Measuring what works in social media

A recent post by Karine Joly, titled Why #highered is NOT there yet with social media marketing, took a skeptical but realistic look at some reported results about the state of social media in higher ed.

Delving into the UMass Dartmouth study on social media adoption in higher education — which shows what most of us assumed anyway: practically every college and university everywhere is using social media in some form — Karine compares some of those findings with the results of a couple of other studies on social media in higher ed. Her analysis suggests that all may not be so hunky dory in our social media world.

Just because survey respondents report that their social media efforts are successful doesn’t necessarily make it so.

Yes, the UMass Dartmouth study reports, “respondents have consistently raved about their [social media] experience, especially Facebook (95% success) and YouTube (92%).” But as the original .eduGuru Kyle James points out in his summary of the study, measurement is sorely lacking. “The only surprising negative,” Kyle wrote, “was that only 68% are listening to what is being said about them online by monitoring the internet for news, conversations or buzz about their institutions.”

How can you declare victory in the social media sphere when you aren’t paying attention to what is being said about your institution there? That is a problem.

KPIs to the rescue

All of this data leads Karine to conclude that there is “a real need to go beyond the ‘social media checklist’ tactic and adopt a more strategic and measurable approach in higher education.” I agree. I suspect many of you do, too, judging from the comments on Karine’s blog post. I know Michelle Sargent does. She nails it with her response to Karine’s post: “The focus needs to be on how this compares with business analytics and KPIs. We need to always be exploring and investigating previous business performance to understand what it is we want to achieve through future strategies.”

KPIs, or “key performance indicators,” are sorely lacking in our business. But we could learn from other sectors and apply their social media KPIs to our efforts.

According to another recent study (there sure are a lot of people studying social media these days), marketers in the tech, media/entertainment, and utilities and banking sectors have their favorite KPIs, many of which would be easy to follow in higher ed. The include some relatively easy KPIs, such as impressions and reach, social media “likes,” and microblogging (Twitter) followers, as well as more challenging or expensive to measure indicators, such as customer satisfaction scores and brand sentiment. Here’s a chart of most used KPIs from those sectors.


These KPIs are not necessarily a panacea, but perhaps this could be a place to start.

P.S. – Thanks to @azurecollier for pointing me to the eMarketer study about KPIs.
What KPIs do you use to measure your social media measurement and engagement?


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

4 thoughts on “Measuring what works in social media”

  1. Love the listing of KPIs. E-Marketer always has those great charts! While # of likes, followers, impressions are easily measurable and easy to report stats, they promote a quantity over quality mentality. Instead, I prefer to look at how people are engaging with the institution/brand. Are they commenting on the blog, commenting on Facebook posts, replying or RT our tweets? Amassing fans & followers improves your odds of engagement it doesn’t guarantee engagement.

  2. Thanks for the mention, Andrew!

    I have to say, I agree with Sandra-engagement is really important. You might grow in likes or followers, but what matters is if these people are engaged with you and form a relationship with your organization/business/brand. It’s a mutual admiration society with benefits: followers get your attention, have their questions answered, know their voice is heard, and get satisfaction from your products/services. The brand gets loyal customers, word-of-mouth endorsements, and a constant reality check that shows if things are going well or if problems or issues exist. Engagement requires constant care and feeding, but it is worth the attention.

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