Social Media Metrics: Tracking Your Impact

Article excerpt

IN our previous column (November/December 2008), "Social Media Metrics: Making the Case for Making the Effort," we looked at why it's important to measure your library's social media presence. We noted that it's not enough to simply be on the social media radar. It's important to track your social ROI. You're investing time, effort, and resources updating your library blog, creating RSS feeds, and mounting images on Flickr. Is this time and money wellspent? Are you achieving desired outcomes?

This time we'll offer up some easy-to-use tools and techniques for tracking your social media impact.

There are some wonderful commercial services that can help you measure your library's online reputation (Magpie's Brandwatch, Nielsen Buzzmetrics, and Onalytica's InfluenceMonitor) or monitor the volume of activity (Hitwise and comScore). These are one-stop shops for monitoring and measuring online library presence, but, unfortunately they are usually beyond the financial reach of most libraries' wallets. There are, however, a number of free alternatives that yield a lot of information about behaviors, outcomes, and experiences of your customers.

ASSESS SEARCH ENGINE RESULTS

Begin by capturing and saving the top 10-20 results for a Google search on the name of your library. Why only Google? Aside from being the most widely used search engine on the internet, Google does the best job of indexing and integrating social media sources, such as blog posts, videos, and Flickr photo sets, than either Microsoft's Live Search or, ironically, Flickr's parent company, Yahoo!. As a tool for tracking and measuring your social media presence and success, it makes the most sense, for the time being, to focus on Google.

Look at two things: First, does your library dominate the search results list, or is it sparsely represented? How many of the top 20 are either direct links to your products and services or are clear discussions of or references to your library? This is your quantitative measure.

Review these results again and calculate a score for your library based on "stars," "scars," and "neutral." Consider the quality of the headlines and descriptions for "interestingness" when you assign stars. Does the library look engaging and reflect that it offers a lot of services and resources? How much of the content is library/institutionally created, and how much is created by library fans, "someone like me," on social media sites? This is your qualitative measure. The ideal outcome is that you dominate the search results lists and that you score mostly "stars."

The table on page 55 reports the top 20 results for a Google search on a handful of public libraries' names. Our purpose in creating the table was to point out that libraries may have some work to do in order to have a strong social media presence. We also want to show that some libraries are already seeing positive results from their efforts. We did not want to single out the one weak library, so we have anonymized that library's name. For "library-generated items," we included only those created by the library itself. For user-generated items, only those derived from a recognized social media - blogs, wikis, review sites, photo, and video -sharing sites - were included. For this analysis, "spam" directory-type entries that mention the library, as well as references from traditional media, were excluded.

For a discrete campaign or initiative, decide on the duration of your evaluation period. Some campaigns and ideas may be short-lived and wrap up in 90 days. Others may take a great deal longer to seed, nurture, and blossom. Determine what a reasonable timeline is for your venture and at what points to evaluate it. If your time period is several months or you're performing ongoing measurement, it would probably be useful to perform the same searches again every 90 days. Consider the top 10 search keywords or phrases that will cause the library to be ranked on the first page and repeat the steps above. …