Social media measurement: art, science or both?

It’s not very often when we recommend a book that we get double the enjoyment of recommending its sequel. In the case of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, more is actually better. Its forerunner, The Networked Nonprofit, is an exceptional resource for nonprofits that are breaking ground in social media and expanding their circles of influence on various social platforms.

We’re delighted to bring you highlights of Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine’s fresh views on measuring your social media to further mission impact. Today I give you some insightful interview highlights on the art and science of measurement as well as their most important take away:

CausePlanet: Can you talk about the art versus science of measurement?

Kanter: As we say in the book, measurement is a formal discipline, governed by rules and processes established by academics and researchers. You don’t need a Ph.D. from MIT and pocket protector to measure your nonprofit’s social media and networked approaches. Far from it. But casual approaches are a waste of time. You have to use the formal approach or “KD Paine’s Seven Steps of Measurement.” I think the art part is the interpretation and understanding of your data to improve your program’s results.

There is a tension between the formal process of measurement and the innovation required for networked approaches. Measurement is definitely a left-brained activity: very linear, very structured, very disciplined. On the other hand, networked approaches can be very organic, creative and right-brained. So that’s another way to look at the art and science–I think you need both ways of doing and thinking in a nonprofit to be successful, which requires new ideas, reflection and improvement of what you do.

Paine: For me, the art is definitely in the interpretation: figuring out what the data really means. I’m a creative type locked in a quant body, and I have the most fun looking at data and finding that “aha” moment, so it doesn’t just come from number crunching. It comes from understanding the projects and the mission as well as the metrics.

CausePlanet: What’s the most important idea you want our readers to take away from your book?

Kanter: That nonprofits, no matter whether they are small or large, can get started with doing measurement themselves! And to start with baby steps so it becomes an organizational habit. The “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly” framework we describe in chapter two is something I have used in my  nonprofit technology work for the past 20 years. If nonprofits want to embrace a new technology or embed a new way of working, whether it be becoming a networked nonprofit or using measurement and data to learn how to improve what they’re doing- they have to do it with small, incremental steps.

Paine: Do NOT worry about the tools. Focus on finding a clear definition of your SMART objectives and defining the really meaningful metrics. Tools and platforms are the last thing you should consider but only after you’ve defined the goals, the metrics, the stakeholders and the benchmarks.

Watch for details about our live interview in January with Kanter and Paine. You can purchase this book at www.josseybass.com or download our summary and interview at the summary store or subscribe to our library of recommended titles.

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