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How to convert “social media reach” to “impact” – Part 1

Posted on Apr 27th, 2013 by
kids in Ghana

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives
(Jackie Robinson)

A while ago, we had a workshop with the key media people from the Global Agricultural Partnership, CGIAR.

One of the key discussions was on The difference between “reach” and “impact”: How can we shift from aiming for higher blog visitors, to what really matters: using our social media outlets for a deeper impact. How do we achieve that impact, and how do we measure that?

The Day You Figured Out, You Had It All Wrong

As the public awareness person of your nonprofit organisation, you are a happy chap. One year ago, you started to actively engage in social media. The visionary in you saw social media as a great outlet for your advocacy campaigns.

And what a year it has been.. Starting from scratch, your blog now has 3,000 visitors per month. Your YouTube channel shines with 1,000+ views, and so does your Flickr account. 1,500 “Likes” star on your Facebook page, but your Twitter account beats it all: 2,000 followers! I mean, in one year!!!

Proud as a peacock, you write it all up, in a status report, which, with a wide smile on your face, you put it in your boss’ pigeon hole. “If this does not give me a good pay raise, nothing will”, you think.

The next morning, your report comes back from your boss. With only one sentence written on it: “Nice figures! But what difference does it make?”.

Darn! That [[censored]] of a program director! Apart from his dysfunctional relationship with IT tools, and born mistrust of “the social media circus” (as he calls it), he still doubts the figures you give him? I mean, how does he dare? It is all there. In black and white.

Well, I got bad news for you: Your boss is right.

CGIAR, at the forefront of social media

I loved to work with CGIAR’s media, advocacy, and public information folks. They really have “a message to bring”. I mean, looking at it from my perspective, as a “content generator”, these people have a new story or video idea under every single table and chair. There are stories with key message EVERYWHERE. From seedbanks in India, to stopping erosion in Kenya, to the use of zai’s in Burkina Faso.

To top if off, the “media” people are a very dynamic bunch, who embraced social media already a while ago. But after the initial spur of enthusiasm, many of them too asked the question: “Nice figures! But what difference does it make?”

From reach to impact

Most of the literature on “Return on Investment (ROI)” in social media, relates to for-profit organisations. The few articles applicable to nonprofit organisations I could dig up, concentrated on measuring the RoI through the amount of funds raised via the social media channels. That’s pretty obvious and easy to measure. But… CGIAR does not raise funds via social media, so now what?

Well, first of all, I was pleasantly surprised by how many people already tracked their web activity figures: Google Analytics, stats, and retweet statistics on Twitter… But that, to me, defines the “reach” of our social media efforts: how widely the content spreads. But it does not define the “impact”: “did we reach our target audience, so did our content instill a change?”

It is not because you have a wide “reach”, that you will have a high “impact”. I can challenge anyone: I can start up a social media campaign, have 10,000 visitors on my new blog within the first month. 1,000 followers on Twitter. 10,000 views on my Flickr pictures But what does that mean? Nothing, if my visitors are not my target audience.

Enough preaching. In the next part, we will give some practical tips on how to convert “reach” into “impact”.


Edited from an earlier published guest blog on ICT-KM’s blog.
With thanks to Antonella Pastore and Enrica Porcari.

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