Social media measurement and evaluation in education

By Posted in - Audience engagement journey & Facebook & Measurement & Monitoring & PR Practice & Social Media & Strategy and Planning & Student Recruitment on March 20th, 2013 1 Comments

I’ve just wrapped up delivering a couple of sessions today at the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) Communications conference on the rather meaty topic of measuring and evaluating the use of social media in education marketing and communications. So, this is a tricky subject to tackle in a day (possibly even in a lifetime) so trying to cover it in a 45 minute session was always going to be done at breakneck speed. So, here’s hoping that these notes help those of you who attended (and those who couldn’t be there) with some of the key points discussed. My full presentation is embedded for your viewing pleasure (!) at the bottom on this post.

First up, I’m a fairly big fan of reminding oneself of the Barcelona Principles for communications measurement. To summarise, they remind us that:

  • we must pay attention to objective and goal setting in communications planning if we are to have any chance of being able to measure performance in communications. This is equally applicable to social media. (see my blog post on the important of objective setting here).
  • measuring outcomes is better than measuring outputs. So, for social media this means that we shouldn’t just measure the number of blog posts we’ve written, fans we’ve notched up on our Facebook pages, etc, but also measure the impact that those activities have had on our target audiences. (I reflect a little more on outputs vs outcomes in this blog post here).
  • we should attempt to measure the impact on business. For social media, we might find that it is a part of a journey that we’re measuring here – not always the end goal (for example, social media may have just been used to help drive people to your open day, so measuring it in terms of ultimate student applications makes no sense – if your student numbers are poor it may not be because of the post you put on Facebook, but because of the experience at the open day). Breaking those journeys down helps us to get closer to measuring impact on the business and therefore demonstrating ROI of your activities (see my post here on social media ROI).
  • we should use quantitative and qualitative measures. For social media this means using technologies to provide us with stats and insights, but also evaluating quality and content of conversations. There’s a lot to be said for taking plenty of screen grabs of interactions you’ve had on social media to include as part of your measurement and evaluation reports.
  • don’t use AVEs. Though I think sometimes if these are what get your managers excited, then there can be a place for them to help you convince your managers that you are awesome at your job and that they should invest more budget in you and your team (that you can then spend on time and resource for doing proper measurement and evaluation).
  • Social media can and should be measured. Yep. Sure can.
  • Make sure that your measurement process is transparent and that you can replicate it. This will help to prove your results and also to ensure you can properly benchmark data and findings over a longer period of time.

So, for me the Barcelona Principles do help to give us a sound basis for thinking about social media measurement. More is now being done to really set standards for social media measurement (within the framework of the Barcelona Principles). See or track #smmstandards on Twitter for the latest updates and discussions on this topic. I also recommend that you follow Katie Delahaye Paine (@kdpaine) too as she is – as her Twitter profile suggests – the Queen (or Goddess) of social media measurement.

I believe that breaking down audience engagement journeys is critical in order to help you measure the success of your social media activity. Social media is rarely used in isolation in any communications approach and it may be used in different ways at different stages. So, audience journey mapping is really important when developing your strategy and setting your approach to measurement and evaluation. We spend a lot of time at Pickle Jar Communications understanding audience engagement journeys on behalf of our clients in the education sector. And it always reveals some really significant insights that help them plan social media activity in a more targeted and therefore impactful way. Take a look at our free webinar series online audience engagement journeys to help understand this in more detail.

Breaking objectives down into smaller stages makes measurement and evaluation so much easier. So, break it down and work out the best metrics that are most relevant for each stage in that journey. For example, at the ‘awareness’ raising stage you may be most interested in views and social visibility metrics, web rankings, etc. Whereas at the advocacy stage you might be better placed to use likes, comments and shares as a more meaningful measure. Every approach to measurement and evaluation should be unique to the campaign or activity that you are measuring and evaluating.

Finally, if you need any help with strategy development, planning your use of social media, setting objectives, measurement or training, please do check out how we can help you and get in touch. We’re always happy to chat.

Here’s that presentation… happy viewing!

(1) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Jo Gemmell - Reply

    March 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Brilliant session today Tracy, thank you 🙂 (I was in the last one! And I didn’t leave early for a train or because I was bored!)
    Got lots of info and ideas from you!


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