Measuring the result of the bright and shiny #heweb11

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Unlike almost all other media, social media seems to be the medium that real measurement forgot.

Despite all the charts and graphs we can find in various social media platforms, most of us still aren’t getting a great read on what’s going on in our Facebook pages or Twitter feeds and what the data means.

Seth Meranda, University Nebraska-Lincoln, used his HighEdWeb 11 presentation to work to educate attendees on just how to get some good data out of that bright and shiny stuff.

Meranda thinks social media has been so difficult to analyze because it usually starts as a someone’s small project —  someone who already has a lot on their plate. It occurs outside normal university funnels like admissions and leverages resources that are already in place.

Often we end up saying, “I’ll figure it out after I get going.”

“There’s nothing wrong with this approach,” Meranda said. “The only problem I have with it is that it usually ends up creating more work.”

It’s important to remember that social media is just a tactic, Meranda said. It’s the “pipes” for interactions, the digital manifestations of analog conversations that are already occurring.

The important idea is to measure the right data, Meranda said.

“Just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean it matters.  There are measurements out there that are meaningless, ” he said. Facebook likes tend to fall in to that realm.

You can measure social media in terms of reach (the number of fans, followers, etc.) or by branding — mentions of your scholl and whether those mentions are postive or negative. You can measure by actions — the actual engagements with your fans when they comment on your content. You can measure on costs, both saved and spent. And you can measure on reputation — cases where you save your institution from a hit to its reputation by acting on social media.

It’s also important to set targets, because otherwise you risk just puttering along. If your goal in admissions is a net new increase of 1,100 out-of-state students, as UNL’s was, then you can use metrics such as net new likes on Facebook by out of state students and clickthroughs to an admissions site by 16-18 year olds as a way to check performance.

Meranda suggests finding such data through advanced Google Analytics, services such as Radian6 and Icerocket, and Facebook Insights, which has improved some with recent updates. Meranda endorsed campaign tags in analytics that allow the creation of detailed reports.

Meranda wrapped up by exhorting attendees to do more than just measure, but to make sure to take action from the data.  That, he said, is where the real benefits of measurement can be applied.

Meranda’s slides will be available here.