tweak their tweets, inserting a question or tease a bit more, and re-post every content piece several times, using different teasing tweets.

LinkedIn is a different beast

We can not measure the LinkedIn effectiveness in the same way, because LinkedIn works in a different way. “LinkedIn Pages” have limited functionality to promote our content. The most effective way to “market content”, is to actively engage in LinkedIn discussion groups, related to your topics.
As such, the followers on your LinkedIn page is less important, and effectiveness can’t be measured by that figure.

Still, it is interesting to see the difference between the eight organisations, in their LinkedIn click-thru’s: Ranging from 14 click-thru’s in four months (“Organisation E”) to over 2,000 click-thru’s for “organisation D”. Why was the latter so successful? They have several people within their organisation who actively engage in a wide range of LinkedIn discussions, and relate their existing content to the ongoing discussions.

Clearly shows the potential of LinkedIn, if you ask me!

What did we learn here?

  • You can (partially) measure the success of your social media tool as an “in-tool” figure: your Facebook and Twitter following. And you can increase success, by increasing your following within each tool.
  • But that is not enough: You should also measure success, within the function each tool has, within your online media strategy: the click-thru’s, in this case. You can increase your success by increasing the click-thru’s
  • And, you need to measure your effectiveness ratio: having a lot of followers, with a lot of click-thru’s,does not show what you could “potentially” achieve with that amount of followers. That is where the “ratio” comes in.
  • The highest effectiveness on Facebook and Twitter is achieved by manually crafting your posts. On Twitter, you should re-post the same content several times. On LinkedIn, the highest referral traffic is reached when you actively engage in its discussion groups.

How successful is your social media outreach?

Jun 24th, 2014 | By

Social Media Strategy and KPIs - Graphic

Unfortunately, there is a lot of bla-bla and little boum-boum in most talk about social media success factors, performance indicators and Return-on-Investment (ROI).

Half of the organisations are still still stuck with the old mix-up between “reach” and “impact”. And even “reach” they might (wrongly) define by the amount of Facebook Likes or Twitter Followers, forgetting how the US State Department wasted $630,000 buying 2 million Facebook Likes, resulting only in an engagement of on only 2%.

But hopefully, you have already risen above that. Hopefully, you are already thinking further in how to reach your target public, with the key messages… But even so, when reading articles on critical success factors, and social media ROI, I find generic figures suggested measurements, as if each organisation or company aims to do the same thing on social media.

“Social media success” depends on what you want to achieve with social media. In other words: if you want to measure success, you first need to define what success means for you. And that is the very first step you need to take when wandering into a social media adventure.

That, you define in a social media strategy. And it ain’t rocket science: A social media strategy consists of four steps, minimum:

1. WHY: Define your objectives

How does your social media outreach fit within your broader media strategy? Do you want to use social media for advocacy? For online fundraising? To build an open dialogue with like-minded people? To enhance internal communications, or communications with your partners? As teasers, leading to your core content? To illustrate your research? Or will you use social media only as an online repository, collecting existing content? What are your key audiences, and why do you want to reach them?

2. HOW: Define your approach

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of social media tools out there. Which will you use? What will you use them for? Will you use Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Google+? Will you use videos, podcasts, slides, pictures? Is there any way each of those will be linked one to another? Is your blog a central platform linking each of the other social media tools? Given your objectives, and following your approach, what will you actually do on social media?

What will your social media flow to look like? Will you use a set of tools as teasers, leading into intermediate content, which, in its turn, will lead to core research? Will you use events to stir up the momentum once a year? Will you use your social media tools to connect to your partners, or use your partners to actively expand your network? Having defined your different groups of key audiences, how do you want reach each of these groups?

3. WHAT: Define your social media work plan

Here we dive into the practicalities: What will you do to with all your social media tools, to reach your objectives, following your approach? How, practically, will you link them up? What will you do to reach your target audiences, with each of the tools. What techniques will you use to expand your network on each of your social media tools. Who will do what, by when?

4. And only then, we are ready to MEASURE

After defining the Why, the How and the What, you can set your Key Performance Indicators: Each of these should measure how well each tool is performing, within the tool itself, as well as within the whole flow, within your whole social media strategy:

Of course, your Twitter following is an important measure, but you can’t ONLY measure that. Having 10,000 Twitter followers, – or 2 million Facebook Likes, like the US State Department had, is only one of the many measures.

More important is how those Twitter followers and those Facebook Likes contribute to reach your objectives: what is the Facebook PTAT (“People Talking About This”), interactions and click-thru’s? How much traffic is Twitter driving to your blog, if this is the role of your blog, as defined in your approach. How many times are your Flickr pictures re-used in online publications. If that was part of your social media objectives, of course.

