How to Measure Results When It’s Not Tied to Sales

By: Guest | April 18, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Jenn Whinnem.

Even if your social media isn’t tied to sales or revenue, you can still measure its effectiveness and value.

Just more than a year ago, I switched from the corporate to the nonprofit sector, specifically philanthropy.

The Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health) has no products to sell, nor do we accept donations (if you’re interested in where our money comes from, read this).

Because our social media goals are not connected to money flowing into our organization, we have a different kind of ROI.

So why do social media?

A little bit of background on us: While there are different kinds of foundations, all have one thing in common. We have select priority areas where we want to make a difference. The mission of CT Health is to improve the health status of people in Connecticut, with a focus on:

  • Children’s mental health
  • Health policy/advocacy
  • Children’s oral health
  • Racial and ethnic health disparities

We do this through a variety of methods: Strategic grant-making, research and policy briefs, and communications.

Social media allows us to increase our work in each of our priority areas by strengthening relationships with our partners, heightening visibility for our work, and giving us a mechanism for feedback on our work.

What We Measure

Despite not needing income from social media, I too need to prove my value to my organization!

Right now we have a DIY dashboard that answers three questions:

  • Are we gaining visibility for our work?
  • What is our audience reading?
  • Are we engaging with our audience?

I’d like to call out the second bullet specifically. We use Google Analytics to understand which blog content and website pages are the most popular with our audiences. Popular blog content has more than informed our social media content strategy – it’s also given us insight into what policy information people are looking for. At some point in the near future we’d love to have this inform our grant-making strategy as well.

Looking at traffic to other sections of the website lets us know if people are looking at promoted programs. For example, at the time of this writing, we were recruiting for our CT Health Leadership Fellows program. We wanted to see an increase in traffic at that part of our site (and we did). Thanks to the Visitors Flow (here’s the best article I’ve read on this to date) we’re able to see how people go through the pages to understand the program.

While we technically do not have competitors, we’re also interested in how we stack up compared to other foundations of our size. I use to get a ballpark figure on select foundations’ website views, and manually look at other foundations’ Facebook stats as well. So far, CT Health is doing well (not to brag…we don’t do that here on Spin Sucks).

What We’ve Learned

Here’s my laundry list:

  • Our most popular content on our blog falls into the broad buckets of: Health policy, racial and ethnic health disparities, and how-tos for our grantees.
  • Facebook is really hard, and getting harder, for engagement.
  • Participating in the monthly #hcsmct (that’s health care social media Connecticut) tweetchats and tweetups has definitely boosted engagement and visibility.

While we have a different ROI, we follow a similar process as you (or, I hope you do!). We’ve identified:

  • What we want to achieve
  • What we want to measure
  • Who our audiences are
  • How to get there.

So when it comes down to it, we’re really not that much different!

This is how CT Health measures the success of its social media efforts. How about you?

Jenn Whinnem is a communications officer at the Connecticut Health Foundation where she blogs, shoots and edits video, tweets, and wrestles social media technology. She loves cheese, poetry, the Internet, ducks, and manatees. Find her at @jennwhinnem or @cthealth.

July 10, 2012 Update: The headline  for this post was changed from How to Measure the ROI of Social Media to How to Measure Results of Social Media based on the conversation in the comments. 

  • This is great Jenn! As someone who works for government and doesn’t really have a product to sell, I believe we would have some of the same objectives you have lay out. Something to put in my arsenal should there ever be the opportunity to convince management social media is a worthy endeavor to pursue.

    • jennwhinnem

       @Anthony_Rodriguez Hey Anthony, I’m glad this was valuable for you! I’d love to hear what other blogs you’re reading about social media for those of us not trying to generate income.

      •  @jennwhinnem I haven’t really searched for blogs that specifically cater to non-profit/gov’t PR programs. I instead like to think that what I read here and from kmueller62 and TheSalesLion and others can be applied to what I am trying to accomplish. The measurement part is the really tough part though, I have experienced.

  • davevandewalle

    I *like* this, but I fall short of saying I *love* this article. I think it stems from the use of the letters “R-O-I”.
    There’s not an “investment” that’s quantified here – you’re coming up with metrics, you’re quantifying your performance against KPIs, and you seem to have a very firm grasp of what that does for you and your organization. So I applaud you there.
    But…there’s not an investment here. Not time or money – neither is quantified. Therefore, I’d say it’s not ROI. It’s possible that those numbers do exist at your organization and they’re not for public consumption.
    In any event, I do like the article.

