Moving the Needle: Showing the Impact of Your Work

You might post awesome social media promos, but if you can’t demonstrate the impact of what you’ve done, why should anyone believe that you’re worth your paycheck? It can be challenging to show a direct impact with social media. The nature of these platforms is that people are browsing, having some fun, and not seriously considering buying anything or registering for something. It’s hard to actually do stuff on your phone (if you’re over 40).

Get creative. Think of all the ways you might be moving the needle. I’ve been diligently tagging URLs with Omniture code to show how much traffic social media is driving to our website. Normally that’s good enough to demonstrate ROI, but we had a situation that was a bit different. We needed to raise awareness of a registration process, and we wanted to try to show that our promotions helped drive registration. Unfortunately, the Omniture data was showing only about 5% of registrations as a direct result of a social media promo. (Which makes, sense, see above.)

The data WAS showing that more than half of traffic was driven by search engines. So I told everyone, “We’re raising AWARENESS of the registration process, and people are then searching for it later to register.” Everyone seemed happy with that explanation, but I needed more. I NEED a chart to prove my point! I can’t prove that the search engine traffic was a result of anything we did. Anything less makes me vaguely uncomfortable. (Note to self: Create a chart for husband’s “Honey Do” list.)

So I thought, “I wonder if we can show some kind of correlation in the number or reach of our promotions to the number of registrations.” I was not optimistic because the weekly results that I had seen didn’t seem to show an impact. Apparently I was only checking the last 2 weeks of the campaign.

The final result chart is impressive but you’re seeing the result of hours of work. We compiled over 200 promos and Press releases to complete the chart. Don’t be discouraged if your first “hunch” doesn’t pay off. Many times it won’t and you’ll end up with a chart that doesn’t make any valuable point at all. Keep trying! It’s worth it in the end.

Why in the World do people use Snapchat?

I had dinner with my nephews the other night and the topic turned (as it usually does with Aunt Karen) to social media. Snapchat came up. I was interested to learn about the “Faceswaps” because I’ve seen some wacky Buzzfeed posts about those lately. I didn’t realize they are a Snapchat thing. They are pretty freaking hilarious.

creepy snapchat face swap
creepy snapchat face swap

They remind me of the “gene machine” creepy face merge photo booth from Dave & Busters.

dave and busters gene machine
dave and busters gene machine

Here’s the primary reasonwhy the “young’uns” are using Snap Chat: “My parents are on Facebook, I don’t want to post anything there.”

And to my protests of “but snap chat disappears” my younger nephew responded:

“I don’t need to save my memories, because I’m not using it to communicate anything important.”

Part of me wonders if this is a phenomenon of the “participant trophy” generation? I’m competitive, I like to see how many “likes” and “shares” I can garner. But I confess that what I tend to post on Facebook is not very real…I tend to gloss over life’s daily disappointments and only post Glamour Shots.

My nephew uses Snapchat the way that my husband and I use text. To send casual comments or images that aren’t “important” enough for Facebook. When I asked how brands make money on Snapchat, my nephews showed me some interested “branded” filters. They both seemed to like the “Batman vs. Superman” filter. From what I could tell, branded filters are the best way to reach the snapchat audience, although there’s also local lists. And wouldn’t you know it, today I saw an article from Ad Age:

To Big Brands, From a Millennial: Snapchat Filters Are Where It's At Three Steps Companies Can Take to Sponsor Snapchat Filters
To Big Brands, From a Millennial: Snapchat Filters Are Where It\’s At Three Steps Companies Can Take to Sponsor Snapchat Filters

And now there’s even another platform that I hadn’t heard of, “Yik Yak” (I’m afraid to Google it since I hear it’s also a fave of child predators…)

Yik Yak is anonymous, so no one even knows it you who is posting. When I asked why this is appealing, my nephew responded “I like that it’s anonymous, there’s no pressure.” I confess I do see the appeal in those creepy Face Swaps, though.

