How to measure social media reach

Counting followers and fans is just the first step

Federal agencies wanting to measure their social media reach should start by counting the number of followers and fans—but don't stop there, according to advice presented in a General Services Administration webinar on social metrics.

The majority of federal agencies currently have a presence on Facebook or Twitter or both. Widely available social media metrics can be used to measure the value of that presence in terms of reach, influence, engagement and ability to generate relevant feedback, said Gadi Ben-Yehuda, social media director at the IBM Center for the Business of Government, at the Dec. 7 webinar.

Counting Twitter followers and Facebook friends is a logical way to measure social influence, and some agency executives stop there, but there is more you can, and should, do, Ben-Yehuda said.

“The good thing about followers and friends is they are easy to count,” he said. “What it does not tell you about is the actual engagement.”

Several free services offer additional information to help gauge whether followers and friends are influential, active and engaged.

For example, Tweepskey.com offers a free online service that charts Twitter followers and shows, in graphic form, their relative online influence and engagement.

Another service, SocialBro.com, provides a geographic view of Twitter followers, as well as statistics on how often they tweet.

Another popular website, Klout.com, offers a Klout Score for each Twitter or Facebook user that is meant to provide a comprehensive view of online influence, based on an algorithmic measure of the number and influence of their followers, Twitter retweets and mentions, Facebook shares, and other metrics.

The Klout Score can be very helpful for a broad-based picture of online influence, Ben-Yehuda said, but federal agencies should be wary of using it as their only metric.

“The Klout score is really good for your annual review, but it has things that [Klout] thinks are important, and they may or may not align with the mission of your agency,” he said. “So, don't try to tailor your activity to increase your score. Rather, if you are successful in social media, your score will probably go up. “

Aside from Klout, agency social media managers should assess on their own how often their content is retweeted, mentioned and shared on social sites to determine which type of content is most engaging and where they are having the most impact, he added.

Comments—both on Facebook and on blogs--also are a very important metric for engagement, and agencies should take care to have a clear policy so they can maintain a feed with relevant comments and little or no spam.

Participants in the webinar also were advised to use Google analytics or other tools to assess which social media sites were driving the most traffic to agency websites.

Measuring the ability to receive relevant information from Twitter and Facebook is one of the most important and also most challenging aspects of social media engagement, Ben-Yehuda said. To maximize the ability to glean useful information, he recommended applying filters such as TweetDeck, “favoriting” items and being mindful of the internal agency audience that is most interested in the feedback.

To help federal agencies expand their social presence and influence, Ben-Yehuda advised becoming a more active user of Facebook and Twitter by directly asking followers for retweets and mentions; retweeting and mentioning others; engaging in online conversations and rewarding users who retweet or share your messages.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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