I was asked to speak at Plus Dane Housing Group on Thursday about whether and how they should use social media. I described how we got started at Wolverhampton Homes and how we've overcome challenges.
One of the group asked about how I evaluate success, and I told him the honest answer, that really I don't. I report quarterly on likers and followers, but anyone worth their salt knows that those are mere counts. They tell you how many people follow or like your brand and that's it - but not how influential those people are, whether they think differently about your organisation because of the way you've interacted or whether they've been compelled to act.
I glance over our Facebook insights and take the occasional squiz at Klout, but those stats don't change how we act on social media: we're more interested in trying to be useful than worrying about how many people re-tweet something we say. For us, social media is such a small part of what we do (it can be just three minutes a day), it's simply not worth spending hours collecting and analysing data - particularly when we have so few likers on facebook (245).
However, evaluation is an important part of running an effective communications function because it tells us (and the rest of the business) whether we are succeeding or we need to try a different tack. The objective of my communications team is to protect and enhance the reputation of Wolverhampton Homes. Our newsletter goes to 23,500 people, a story in the Express and Star can be read by up to 120,000 people and a publication to our staff goes to 705 people. To measure whether we're meeting our objective or not, it's more useful to evaluate those much larger aspects of our service than our social media work.
Of course, if your brand delivers a greater percentage of its communications on social media and you're that way inclined, there are lots of ways you can measure it. (There's tonnes of blog posts out there on this subject - this one makes a decent stab at it.) But if you're just getting started, my advice would be not to worry about it and just get on with being useful.