measuring machine

Figuring out the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts is usually pretty straightforward and simple. You just calculate how much you earned as a result of how much you invested. In the financial sense, ROI is not a hard concept—it’s formulaic and quantitative.

But, for do-gooders, ROI has always been tough to measure because the objective of our work isn’t always expressed in easily-counted dollars. In virtual mediums like Facebook and Twitter, ROI seems even more difficult to calculate because the territory and tools are less familiar.

Before you set out to monitor and measure your social media returns, you need to have a clear idea of what it is you want to accomplish through social media. You have to know where your organization is now and set the bar for where you want to be in the future.

Maybe you’re trying to boost awareness of your cause. How? By driving more traffic to your website? By getting more followers on Facebook? Getting more subscribers to your newsletter?

Perhaps you’re trying to bring in more donations. How? By spreading the invitation to your fundraiser far and wide? Developing relationships with online influencers who can promote your fundraising campaign? Building relationships with potential future donors?

The comforting news is, once you’ve figured out your social media goals, the handiest tools for measuring the impact of your virtual efforts are also free and easy to use.

  • Google Analytics – Every nonprofit needs a tool to track who’s visiting their website, where they came from, and what they’re clicking. Google Analytics can show you how people interact with your site and which of your online marketing initiatives are effective.
  • Twinfluence – Your twitter influence tells you how many of your followers are actually listening to what you’re tweeting. Its metrics can help you understand the rate at which the reach of your message is growing.
  • Facebook Insights – Probably the easiest, cheapest, and most accurate way to see how your Facebook page measures up. Facebook does the calculations for you. All you need to do is watch for how you’re performing against your goals.

Remember, it takes time to build your social media momentum. Give yourself several months to share and tweet (and retweet!), and look for growth trends over that time.

With the data on your virtual impact in hand, you’re ready to evaluate what you accomplished so far.

  1. What benchmarks have we hit?
  2. How much longer until we reach our goals?
  3. Which tactics have worked?
  4. Were the tactics that worked also strategic?
  5. Which tactics didn’t work, and why? Are they worth fixing?
  6. Are our goals still reachable? Do we need new tactics to get there?

Congratulations, you’ve calculated your online ROI!

(image courtesy Flickr user awinn233, Creative Commons)