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Robin Kipke on Resources for Evaluating Social Media

Greetings! I’m Robin Kipke and I work for the Center for Evaluation and Research at the University of California, Davis, which provides evaluation training and technical assistance to the 100+ projects which advocate for tobacco control policies in our state. To help these organizations discern how to effectively harness the power of social media, I’m partnering with the California Youth Advocacy Network to develop a handbook that explains what social media can do and ways to evaluate its use.

There is still a lot of discussion in the field about how to meaningfully evaluate these new media, but here are some ideas I’ve found to be informative.

Hot Tip: So many articles on evaluation focus on the various metrics or latest analytical applications that are available. However, evaluators know that the best measures in the world aren’t of much help without having a clearly-defined social media plan. In the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Social Media Measurement and Intent Guide Emily Dent says: “Launching social media activity, but not having any idea what you want to achieve is a little bit like having a map, but not knowing your destination.” The metrics have got to spring from measurable goals that lay out what you hope to achieve through social media.

Rad Resource: The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide has worksheets that can help define your purpose for using social media, identify the target audiences you want to reach, develop SMART objectives, and decide on the best new media channels to use.

Hot Tip: A great piece of advice from The Brandbuilder Blog is that in order to determine whether or not your forays into a particular SM channel are worth the cost and effort, evaluation should be activity-specific rather than medium-specific. For example, what was the return on investment (ROI) of shifting 20% of staff time from traditional educational outreach (developing fact sheets and meeting apartment managers) to generating buzz through Facebook and Twitter? Now you have a benchmark to compare your SM results against conventional ways of building public sentiment.

Rad Resources: I also like the following sites for collections of materials on social media: Mashable, Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), Occam’s Razor, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), National Center for Media Engagement.

Rad Resource:  This year at the 2011 evaluation conference, a number of sessions focused on social media. I gave a demonstration on Social Media’s Evaluation Power. Kurt Wilson and Stephanie Evergreen spoke about Evaluating Website Usage and Social Media engagement. To find these and other resources on this topic, you can also search the AEA Public eLibrary.

Rad Resources: To end with, I’d like to recommend a thought-provoking article by Matt Owen which makes the case that evaluating social media has to be more than metrics. After all, the very nature of social media is about relating to others….

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2 thoughts on “Robin Kipke on Resources for Evaluating Social Media”

  1. Hello Robin,

    I am a student at Queens University studying program inquiry and evaluation. Your article interested me because it deals with a topic that is prevalent within our society today. Social Media plays a big role in our society and many companies and programs are expanding into the social media world to help spread their message or idea.
    I think you brought up some very important factors to consider when thinking about venturing into the social media world. Most importantly, as you mentioned, is it worth the cost and effort? Will it take time away from your staff completing more important tasks? These are important ideas to consider.
    Furthermore, I agree with your analysis that there needs to be a benchmark to compare the social media results with conventional results used in the past. I believe there are many companies and programs that would not benefit from social media.
    Your article brought up some important ideas to consider when making this decision.
    Thank you!

  2. Dear Mr. Kipke,
    My name is Kelly and I am currently a student at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. I am majoring in Psychology. I am currently taking a course in which we are given the opportunity as undergrad to assist our department in program evaluation. I am in a group focusing of mental health. I have found myself a bit lost and I think that is because we don’t have a clearly defined plan. I find your advice very useful in and it is motivational to hear that in order to succeed a plan whether its through social media or other setting is essential to attain measurable goals.
    Thank you,

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