    • jennwhinnem

       @davevandewalle I don’t disagree with you – please see my comment to Olivier. I actually had a different, sillier title for this, but I did ask Lisa to change it to something more palatable…and here we are.

  • Neicolec

    Good  post, Jenn. Thank you for sharing what you measure. “Return” in the ROI equation means different things depending upon your organization. But, ultimately, you want to get your money’s worth and that’s what ROI measurement is about determining. 

    • jennwhinnem

       @Neicolec Agreed. And thanks.

  • thebrandbuilder

    Great article if you’re talking about building value and measuring success in areas that have nothing to do with ROI. Unfortunately, you invalidate all that by associating non-ROI elements of your program to ROI and leading with that title. Don’t take this personally, but everyone who keeps writing articles like this needs to stop, crack a business book, and learn what ROI is and isn’t. 
    Start with this: If it isn’t tied to either revenue or cost savings, it isn’t ROI. Unless the impact of your program is measured in financial terms, it isn’t ROI. ROI is a financial equation that connects $ investment to $ gain from that investment. It’s math, it’s simple, and it’s Business 101 level stuff. When you are talking about non-financial impact like gaining visibility and raising awareness, you are NOT talking about ROI.
    Again, please don’t take this as a personal attack, but it’s 2012 now and peope who haven’t figured this out by now probably shouldn’t be writing articles and blog posts about it anymore. We would be much further along in this space if people who write advice columns actually took the time to learn just the basics of what they feel qualified to give advice about.

    • jennwhinnem

       @thebrandbuilder Hey.
      As you probably know, authors rarely end up having the final say on article headlines. So, I’m not offended by your comments. That’s the short and sweet!

      • JHTScherck

        Although I think thebrandbuilder was a little harsh, I couldn’t agree more. The term ROI is all over your article. Jenn, this isn’t ROI. This is a list of stuff that makes you feel like you are doing a good job. If i had to call it anything, I would dub it “increased social engagement” which is as valuable as 5,000,000 Stanley Nickles ( if you aren’t able to extrapolate this info and put it into dollars and cents.
        If you want real ROI you need better KPIs. Looking at your site it seems like your conversion metric is getting people to sign up for grants. You need to be determine how much each grant sign up is worth to your NPO to determine true ROI. I understand that this is “money going out” but If you didn’t have people signing up for grants there would be no money coming in when it came time to review your organization’s funding next year. 
        By figuring out how much each conversion is worth to your company and the ratio of applications to grants that are given out, you can come up with actually useful KPIs like cost per visit and cost per conversion. 
        Simply put, (and not trying to be an ass here) your current metrics are fluff that don’t mean anything to people that aren’t in the digital/social world. We as a community need to start speaking the language of c-level executives – not taking their language and improperly using it. 

        • jennwhinnem

          I can’t say that “ROI” is all over my article (2x?), but getting defensive isn’t something I do. So let’s really talk!
          Your second paragraph is so interesting to me because that’s not how it works here. We make grants, but that’s not the only way we do our work. I’m not trying to be an ass either, but I don’t think you understand how philanthropy works. A square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square, aka, philanthropy & nonprofit are not synonymous with one another. Is that something I should have explained better, do you think?
          Since I’m not an ass, I won’t just throw that tomato and run away. I’m open to the conversation.

        • JHTScherck

           @jennwhinnem In that case, wouldn’t it be effective to track money that is going out to people that you are helping that had their initial point of contact with your organization via social media. 

        • jennwhinnem

           @JHTScherck So do you think it all buttons up to how much money we give away (serious question, not trying to get free advice)? Another way we do work is to fund research and author policy briefs. Communication about our grantees or issues is another prong of our strategy.

        • JHTScherck

           @jennwhinnem To answer your question, yes. When it comes to ROI it is all about money. Maybe not just how much money you are giving away, I don’t know the ins and outs of how your org operates – but ROI has to be about money.
          ROI is about tracking dollars, it’s great you are seeing increased user engagement and that your digital voice is growing. But ROI is about money. It sounds like your KPIs are not ROI focused – which isn’t a bad thing – it’s just different. It’s not that I think you are wrong, or disagree with how you are tracking campaign progress –  I just think the metrics you are evaluating have little to do with ROI. 

        • jennwhinnem

           @JHTScherck I guess “different kind of ROI” is where I made my mistake, then. When I think of how we would measure all the aspects of our work, it’s not strictly about dollars (that is important, of course. I am simplifying).
          Thanks for being thoughtful.

