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How to convert “social media reach” to “impact” – Part 2

Posted on Apr 27th, 2013 by

Kenya farmer fertilizing potato field

In part 1 of this series, we made the case that a high “reach” – the amount of people you reach via your social media efforts, does not mean a high “impact”, unless your audience is your actual target audience.

So how can we do better? Well, follow four steps:

  1. Identify your target group
  2. Inventorize your target group’s social media channels
  3. Interact with your target groups
  4. Measure your impact

During our CGIAR workshop, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) as a test case.

Step 1: Identify your target group

Kenya potato seedlings

Any organisation taking its web presence seriously, should define its target audience. Unless you define your target audience, your web presence will be a mere “shout in the void”.

And putting it bluntly, if your target group is twelve-year-old youngsters, your online approach and content will be drastically different than if your target senior scientists, no?

For CCAFS, we defined the following target groups:

  • policy makers (working on climate change issues)
  • researchers (working on climate change issues related to food security and agriculture)
  • internal partners (partners within the CGIAR system, and staff implementing the CCAFS program)
  • selected universities (partnering with them on projects)
  • donors (both existing and possible future ones)
  • public media (in general, not only those working on climate change)

A pretty easy exercise, no? That was the “thinking part”. Now comes the “sweat part!”.

Step 2: Inventorize your target group’s social media channels

Inventorizing ICRISAT seed bankIn the old times, media and PR people collected fax numbers of their target audience so they could send them press releases. Well, in modern times, we do exactly the same. Except that, now, we work with their social media channels. So, high time to fill our “Social Media Filofax” with data!

In the case of our example, the CCAFS team knew the key players for each of their target groups. So for each of them, we will now fill up our database with all their social media channels. Where are they on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube? What are their blogs?

And because these are all “social media channels”, we also look at the people whom our target audience “be-friend” or “follow”, or by whom they were “be-friended” or “followed” in turn.

Using Twitter as an example, it is pretty easy to follow the followers of another Twitter account. Is the Gates Foundation one of your current or potential donors, working in your target area? Well then:

  • use the Twitter web interface to log into your Twitter account.
  • Go to the URL: https://twitter.com/gatesfoundation/following/ … showing who the Gates Foundation is following.
  • Ah… interesting, they have over 500,000 followers, but only follow about 200 people. If Gates is indeed a potential donor, then I bet some of the people they follow, are also part of your target audience!Twitter following screenshot
  • If so, just click on “follow” next to the follower YOU want to follow.

Do the same for every single Twitter account you find for your target group. And do the same stuff for every single person/organisation in your target group, and for all of their social media channels. Start sweating!

By the way, you will now say “Hey, but you make me follow people, that does not mean they will follow me back”. Well, in the “professional Twitter environment”, my statistics show that 50% of the people you start following, will follow you back…

Step 3: Interact with your target groups

Party hat

Once you have those long lists of where your target audience hangs out in Social Media Land… it is time to… paaaartyyyy!

What do you do on social media? Right, you interact!! No use to have 2,000 Twitter followers if you keep dead silent on Twitter. So start tweeting those links you find interesting, tweet your news bulletins, retweet interesting stuff…

After a few weeks, it’ll be time to check who in your target audience is following you back. You missed some? Send them a reply on Twitter:

“Hey @Gatesfoundation – we’re finally on Twitter, and we got stuff you are interested in! (link to your blog)”

What always works out well, is if you can find out who physically manages social media for your target audience. For large organisations and donors, often it’ll be a dedicated person, sitting at the buttons of the Twitter and Facebook accounts. Send these people an email, introducing yourself. Network with them, and their social media friends. Those people have raw social media power at their finger tips.

You follow a similar approach for blogs. Start following updates of all the blogs from your target audience. Leave regular comments. Ask questions on their blogs. Get to know the actual blogger. Once you have interesting content on your blog, send them an email and ask them if they would like to publish a summary of your post. Or even better, if they could put in a link to your blog in their blogroll. Check if they’d accept a guest post from you. Do whatever, but please… INTERACT…!

After a few months, your social media channels should be buzzing, so time for part 4:

Step 4: Measure your impact

tape measure“Nice figures! But what difference does it make?”, your boss rightfully said. But, now, we have done it differently. This time, we are sure our target audience is following our social media channels, we are also sure that our “reach” is targeted. If people in our target audience read our blog posts, our reference documents on our website, read and retweet our Twitter links, leave comments and “Likes” on Facebook, etc… then we converted “reach” into “impact”.

Because your social media channels are now filled with people amongst your actual target audience, it is time to start measuring the actual buzz you get from that target audience.

Draw the same statistics you used to, but relate them to your target audience. Just a few examples:

  • measure incoming blog traffic, but check which traffic comes from your target audience’s blogs
  • count the comments coming from your target audience
  • measure the “retweets” and “Facebook likes” from your target audience
  • measure incoming links from your target audience’s web sites and blogs

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we are ready to answer our boss on his question. Our answer is now: “These figures represent not only how much our content was read by the general public, but also by our target audience!”.

Congratulations, you have turned “Reach” into “Impact”.
You can collect your pay raise now :)

Pictures courtesy CCAFS/CGIAR/, IconFinder, and Totally Bike
Post edited from an earlier published guest blog on ICT-KM’s blog.
With thanks to Antonella Pastore and Enrica Porcari.




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