This article is also featured on the CASE Social Media Blog.
Measuring social media activity is a very hot topic.
In its simplest form, measurement of social media activity takes one of two forms. Organizations generally measure either:
the things the organization does,
the things its audience does.
For example, an alumni association might post a series of photos on Facebook. Later, when reporting on its activity, the association would include the number of photos shared on Facebook.
Alternatively, there might be a number of "Likes" on the photos, plus comments from alumni or students. These comments are "user-generated content" and will be reported as outcomes of the photos having been posted.
[Measurement of social media activity takes one of two forms.]
The first kind of metric ("what the organization does") shows only how active the organization is (inputs).
The second metric ("what the audience does") shows the type and quality of interaction the inputs generate (outcomes). To assess your social media effectiveness you need to identify, record and compare both kinds of activity over time.
Knowing you posted a lot of photos doesn't tell you anything about your success. Knowing alumni left many comments on the photos doesn't tell you much either – unless you look and see which types of photo content engendered the comments, and whether the comments in each case were positive, neutral or negative.
By identifying 1) the inputs that trigger user reactions and 2) the kind of reaction each type of input creates, you can increase the likelihood that your content will engage alumni over time.
[Combine behavioral information with attitudinal information for
a complete picture of social media outcomes.]
This approach to metrics combines behavioral information (how alumni interact with you) with attitudinal information (how they feel about you), providing a more complete picture of social media outcomes than you would gain from recording and reporting only your own actions, or only those of your audience.
Combine this information with strategic goals for alumni engagement, and you'll be able to assess more accurately how using social media is helping you reach your objectives.
Photo of a useful measuring tool by Mutasim Billah via Creative Commons.