        • geoffliving

           @jennwhinnem So, I do agree with my compatriots about ROI, but what you are talking about from the NPO standpoint often has to do with change, and measuring change.  THis gets back to a theory of change.  Nonprofits are not in the business of making money, they are in the business of moving the needle. TO a donor or customer this is the primary outcome.
          Fundraising for an NPO and all associated marketing activities with it, however, should be held to the gun of ROI as defined by my more conservative (and correct) friends here.

      •  @jennwhinnem I had a guest post title changed, once, and it altered the exact meaning of my content and said something entirely different. Then the post went national on and, oh boy, was I pedaling fast to try to explain.

        •  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Hey, I was there when that happened! Actually, I changed the title on my blog and it ended up ambiguous, which was pointed out there. But I believe Ragan changed it to something somewhat more accurate when they published it. Just feeling compelled to take credit where credit’s due…

    • Neicolec

       @thebrandbuilder You know that I’ve generally agreed with you, Olivier. And I do understand your concern about the general confusion over ROI and misuse of the term increasing that confusion. But, some organizations aren’t about making money, yet they also want to measure the return on their investment. They are paying for people and tools, and need to know that they are getting their money’s worth. But they don’t get that through actual dollars returned. In Jenn’s case, greater awareness and visibility IS what the organization is looking to get as a return on their investment.
      I think this is one of the few cases where measuring things like RTs and open-rates may make sense from an “ROI” perspective. They never expect the people who RT or read their stuff to donate or contribute, they just want word-of-mouth and awareness as a payoff for their investment.
      Perhaps there needs to be a different term that non-profits and philanthropic organizations use for ROI–but I’m betting that Jenn’s C-level execs actually do use that term themselves, and she’s speaking their language.

      • jennwhinnem

         @Neicolec  @thebrandbuilder I just had a conversation with my former boss about this and her reaction was, “ROI means something different in philanthropy than it does at the Harvard Business School.”
        Otherwise, I’d say you hit the nail on da head. One of the ways we do our work is through drawing attention to these issues.

        •  @jennwhinnem @Neicolec @thebrandbuilder I just spent some time last week at the Wharton School of Business discussing some of these same issues. The general consensus is that ROI does not, and was never meant to, mean something tied specifically to financials, revenue, and in this day and age, But in the old school traditional business mode, that is the most common use. Even the classic business texts refer to a variety of meanings for ROI, not all of which are purely $$$.
          For the non-profits I work with, they are making an investment of both time and money on social media. Yes, they want a return that is involved in financials, but it goes far beyond that. Many of the “returns” they want are not financial or material, but they can still measure those in very different ways. 

        • jennwhinnem

           @KenMueller  @Neicolec  @thebrandbuilder Thanks Ken! you da bomb diggity.

  • I marvel at what you’re doing over at CT Health. Without need for an influx of donations as you’re privately funded, one could say, “what’s the point?”
    Branding and awareness are extremely critical for any organization, and social marketing has to be part of that equation. You’ve done a tremendous job, Jenn.

    • jennwhinnem

       @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Thanks Jayme. Foundations tend to be late adopters…and I think when it comes to foundations with a financial model like CT Health, it’s easy to say ‘why bother.’
      Grant-making is not the only way we do our work. Sometimes we fund others to do the work and carry the message, and sometimes we work with consultants to do this ourselves. Communication about their work and our work is critical to having an impact on these issues. The conversation about this has been interesting, to say the least.

      •  @jennwhinnem You’re going to find my post at my house tomorrow and the one I wrote for @NEMultimedia very relevant, Jenn. You entered a position with no prior social marketing and you launched into metrics that most organizations have passed by, but NOT non-profits or foundations.
        Everyone has to measure at a start point. Because the ROI question has been trending for 18 months or more, everyone is all over it. Whether it means likes or conversions to some, it does mean $$ to all.
        You’re fine. I know you well, and you’re a hot tamale.

  • jonbuscall

    Thanks @jennwhinnem . I enjoyed the insight into what you’re doing. Although the comments have veered off into the ROI debate here (I’m with @Neicolec ), what struck me most here was your admission about the diminishing engagement on Facebook. 
    Working with a school, we built a lot of community engagement on FB but similarly we’ve seen a downturn in engagement, although we’ve not drastically altered our strategy. It seems that as the platform has matured, it’s getting harder to get noticed. 
    Have you seen your reach drop since the total roll out of the new timeline? 
    And how are you measuring your ROI there? Comments? Views? 
    Because the UI has changed so drastically, it’s hard to work out whether its the community tiring of the platform, the complexity of the timeline for engagement or something else. 