Each point in your workplan, should link to one of more approaches, linking to one of more objectives. And each should be objectively measurable, both as an absolute figure, as well as a relative figure, measuring your progress over time.

THAT will define if your social media outreach is a success or not.

So.. Shy away from any article “defining social media success in 10 steps”. No-one can do that, for your organisation, but you. As only you know what you want to achieve, and how you want to achieve your social media objectives.

And your first step, is to define your social media strategy. Without a social media strategy, you are shooting in the void, and you will stay in “Social Media Lala-land” forever.

Additional reading:
How to define an online media strategy, a case study.
How to define a social media strategy
How to convert “social media reach” to “impact”

Online communications for nonprofits: the current trends

Jun 13th, 2014 | By

Reflections in a crystal ball.

The art of communications, is to stick out from the crowds. Offer your public new and enticing communications, both in content and in form.

The world of online communications is now moving faster than ever before. We have more tools at our disposal, which provide new opportunities to bring our messages and interact with our audience.

While working on online media with a wide range of nonprofit organisations, there are some clear trends I see, with opportunities for all of us:

Blogs versus traditional Content Management Systems

The market of the content management systems (CMS) is now consolidating around three systems: Drupal, WordPress and Joomla.

Selfhosted WordPress is now more and more used as the single universal online publishing tool, with a relative low start-up cost, a solid and simple technical base and extensive support.
Drupal, as more complex to set up and support, is often used for large sites, with complex taxonomies and structures, where browsing speed is crucial.
Joomla’s market now involves as a “in the middle” go-between Drupal and WordPress, though I see its market slowly shrinking.

All three CMSes are now steadily merging the traditional split between CMSes and blogs, which results in most blogs and websites now being mixed into one single online site: The CMSes themselves are now more used for the static information repositories (access to online data, fixed information on “who we are, what we do, and where we do it), while the blogs provide a flexible platform for dynamic content, and interactions with our target public.

Online security and reputation management become critical

The more online tools we use, the higher the exposure to hackers and trolls.

Website and blog hacking is common these days, and require specialized staff with extensive CMS and server skills. The amount of both brute-force and sophisticated hacking on our selfhosted online tools will become more frequent and more malicious.

At the same time, with the proliferation of online tools, when something goes wrong, it goes wrong “fast and wide”: both trolling, and negative publicity can spread fast, and does require specialized tools to properly monitor. Online reputation monitoring and management becomes crucial.

The key social media platforms

There is a steady consolidation and standardization on the core social media tools, splitting between the “interaction-based” tools and the “repositories”:

  • Flickr as a photo repository
  • YouTube as a video repository, with Vimeo as a possible add-on for high-quality video.
  • Slideshare as a presentation and simple document repository
  • Facebook (both Groups and Pages) as one of the main website traffic drivers
  • Twitter as a partial website traffic driver, but mostly as an interactive real-time communications tool

While Google+ steadily looses its market (certainly in the professional and nonprofit market), the main newcomer is LinkedIn. While LinkedIn has been around for a long time, it recently changed its strategy towards a more interactive communications tool, rather than a mere repository of personal resumees.
“Company pages” have always existed, but with the introduction of interactive timelines (as Facebook and Twitter offer), and the expansion of discussion groups, LinkedIn will soon complement Facebook as the main traffic driver to our websites. Facebook will become a tool to reach the “general public”, while LinkedIn will become the main tool to reach the “professional market”.

On LinkedIn, do not restrict yourself to a “Company Page”, but start a discussion group, assembling people who are professionally interested in your causes, and willing to contribute to the discussions. LinkedIn groups have not only shown great potential for “professional interactions”, but also to network, and scout for people who you want to cooperate with, e.g. as guest writers for your blogs.

Another factor on the increasing importance of LinkedIn versus Facebook is that the latter recently changed its organic search algorithm: Only a small fraction of your Facebook posts will now be shown on the timeline from your subscribers. And the amount of posts will depend on how much interaction you have with your following. So even if you have 10,000 likes on your Facebook page, if you do not interact with your public, your posts will be shown less frequent on your followers’ timeline.

Beyond these tools, a whole plethora of meta-tools are full of potential: Instagram, which recently became the most used photo sharing tool, is used more and more by non-profit organisations. Its functionality is nicely split from Flickr: Flickr is more used as an “official picture” repository, while Instagram becomes more an informal outreach channel, based on interactions.

Social bookmarking tools like Storify and Pinterest are increasingly used, though are often not seen as the critical social media tools, but rather as “nice to have’s”

There is also a clear social media trend moving from “online publishing” to “online interacting”. The fastest growing social media networks are those which not only “publish” content, but actively communicate with their communities. For instance, it is no longer sufficient to tweet all links to your new content, but people will want to interact with you. So, systematically monitor the replies and mentions on Twitter, and respond to queries and feedback. Thank your most active followers and encourage them to continue interacting with you.