Easing Your “metrics-tential” Crisis

Are you having a metrics-tential crisis? Just keep these words of wisdom in mind:

“Measure early and often.”

“Measure twice, post once”

“If a social media manager writes content, and there’s no one to measure the impact, did it happen?”

There’s a lot of hype out there about social media metrics, but it really boils down to this: What does your client / boss /stakeholder need to know?

You have an infinite amount of data available to you thanks to Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn Analytics, and YouTube analytics. (What about Instagram? Well…no data…yet.)

But do you really need to inundate your boss with it all the time? Give them something THEY can brag about to THEIR boss! But most importantly, map your metrics to your original strategic goals. It’s easier than it sounds, really.

And if the data points you find don’t add up to support your goals….you are looking at the wrong data points. You can always find something to crow about, no matter how small.

Don’t Just Measure, Measure *Everything*

OK, maybe Ivana wasn’t talking about social media metrics, but I like saying the title to this post in my best Ivana Trump accent.

Managing a large federal social media program has been a learning process. It’s all well and good to think up clever posts and tweets, monitor daily, and engage with fans. But if you can’t demonstrate the value of your program to management, then eventually nobody will see the point in keeping your program around.

There are lots of conferences and Web seminars that promise how to teach me how to demonstrate ROI to management (for a hefty price tag). I’ve been to some of these, and they’re a waste of time. There is no “one size fits all” method to metrics, it’s really all about what matters to your management.

For example, one of our clients is all about numbers, she really likes the solid quantitative metrics. Her boss is more interested in the larger buzz trends and the top influencers. And yet another program has very high visibility (and is a critical client for us.) We always need to be ready to show wins there.

So, how do we prepare for the periodic (inevitable) call to present our success? We keep track of everything. Because you never know exactly where the wins are going to show up and what trends are going to emerge. One month we might see a record number of Facebook clicks. The next month might be the biggest jump in YouTube views ever. Another month might be the highest Twitter reach…you get the idea. And those are just the quantitative metrics, there’s also the anecdotal. We constantly take screenshots of interesting user comments. Sometimes we’ll use them, sometimes we won’t, but we never know what we will be able to use.

I have a monster Google Doc spreadsheet that I keep updated every month. Some of the running metrics I tally are:

  • Number of tweets per month
  • Total reach of tweets that month
  • Average Reach Per Tweet
  • Number of Facebook Fans Talking about us this month
  • Reach of Facebook Posts this month
  • Facebook clicks
  • YouTube minutes watched
  • YouTube engagement
  • Bitly clickthroughs
my monster spreadsheet
My monster social media metrics spreadsheet: it keeps growing!

Is Twitter Finally Ready for Its Close-Up?

In this story:
Osama Bin Laden Dead, The Story Twitter Broke we learn that the first person to break the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death was Keith Urbahn (chief of staff for the office of the former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld). He posted it via his @KeithUrbahn Twitter feed 20 minutes before any other source confirmed the story:

But as it turned out, Sohaib Athar, a technology manager at Really Virtual, was liveblogging the raid on Osama without realizing what was going on. Twitter was the only medium to capture the action as it was actually happening.

And all this adds up to what Matt Rosoff describes as “Twitter having its CNN Moment” He says:

Remember CNN when the Gulf War started in 1990? Before then, it was watched mostly by obsessive news followers — people in finance and government, political science professors, insomniacs. Then Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and suddenly CNN was everywhere. Even in bars. That’s what’s going to happen with Twitter after tonight’s announcement that U.S. Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden…

But, even more importantly, when our parents ask us why Twitter is useful, we’ll now be able to point to this example. Rosoff says it beautifully: “Twitter was faster, more accurate, and more entertaining than any other news source out there.”

Advanced New Media Strategies Conference

I recently attended the “Advanced New Media Strategies Conference” for Federal agencies in Alexandria, VA. There were lots of great Social Media case studies, both internal and external.