    • jennwhinnem

       @jonbuscall  @Neicolec Thanks Jon. As I mentioned, don’t know if you saw it, not my title. I’m not one of those who thinks measurement = ROI measurement but perception is reality. I’m going with it.
      The value we’re finding in Facebook is that it’s one of the top referrers to our site. People don’t say or “like” much necessarily, but they flow from Facebook to our site, and look at an average of 10 pages per visit.
      I hear you on not being able to put your finger on why this is happening – but would agree with your gut feeling that “as the platform has matured, it’s getting harder to get noticed.” I know I personally am much choosier about what I click, like, comment on, etc.

      • jonbuscall

         @jennwhinnem  @Neicolec Yup, traffic is still up but it’s the engagement that’s down – unless video is involved. 
        Maybe the decline in Likes and Conversations is a bit like what happened to blog commenting?

    •  @jonbuscall @jennwhinnem I think we need to look carefully at engagement on Facebook. For most of what I’m seeing, is an increase in engagement in terms of comments on posts made by the business, and a decrease in engagement on posts made by others on the page. I’m seeing this almost across the board with my clients, based on the new structure of the Timeline, Overall, however, it is a net increase, not a decrease. You have took closely at the insights to see what is there. 

      • jonbuscall

         @KenMueller  @jennwhinnem Interesting. That’s not what we’re seeing. Videos get a lot of commentary, but general discussion is on the decline although Likes are up. 

  • Yikes! Who opened up the can of ROI whoop-a$$? I think if you replace that term with “success” or “effectiveness,” your post is very much on point. Actually, it’s on point anyway, with the understanding that the collective ‘we’ uses the term ROI very loosely these days to convey any number of items related to measurement and understanding progress.
    Yes, it’s a business term. Yes, it’s about money. But, as with many terms thrown around the web, blogs, and dumbed down world we live in these days, it becomes corrupted and hijacked.
    What you’ve given us here is a real life example of a philanthropic organization that has ventured into social media as a means to engage, measure/monitor competition, feed policy discussion, and further their mission.  Unlike some organizations out there, rather than just doing it and moving on, you’ve identified ways to measure your efforts and that is worthwhile to many.  Thank you! 

    • jennwhinnem

       @EricaAllison Thanks Erica. I think @neicolec really got it right in her comment – ROI is different in philanthropy.
      That’s not to say that we don’t do intensive evaluation of the success of our grant-making, policy briefs, and communication. If you’re interested in understanding this better, may I invite you to read

    •  @EricaAllison I opened that can. <sheepish grin>

    •  @EricaAllison The term was hijacked because some people don’t understand how to support/justify what they do and why. Linear thinking doesn’t always move into the abstract, but it should.

  • Jenn, thanks for sharing a peek into what you’ve been up to over at CT Health Foundation since they made a smart move and hired you! I don’t take any issue with the title or the content, because the argument about what “ROI” *really* is reminds me of the argument about what “PR” means in the social media marketing era. (Has that been settled yet?) I think there are some words and principles worth fighting for, but in my circles, when speaking of ROI, neither “return” nor “investment” are necessarily measured in dollars. For some (and I can think of a LOT of applications), the return is simply message awareness, and the investment is time spent. Maybe it’s time for a new definition of ROI. *wink* 

    • jonbuscall

       @New England Multimedia  Love that, Michelle ! Maybe we should be talking about the Return on Engagement ?

      •  @jonbuscall Well, there’s still a sizable “investment” when someone like Jenn is hired (and paid) by an organization. In this case, there are “dollars out,” even if the return isn’t “dollars in.” As another example, I use social media for youth ministry as well as for business. No one pays me for my work in the ministry. But I can tell you my time is VALUABLE and is certainly an INVESTMENT. The “return” on my investment of time and resources can’t be measured in any numerical sense, but if you asked the teens and the families I minister to what the return on my investment is, they’d tell you — and it wouldn’t be measured in dollars. Is that still “ROI”? I say yes. I don’t think “ROI” is even about business. It’s about any return on any investment. 

        • jennwhinnem

           @jonbuscall @New England Multimedia We often run into those who think “social media is free!” As I’m quick to remind them, I’m not working for free, ergo, social media is not free. It’s a considerable investment my organization has made.

  • Communic8nHowe

    Thanks for putting the ROI question into the nonprofit setting without reducing it to a dollars and cents equation. For me what it’s really about is whether social media helps an organization move their mission and vision forward. Looking at how those goals get measured helps identify measurement tools. But I think it’s also necessary to set goals appropriate to where you are at such as engaging people on Facebook as soon as possible after they give some feedback. They can become more ambitous over time after you have a foundation in place.