Quality becomes more important

Ten years ago, an organisation really stood out above “the rest”, when it had a blog. Nowadays every man and his dog has a blog, or several blogs. This is true for all other social media tools.

This means, to really stand out, the quality of our online media content and presentation, on any of our social media tools, becomes critical. Nicely crafted titles and descriptions, and high quality videos will help us stand out in YouTube, but a Blogger blog with a default dull template and merely a sequential list of blogposts, will not.

Events as a catalyst for online activity

Events like conferences and workshops used to be confined to “onsite participation”. Online tools now allow us to draw in the offsite public and significantly increase our reach.

Social reporting from events, using live blogs, live tweets, vlogging and podcasts slowly have become standard. There is still much room for innovative initiatives to really include and involve the offsite public into the onsite happening. Combining webcasting with live moderation on Twitter, feeding online questions to the onsite panels have proven to be very successful. In most events where I coordinated the social media outreach, there were more online participants, than there were onsite.

But events have even more potential. We can use them as a catalyst in a whole online momentum. The art of successful events these days is not to confine yourself only to the days of the event itself, but to start building an online momentum way before your conference, and stretch it as long as you can, after the event. Use social media to get related content online before the conference, and use it to entice online discussions. Ensure that conference content goes up fast during and shortly after the conference.

Building in “fun” and “online competition” elements around conferences has proven to be very successful. Past events I have been involved in, have shown that a online competition for blogs, photos or videos can become the main driver of traffic to the conference website, helping us to drill into a public we normally would not have reached. Many online competitions have also been successful in enticing people to comment and discuss topics we tackled at our conferences.

Use conferences also as a capacity building tool for your staff and your partners: Gather a social reporting group way on forehand, and give them onsite training and support, using the conference as an exercise to use their newly acquired skills. Often the connections you can build in these onsite and online teams, by integrating your partner organisations in a social reporting team, will outlast the event.

Mobile, mobile, mobile!

The use of mobile devices to access information becomes more and more important. Ensure your websites and blogs are geared for mobile use.

More and more organisations are also venturing into mobile apps, not only for people to access websites, but also to access core data, or to engage an online public.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Traffic from search engines on your blog or website visitors should typically be bigger than 50-60% of your total traffic. If you have less, then you have not optimized your SEO. I am always surprised that organisations spend so much time and efforts in redesigning websites, and generating great content, but are so under-performing in “selling this content” through search engines.

No matter how well you use social media tools to “spread” and “sell” your content, if you don’t do a proper SEO on all of your blogs and websites, you are wasting resources. I am amazed how many websites and blogs don’t even have the basic SEO.

But proper SEO goes beyond blogs and websites. As mentioned earlier, when you publish videos, podcasts, pictures, slides etc.., do take the time to give all these items proper titles and descriptions. In the descriptions include proper search keywords, and include links to other content related to these items. Did you know that after Google, YouTube is the most used online search engine? Without properly crafted titles and descriptions on your YouTube videos, you loose quite a potential public!

Picture courtesy Garry Knight

Study: What makes people follow you on Twitter?

Apr 26th, 2013 | By
What influences your Twitter follower growth?

Potential Twitter followers are influenced by our Tweetbehaviour
(click for high resolution graph)

OK, if we’re going to talk about “Increasing your Twitter followers”, then we’re going to do this well: We’ll remember that an increased Twitter following is not a goal, it is a means. A means to expand your reach, so you can deliver your messages to a wider audience, and increase your impact.

So, first things first: When you use Twitter for your organisation’s outreach, define your target audience before you even think of increasing your followers. “More” is not “better”, as there is a big difference between “reaching a lot of people” and “reaching those who matter”.

There are many “tricks of the trade” to increase your Twitter following actively, but few realize how much your own “Twitter behaviour” also influences your Twitter growth. Many people “check you out” before deciding to follow you, at least in the “professional Twitter” environment. Researchers at Georgia Tech analyzed which factors matter when “being checked out”.

Their report is based on analysing 500 Twitter users, tweeting over 500,000 times in the past 15 months. The researchers recorded each user’s follower growth, and analyzed what it was about their tweets and behavior that lead to growth.

Here were their findings – and we start with the most significant factors first:

Good: Number of connections in common

“A friend of a friend is also my friend”, or in other words: People feel comfortable in following someone followed by someone they follow themselves. The typical Twitter snowball effect: get a good targeted following, and almost by default, others in that target group will follow suit. The power of social media networking…!

