Measuring the impact of what you do online

The internet promises what traditional PR & marketing never could: the possibility of measuring engagement (see Engagement is (not) made to measure) Whereas real world impact can be very tricky to measure, the nature of the internet makes it easy to track and count things, whether it's the number of visitors to your website or the percentage of people on your email list who take action. You can use this to help your reporting and accountability to the public, funders or sponsors. The main use of analytics should be as an ongoing evaluation of your tactics and tools: what worked, what did not?

How can you see if your social marketing is working?

One way is through buzz monitoring; that is, trying to track how and where people are talking about your campaign. A simple tool that you can use for free is Google Alerts. You can set this up by going to the Google website and specifying which key words you want it to alert you to when they are used on a website. Google Alerts then emails you when these keywords are mentioned in online media & blogs. Keywords should be very specific, otherwise you will get a lot of email that won't allow you to track your particular campaignor issue. You can track blog mentions via Technorati and by using tools tools such as Blogpulse, and there are now some great tools for Twitter, such as Twitter Search and TwitterFriends

  •  Is your homepage encouraging people to sign up to your e-newsletter?
  •  Who refers to your website and what are the most popular search terms?
  • Are your email subject lines increasing the number of people who open them?

For your website, the main tool will probably be Google Analytics or Woopra ; these are free tools which provide a lot of detail about your website statistics (you may need some help installing them). Remember that the IP address of site visitors will be collected by a third party when you register your website for analysis, which may not be ideal if your users need privacy.

You can get a lot of useful statistics when you use email marketing, or from your email or social network accounts, such as the number of friends you have, the number of comments, and the number of video views. Make sure you review these statistics regularly. They will tell you a lot about who is using your site, where they are coming from to reach your site and what they are looking at. This will tell you who you are reaching now, and help you plan for the future.

Engagement & Collaboration

The social web changes marketing and advocacy work by making it participative. You don't just want to get people interested; you want to get them involved (See 2.0 Engagement)

  •  At the very least, encourage people to bookmark your site in social bookmarking services like delicious.
  •  Give people opportunities to rate, vote and comment on your content, on your site or elsewhere.
  •  Create fan communities on the social network sites, and encourage your friends to promote your cause.
  •  Tell people to use specific tags so you can aggregate (bring together) all content they create that relates to you.
  •  Online marketing can be a good place to experiment with user-generated content (text, images, videos or other material created by your website's users which they put online to share with others). Need a logo? Ask your users to upload designs. This pattern can be applied to campaigns themselves. 

Ultimately, this can become a process of open innovation, where you are using the internet to open up your campaign so that it becomes a collective endeavour by you and your supporters.

Campaigns that have harnessed the creativity and content of users:

  •  Climate message in a bottle was a Greenpeace collaborative video made for the Bali climate conference.
  •  Courage Campaign asked people who would be affected by a government bill that sought to ban same-sex marriage in the US to send in their photographs and messages.
  • The Blank Noise Blog in India asks readers to tell personal stories about their experiences of sexual harassment.