Colleagues and clients frequently ask me: How do you know that online tools make the desired impact? They want a simple answer, a quantifiable answer. In today’s online world, however, the answer isn’t so simple.
The first struggle is understanding the ultimate goal of a specific site, as various people involved in the site’s creation and function may have different goals.
The second challenge is the digital gap not only between us and our clients, but also between our clients and our clients’ bosses. After all, it’s hard for someone to know the value of, for example, a re-Tweet if he doesn’t know what a re-Tweet is in the first place. How do you translate that?
Finally, I struggle to show the value of reaching influentials via this medium and to demonstrate how everyday people can also make a difference. In DC, people are still adjusting to the power of “the people” – not just the inside-the-beltway ones.
You likely face this struggle, too. So, here are suggestions to help bridge these gaps and recognize when your online plan makes a difference:
First, identify your goal. Is it more email signups? People visiting your site? Interactions with elected officials? Interactions with reporters? If you went into this just thinking “we need social media because that’s what everyone else is doing,” you’ll really struggle to be effective.
Second, don’t measure success after only a few weeks. An online strategy and social media take time to work. After, say, three months, you should have data to do a 30,000-foot analysis of what works and what doesn’t.
Now, let’s say your goals were to increase visibility of your brand in general and increase your name ID inside the beltway. How do you measure your success?
First, look at your site traffic. This is the easiest for anyone – even the digital newbies – to grasp. Export the data into excel and do a trend line. Is it going up? By how much? You don’t need a massive increase in traffic to show success. Bonus points if you look at your referring traffic sources and see that Twitter and Facebook have jumped into the top 5 or 10.
Next, head to Facebook and Twitter. Don’t just look at how many fans or followers you have – take a look at who they are. Anyone notable – an elected official, reporter or influential? Make note of it. Any notables re-Tweet or comment on something you said on those social networks? Bonus points. Make sure to add up how many followers they reached by re-Tweeting.
So, your analysis might go something like this: We have only 88 followers, but 20 of them re-Tweeted our live coverage of this press conference; adding those 20’s followers, we actually reached an additional 60,000 people. This shows how quickly your reach can expand if you get the right people to push your content to their people.
Finally – and this is hardest for people to grasp – you’ll know it when you see it. You’ll know based on offline conversations with people who say, “Oh I saw you posted that on Facebook” or “I loved that Tweet you sent about xyz.” You’ll know because more people want to interact with you offline. You’ll know because you call a certain organization and they recognize you from Twitter. It’s not easy to quantify, but if you do social media right, you’ll know. Likewise, you’ll know if you need to exert a bit more effort to get it right.
Katie Harbath is the Director of Online Services at DCI Group. She has more than 5 years of experience in the online political sphere including work during the 2008 and 2004 Presidential Elections. Her personal blog is at www.katieharbath.com and she’s on Twitter @katieharbath. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Katie Harbath.