Social media measurement: Avoid the most common mistakes

When I read a book for CausePlanet, one of my favorite tasks is highlighting great quotes or passages that underscore important themes. We call these “keeper quotes.” In Measuring the Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine, there were so many to choose from. Here’s one that made it into our Page to Practice™ book summary:

“The most important thing to remember about measurement tools is that they will do only what you tell them to do. Collecting data is easy, but collecting the right data to answer your questions requires careful planning and appropriate tools. There are currently more than 250 tools that a networked nonprofit can choose from to measure its results.”

Kanter and Paine’s sentiments about measurement planning are paramount. In fact, when I asked them in our author interview about common nonprofit mistakes, the issue was raised again. Join me in learning from the mistakes our authors have observed:

CP: What is the most common mistake nonprofits make when attempting to measure their social media activity?

Kanter: Many nonprofits start with the data collection tools or the data. This is natural because it is way more fun to talk about the tools and collect data than to figure out what works and to really think about what your data means and how to apply it. I’ve decided I want a t-shirt that says, “Spend More Time Thinking About Your Data Than Collecting It!”

Paine: I totally agree with Beth. The worst mistake I’ve ever seen was a nonprofit that called me in to help it define its metrics. At the end of an eight-hour conversation that defined its metrics as increasing messaging and increasing engagement with employees, the staff asked me if the new “platform” – for which it had just written a  -$60,000 check would measure what it intended to measure. I was very familiar with the tool and sadly it did not.

The other big mistake nonprofits make is to not bring their different data streams together. They frequently have member data siloed from web analytics which is further siloed from media results. In fact, it is only when you bring the three together and correlate what tactic has the biggest impact do you get the real insights.

CausePlanet members: Register for our live interview on Monday, December 17 with Kanter and Paine. You can purchase this book at or download our summary and interview at the summary store or subscribe to our library of recommended titles.

More book titles about social media

Illustration credit: Rob Cottingham

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