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Measuring ROI of social media campaigns by sylvng

I joined the Nonprofit Technology Conference’sConfessions of a Social Media Campaigner” seminar yesterday and found it very interesting to hear the metrics that various charities are using to measure their social media fundraising campaigns.

Carie Lewis of the US Humane Society shared that the society raised $107,300 on social networks in 2008. They did so without spending any marketing dollars, but they did use staff hours; by my calculations they used roughly 1.7 FTEs. The strict, directly measurable ROI then depends on staff pay. A reasonable $40-50k salary would mean a rough 10% ROI, which is not bad. But once you consider the fact that the staff was obviously putting in a tremendous amount of time – Carie herself was mentioning the need to work on weekends and have 24/7 text alerts to monitor the brand – the ROI could easily be judged as negative.

But that would be a narrow minded view of ROI because it’s never just about fundraised dollars. It’s about awareness, community building, and generating interest that will bring in future returns. The other 2 organizations who presented, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Cancer Society, mentioned some of their metrics which included website traffic, newsletter subscriptions, number of Facebook group users, etc. Which all are good indicators of campaign success, but in order to properly include them in the ROI formula you’d need to put a value (including future value) on each of the activities, which can get very tricky. In fact, if you try to apply traditional Internet Marketing ROI calculation methodologies, and try to assign dollar values to each user acquisition, each retention activity, and de-depe the effect of all your campaigns on any one user, you’d be needing a heck of a lot more than 1.7 FTEs to manage the program. I’m not even sure a tracking platform of the required sophistication (where users are tracked individually across campaigns) is available to nonprofits, let alone available for a good price. And even if it were available, is it worth using? Anybody know of one?

I believe that social media can work very effectively for nonprofits, but proving the case to traditional, strictly dollar ROI-minded individuals can be challenging, especially without solid data for support. I know that there are a lot of firms out there who consult in this area, so if you’re one of them, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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[…] and risks, David armano campaign Right after I finished writing a post about measuring the ROI of online social media campaigns, I came across this Pentagraph article on the opportunities and risks of using social media for […]

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