Here are my notes from some of the highlights of the conference:

Why Use Social Media?
• To be alerted when the organization is mentioned
• To create a dialogue with the public
• To join the conversation and bring credibility
• To increase workforce engagement and knowledge transfer

With social media you cannot control the conversations, you can only hope to control the effect of the message by staying in the conversation


Last year CDC was actively listening and monitoring to correct misinformation about swine flu. Now, Facebook fans of the CDC page step in to correct misinformation, for example, myths about autism; CDC doesn’t even have to respond.

• Participates on a dozen social networks. 650,000 people have engaged with them online in the past year. They’ve fielded over 45,000 comments on their platforms

Building Developer Community / Open Gov
• build community around data and people engaging with data. Get feedback from developers.
• They crowdsource the data and enable the API for people to build apps from it. (e.g., app people could download to measure their broadband speed.)
• Opened up rulemaking for enlightenment from the public.
• Publish content into HTML and Blogs instead of PDFs
• Restructure the way the gov. shares information online “measure by participation and impact”

Bureau of the Census used Social Media channels to correct myths and respond to controversy.

is leveraging Social Media for recruiting, targeting a younger audience.

FDA leveraged podcasts, videos and mobile phone apps to share their messages about Tobacco – messaging across as many platforms as possible. (65% of Adults need to hear a message 3-5 times before they believe it)

US Airforce
• Significant presence: 150 Facebook accounts, 90 Twitter accounts, 15 flickr accounts. Decentralized: “let the airmen tell the story for them.”
• They have been engaged so long they’re trying to avoid going into a “Sophomore Slump”
• Social Media Team responsibilities:
o Research (identify the “next Facebook”)
o Reputation Management (monitoring, responding, outreach)
o Assessment: Metrics analysis (helps drive strategy)
• Problem: Executives fear that Social Media poses a security risk and is a waste of time Solution: Counter with education, workshops and conferences

US Navy: Best Practices
• 230,000 Facebook Fans
• “Micro Content” – break existing Web content into pieces
• Custom content created for social networks
• Relevant stories from other sources
• Photo of the week – vote for your favorite photo
• Recognition of individual contributors – highlight on a weekly basis.
• Historical events
• Question of the week
• Status update, updated at least weekly
• “Interviews” with top executives – send them 5 questions and post the answers verbatim
• Need a team approach to publishing (for backup)
• Use google calendar for a content calendar
• Spread news out throughout the day, post in AM then in afternoon.
• Sometimes repeat the same messages.
• Make external social media as personal as possible: people want to be a fan of a person, not an agency (from Steve Ressler of Govloop)

Dept. of Labor: Outreach Ideas

• Sec. of Labor blog, video diaries of travels use Facebook to answer email FAQs in 24 hours: use as a customer service tool to better connect with people
• Embed a Flickr URL in press releases, makes pics available to reporters
• Use a FlipCam to do on-the-spot interviews
• Instead of traveling for speeches: record them and put them on YouTube (a 9-minute video got 13,000 views)
• OpEds: Customized 91 OpEds with a link to the speech, special custom flash page with video, map of OpEds, Radio Shows and Print Interviews
• Create “a day in the life of” video series


Success Stories:

DoD Used and Internal Wiki, “Intellipedia” to develop their social media policy – Someone said “it’s going to take 2 years.” Within 24 hours had 200 subject matter experts collaborating on the document. Within 76 hours had the bulk of the core document finished. After 5 months of reviews the bulk of the core document had not changed.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission had 3900 collective years of experience leaving the agency every year, needed to capture that knowledge – so they started an Internal Social Network. They are #1 best place to work in Federal government.

State Department created an internal collaboration platform
o Foreign service officers move every 2 years — needed institutional knowledge
o 12,500 articles on the internal Wiki
o 45,000 pageviews a week (after 3 years)
o Professional Networking: you can identify expertise and link to your content
o Reverse mentoring with millenials
o Beta group of 300…”invite 10 friends

“NASA@Work” is an internal collaboration tool. When it comes to suggestions about internal business process improvement, they need to plan for resources to move the ideas through the system.

