It’s All About Return on Engagement: Design and Measure It

Last week I spoke at the NYC Social Media for Nonprofits conference on creating and measuring return on engagement. In fact, social media engagement should have been the untitled conference theme. Almost every speaker presented a case study or spoke about his/her use of social media for successful engagement, from how to use video to engage (Charity:Water’s September Birthday campaign) to how to create multi-channel fundraising engagement (Big Duck). And you know what? They’re right. Without engagement, social media ultimately fails. However, you can design your social media activities to create online engagement, which is the focus on my presentation. My conference presentation covered five core concepts about how to design real online engagement for the highest return on engagement:

  • Numbers do not equal return on engagement (see this post on the Case of the 4,000 Twitter Followers Who Don’t Care)
  • You can design social media activities for real engagement
  • How to leverage relationship ties organizationally to convert fans to superfans (and increase ROE)
  • Align SMART goals with social media design
  • Three approaches to measuring return on Engagement (ROE): community commitment, fan trust, and SMART goal achievement

When researching data and gathering ideas for the presentation, what really struck me were two related ideas:

1. A co-creation strategy resonates with your fans and encourages the highest levels of real engagement.

This study on the true value of social media clearly demonstrates that a user-generated content strategy and co-creation strategy moves more fans to influence a purchase and talk about brands than any other type of social media action.

2. A successful co-creation strategy relies on two of the four elements of social tie strength: trust and reciprocity.

Organizations can easily leverage trust and reciprocity, two of the four elements (the other two being time and intensity) to create stronger ties with online stakeholders. Examples of trust and reciprocity include: online authenticity and transparency, real sharing of organizational thinking and decisions, fans helping each other within a shared group, organizations asking fans for their opinions. All of these are real engagement activities that strengthen relationships because they demonstrate an organization’s ability to offer reciprocity and extend trust.

Combine trust and reciprocity with co-creation. What do you have? Engagement.

The last part of my presentation is an approach to social media measurement. I see three important measurements:

  1. Did you meet your SMART goals? Is the online community taking the intended actions that you want them to take? Defining the goals that your organization wants to achieve is critical – it’s how you will ultimately know whether or not your social media strategy and activities are working.
  2. The ROE of fan commitment and trust. There are three levels of fan commitment: Making a simple, non-intensive action (Liking your page, joining your group, following), active engagement (RTing, conversation, uploading content, sharing your content), and making a deeper commitment (taking a pledge, joining a planning group, donating money, volunteering). The deeper commitment usually relates the action you want them to take (see “Did you meet your SMART goals?” above). Track the numbers of fans at each level, and how successful you are at increasing these numbers.
  3. The ROE of community commitment. This measurement is trying to get at how committed the community as a whole is. As social media measurement expert Lauren Vargas told me, “give management a number that they can hang their hat on.” It makes perfect sense. Instead of reviewing a spreadsheet of many different trends and statistics, combine them into a number that represents the totality of your measurements. Slide 32 of the slide deck talks about defining the discreet metrics that capture fan engagement, assigning weights to them (they have to add up to 100, but you can’t have them all weigh the same), and creating an overall weighted community commitment score. How this score changes weekly is the community commitment benchmark.

(Credit to Lauren Vargas with inspiring this measurement approach.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on designing and measuring online engagement.

Debra Askanase has 20 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, from Community Organizer to Executive Director. She is the founder and lead consultant at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media strategy firm for non-profit organizations and businesses. She blogs about the intersection of social media, nonprofits, and technology at and regularly provides advice and commentary to our eJewish Philanthropy community.

image courtesy of escuchoelecodetuvoz, Creative Commons license