Good: High frequency of others retweeting your tweets

A “retweet” or “mention” is generally perceived as “a vote of confidence”. The more you get retweeted, the better. Others, outside your network, but within the network of your followers, will see the retweets, and will almost “naturally” get interested in you. “If my friend speaks highly of someone, there is a good chance I’ll find that person interesting too”.

One practical tip: Make it easy for others to retweet you (one of the tips in my Twitter tutorial)!

Good: High frequency of informational tweets

Your tweets have to contain “original content“, preferably with links to information. Tweeps who only mention or retweet others are taken less seriously, and will less likely be followed. Obvious, no?

And be social: don’t just broadcast your own content. Broadcast also content from others.

Bad: Too many “broadcast” tweets

On the other hand, don’t make the common mistake of only broadcasting information. You need to interact: Retweet, mention and quote others. Engage in conversations. Be a socializer, not a preacher.

If people see that you interact, they will be more likely to follow you.

Bad: Too much negativity in your tweets

Don’t bitch and whine the whole time. Put positivity, hope and humour in your tweets. If people want to get depressed, they’ll watch the evening news.

Good: A detailed profile description or “bio”

Before I follow anyone, I check out their Twitter profile. A good profile tells me a lot about the tweep:

  • Upload a profile picture: Hey, why would I follow you if you don’t even go through the trouble of uploading a picture? Use a significant picture: Close-up of your face (for personal Twitter accounts) or for organisations, your logo or a representative picture. Remember that profile pictures are always shown in a small format. Make sure people can see what the picture represents.
  • Put a URL in your profile: makes it easier to check out who you are, what your organisation is all about.
  • List your location: Helps people “recognizing” who you are.
  • Make a good profile summary: Ensure that people understand what you are all about. Highlight your interests or your focus areas. Use the full profile length. Don’t give me just two words, unless if they are really catchy. And please: no grammar or spelling mistakes!

Good: “Burstiness” of your tweets

Often people ask me “how many tweets should I broadcast per day?“. My answer always is: “As many as YOU would expect from those YOU follow”.

The general perception is that people don’t like “noise”: In general, “too much is never good”. But that is relative: For some of my Twitter news channels, I broadcast about 32 tweets per hour. For the same channels, I also give people the option of following the same news channel at a lower volume, 2 tweets per hour. The average ratio I have is: 5% likes the lower volume, 95% prefers the higher volume.

I have to admit that 32 tweets per hour is rather extreme, but in general, people want to see “activity” on your Twitter account. If I see they only tweet once per week, it is unlikely I will follow you.

But there is something else, quite interesting: The report shows that people like “burstiness”: a sudden peak of fast, consecutive tweets increases your “follow-a-bility”. Research by Twitter shows that posting a “concentrated number of tweets in a short time span”, live tweeting an event for instance, can increase your engagement by 50%. And “engagement” like retweets, mentions and interactions, are very positive influencers for your “follow-a-bility”, as we mentioned earlier.

Good: Decent ratio of “followers” versus “following”

Few will follow tweeps who are not followed by many. Another positive factor is the balance between how many you follow versus how many follow you. Take two tweeps, A and B. If both have 1,000 followers but A follows 200 and B follows 5, people are likely to follow A rather than B.

It comes down to being social: In general, “active” social tweeps will follow a good number of people themselves.

But don’t overdo it. Even if a tweep has 100,000 followers, I get suspicious if they follow 50,000 themselves. This, to me, is a sign they don’t monitor their own Twitter stream. Nobody can keep up with the amount of tweets coming from more than 2,000 people. It is highly unlikely you will get a lot of “social contact” with a Tweep who follows 50,000 people…

Bad: Too many useless hashtags into your tweets

People browsing online media “like it simple”, especially on “vapourware” like Twitter. On Twitter people’s attention span is measured in “seconds”, not minutes.

Hashtags should be used carefully and sparingly. Too many hashtags within the tweet reduces the readability. If you use hashtags, put them at the end of your tweet. Some people use hashtags for common words like #poverty or #hunger or #aid.. Not only do I hate that, but also, it is utterly senseless.

Good: Easy to read tweets, but not too simple neither

In just a few seconds, someone should be able to read and understand your tweet, and get interested in it. Make your tweets easy to read. Sculpt your tweets.

I know it is difficult to condense a thought or statement in less than 140 characters, but it is an art you can master by practice. Was it Hemingway who said that it is more difficult to write short stories than long stories?

But don’t sculpt your tweet with the language of a three-year old neither. The Georgia Tech study shows that tweeps using an average of 2.36 words longer than 7 characters, are more likely to be followed. So go and start calculating (c-a-l-c-u-l-a-t-i-n-g – that’s 11 characters, cool!).

Now go! And multiply your followers! :)

I discovered the The Georgia Tech report via Business Insider and Poynter, all thanks to my old friend Temmy Tanubrata.