Failures: “If you build it, they may not come”
Air Force built an internal social network but NO ONE IS USING IT — Demonstrates the importance of a community manager.
NASA Spacebook is widely considered to be a failure

Choosing a Platform: Evaluate Culture and Objectives
• If you’re going for “discoverability” and want random people to join the community, then it should be more Web based and agile.
• If you need locked-down documents and version control then you’ll want Sharepoint, which has latency issues for remote users.

GovLoop: Best Practices for Building Community
• Building audience and engagement is very difficult
• “Spend as much on community management as on the technology”

Your Employees are Your Biggest Advocates

Are you still pummeling the public with your ads and messages? Have you noticed that nobody is paying attention?

What people care about most now is what their friends and acquaintances say about your brand. So stop wasting your money on short-lived campaigns or what you hope will be the next “viral video” – even if you garner millions of views on YouTube, you’ll never see it translate into sales. As the saying goes, “Social Media is not a campaign, it’s a commitment.”

In today’s market where you are competing for consumers’ precious attention, you need to cultivate relationships. Those relationships already exist – in your employees’ personal networks. That doesn’t mean every employee needs to blog about how much they love their work. It could be as simple as posting a job opening to their LinkedIn and Facebook Networks. That tells their friends and family “come work at Company X – we’re good people.”

Empower your employees to talk about your brand. They’re your most powerful advocates. Authentic interactions with your employees can go a long way towards building trust in your brand. Paying an agency to Tweet or Blog or Facebook on your behalf betrays that trust.

You have to plant the seeds now for a lush and healthy garden — and stop wasting your money on what seems like a quick and easy fix.

But don’t just take my word for it. Gia Lyons (aka Social Media Evangelista Extraordinaire) presented this at Social Fresh:

“Do Social Media” = “Collect Underpants”

The hype around social media just seems to be growing. But as the initial glow of this new medium wears off, it’s going to be up to us to prove the ROI of social media. (Thanks to Steve Mann for showing me some great case studies about smart companies who are doing it right). But the trick is finding the formula that clicks for each individual company. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to social media – you need to tailor the solution to your particular needs. This is not an easy task and it’s not easy to demonstrate ROI while you are formulating and executing your strategy.

Have fortitude, my social media kindred. Refuse to let your stakeholders consider number of HITS a metric (they are “How Idiots Track Success,” according to K.D. Paine). Help them understand the real social media metrics like buzz volume, buzz sentiment and engagement (Mike Manuel, social media genius, can teach you more about metrics). But at the same time, realize that as cool as it is to show how many followers you have on Twitter, how many fans you have on Facebook, and how much buzz you’re generating, at the end of the day, the people who write your paycheck will want to see the impact to the bottom line.

**Speaking of one size fits all…

The daily influx of invites to Webinars and conferences promising to show me the Holy Grail of Social Media Success remind me of the South Park episode about the “Underpants Gnomes” that are stealing Tweek’s underwear. One of my favorite South Park moments is the Gnomes’ business plan:

We all get the endless invitations to paid Webinars claiming to teach us how Social Media will make us successful. The truth they don’t want you to know is that nobody can give you the magic formula to “do social media.” STOP WASTING YOUR MONEY. You just need to figure out how to listen to what people are saying about you, and then how to join the conversation. Yes, there are lots of ways to do this, and it’s not always easy to figure out which way is the right way. It takes some time and effort. There is no quick fix or easy salvation — if anyone suggests you do a “viral video” run the other way – FAST! With all the tools and technologies out there, the task is daunting. But if you go for the quick fix, you may as well use this as your business plan:

Capturing Leads and Tracking Conversations on Twitter

Here at VeriSign, we’ve proven that Twitter can be used to capture sales leads and make sales. But we are also seeing all kinds of other interactions that happen on Twitter. These include:

  • Requests for information / help with products
  • Suggestions for product features (e.g., “VIP iPhone app should work on iPod Touch!”)
  • General industry questions
  • Media inquiries and commentary
  • Customers needing some TLC
  • Interesting news articles or Tweets to share

Getting Started

Before you start, you’ll need to do a search on your brand to see what kind of mentions it is getting. will find all mentions, which you may want to catalog in your own spreadsheet because it only seems to archive about a month’s worth of data. But you can still find a Tweet using more specific keywords on Google to find tweets, because, much like a diamond, a Tweet is forever! (even if you delete a Tweet from your Twitter stream, it’s going to show up on Google!)

