Part of the fear of social media as a campaign tool comes from a lack of understanding about evaluation.

‘We don’t have the right tools to measure effectiveness’
‘There’s too much data’
‘Measuring social media doesn’t provide accurate results’
‘I’m afraid of what it might tell me’

Here are five simple steps for evaluating social media activity.

1. Simply measuring is not enough
– collecting and analysing lots of data is all very well, but you need to be prepared to act on the results

2. Measure results, not buzz
– Forum posts, mentions and Twitter followers are buzz. This could be considered different to actual results, which are defined by your objectives. For example, signing up for a newsletter or downloading an activity pack.

3. Find metrics to suit the goals
– Be realistic about your metrics. If your objective is to encourage sign-ups and these increase, then that should be enough. If you want to create a community and generate a dialogue, then the number of conversations is important.
– But don’t get caught up with measuring when the conversations take place, or the frequency of visits from individual members unless you really need to understand more about your results.

4. Be confident, not scientific
– If your campaign goals are being met overall, and the social media activity broadly correlates with this, then you should be confident of its continued value.
– Trying to directly link the cause and effect of social media activity with the overall results of a campaign that incorporates other channels such as advertising or PR is fraught with difficulty and open to interpretation.

5. Embrace failure
– If the results are not positive, fix the problem, don’t be tempted to change the objectives to suit the results. Failure is often dressed up or swept under the carpet, but the beauty of social media is that it isn’t always scientific, and our understanding is evolving all the time.

Have I missed any? Do you have any experiences to share?