Tools for Tracking Conversations

1. can be used for shortening any URLs. You can even create custom Urls, but keep track of what you create because won’t track those for you. And beware the inflated stats which do not filter out hits from bots / spiders, etc. More on that here from Hutch Carpenter. And Tac Anderson is a great blogger to follow if you want to keep up on the latest cool tools – he is great filter for the (too much) information that’s out there.
2. Tracking Codes: We use Visual Sciences on our so if we append an “SL code” to a URL that we send out, and someone visits the site, we know where they came from. So, the URL we send looks like this: Using these helps us keep track of traffic that we send over from Twitter.

Capturing Sales Leads

Our leads from Twitter were getting lost in the Siebel Sales database becuase we had no way of tracking. The “traditional” way of capturing leads is that a prospective customer fills ut a landing page. We persuaded the Direct Marketing team that people engaging with us on Twitter are in no mind set to fill out a form if they wanted more info, and they are allowing us to fill in the form ourselves, as long as the potential customer approves it. Now that’s progress! Now all we need is our own cool little “Twitter Leads” form. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

Keeping track of Resources

Many of the interactions I mentioned above need to be shared internally with the right people, and then communicated back out. We’re talking a serious time commitment here. But how to show the “higher ups” what resources are necessary? I’ve worked with my colleague (@AllenKelly) to come up with a system that should help us with this. More on this after we try it out for a bit.

Reaping the Rewards of your Blogging Efforts

You’ve been valiantly foraging through the social media wilderness, publishing blog posts and Tweeting your heart out. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the fruits of your labor? Here are a few tools I use to track blog success. I started using these methods for our Corporate Social Media efforts but they work for personal blogs and Tweets, as well. Don’t forget: the key social media metrics are sentiment and level of engagement (e.g., number of blog post comments, trackbacks.) Or are you simply wondering “why do I need a Web site, a blog, and a Twitter account?

Tracking “Micro-Metrics” for Blogs

1. Feedburner allows me to see how many subscribers I have, enable blog subscription via email, and add the “share this” feature for each post. They provide a snippet of code for me to insert into the blog template, and instructions for Moveable Type and WordPress.

2. Google Analytics offers a myriad of data, but I usually focus on the following data points:

  • Percentage of readers arriving through search. If it’s below 30% we need to better optimize the blogs for search: I remind bloggers to focus on the keywords in the post title and body, leverage the “categories.”
  • Keywords bringing people to the blogs. This data usually provides a nice ego boost for our bloggers, since the primary keywords bringing traffic to each blog are usually the bloggers’ names. Ideally the top keywords would be industry / product terms. Or simply “VeriSign.”
  • Time spent reading posts. Less than a minute means the user found little value in the content. I like to see readers spending at least 2 minutes on each post. One blogger had readers spending about 6 minutes on each post, which I shared with all of our bloggers. Another blogger (jealously?) pointed out “his posts are really long.”
  • Referring sites. Is there some site helping you out that you did not know about? Where are users coming from? This will help you tailor your content to appeal to those folks.
  • Bounce Rate and Exit rate. A high bounce rate means the content on the page the user landed on was not interesting to them. They came, they saw, they left your domain. Conversely, the exit rate is the measure of how many people left a page, and then went elsewhere on your site – that particular page was not too exciting, but they were interested enough to look further. You should worry about a consistently high bounce rate and consider how to make that landing page a little juicer. This is why it helps to know what keywords people are searching on, and what the referring sites are. There is a nice explanation of these terms on

Coming soon… “Capturing Sales Leads and Tracking Conversations on Twitter”