    • jennwhinnem

       @Communic8nHowe Thanks! Seems like you work with nonprofits and have a sense of what I’m talking about.

  • OMG!!! This is all my fault. I changed the title and put ROI. I take the blame!
    This is still an awesome article that shows how to measure success even when you’re not trying to measure revenue. 
    I’m sorry @jennwhinnem.

    • jennwhinnem

       @Lisa Gerber Thanks & it’s okay. What a fun time has been had by all so far!

      •  @jennwhinnem We finally get you to guest blog and look what happens. Sigh. 

    •  @Lisa Gerber  @jennwhinnem I’m glad to see the debate, because like @EricaAllison said, the term ROI has apparently been hijacked! In my circles, it’s not purely a business term, and it’s definitely not measured purely in terms of dollars and cents. I was surprised to hear that there was a disagreement, to be honest! 

      • markwschaefer

         @New England Multimedia  Ouch. ROI is a certainly business term and only a business term. It is return in investment and it is measured in dollars and cents.  Period. There are lots of other valid measurements (and I’m sure that is your point) but it’s not productive to re-define basic business terminology. Just confuses everybody, especially clients.

        •  @markwschaefer @New England Multimedia @Lisa Gerber @EricaAllison @jennwhinnem I am here to clarify Mark’s comment. Jenn you have ROI even if not measured in sales. Your investment is probably mostly labor/time but there could be other costs. But your results do have a value. Before Social Media you might of had to print brochures, by TV spots, hold fundraisers, do school or doctor outreach programs just to get your message across or educate someone. In the past you might of had a budget with X dollars and you could expect to reach X people. So in your case I would be looking at ROI either as cost savings with new technology to reach the same amount of people or reaching more. Thus lowering the cost of reaching each person. That is positive ROI. If your programs cost the same but you help improve health results lowering health costs that is positive ROI. So everything can be equated to dollars and cents even if we aren’t talking sales and revenues.
          ROI in business takes many forms. So a similar example in a for profit business that does sell stuff.  If I buy a new machine that costs lest to run, or can make more product per year, or reduces quality problems that has a positive ROI even if it doesn’t have sales because it reduces my costs.
          The challenge with Social Media and Marketing is when the CFO for a for profit company has to decide where to invest limited resources other parts of the business often can show ROI much clearer like the buy a new machine vs reaching people on twitter.

        • jennwhinnem

           @HowieSPM  @markwschaefer  @New England Multimedia   @Lisa Gerber  @EricaAllison Howie, as I said on Twitter, this is the closest any of the biz folks have come, I think, to getting it. I feel childish running around with “you don’t get it” taped to my forehead. A story about when I interviewed for the job. Biz folks so notoriously don’t understand philanthropy that CT Health was hesitant to go with a biz girl like me. I feel like I just achieved womanhood in the philanthropic realm in that I’ve joined the ranks of the “business folk just don’t understand us.”
          Definitely learned some lessons here.

        •  @markwschaefer  @HowieSPM  Thanks for the clarification, Mark and Howie! I hear the term ROI used in so many ways to measure investment of either time, money and/or resources — both inside and outside the business world — I fear it’s already been re-defined.  I’m really curious about this, though, because we work for organizations who are not interested at all in a financial return on their financial investment. They’re interested only in human numbers — minds changed, hearts won, lives turned around.
          Here’s a question: if a web developer was building a website and a social media campaign for a NPO whose goal was to get as many folks as possible to sign a petition, with the number of petition signers being the measurement of “return on investment of time and money,” would you not use the term ROI with the NPO? What if that’s how they were using the term? Would you correct them and use a different term? Sincere question, of course! 

        •  @New England Multimedia   @markwschaefer I would use ROI but the return in your case is signatures. And it would be compared to the cost of having people standing in front of supermarkets or going door to door or direct mail. Many non-profits reach me by mail for petition signing (well they also ask for money) sierra club, national wildlife org etc. It is easy to get a price quotation for that.
          Now there could be a labor issue here too. Using online and social means less people to run the campaign.. In California when they have people asking for signatures in front of supermarkets to get initiatives on the ballot most of those people are paid vs volunteer.
          So your investment will always be in dollars. Your return can be measured in anything based in dollars. Investment equals X number of petitions signed, cost per petition signed. With what you are doing most of your costs are fixed so if social helps spread the word and amplifies the signature count it will definitely be very cost effective for you.

        •  @HowieSPM  @markwschaefer Thanks, Howie! So in the language of business, is the term ROI being used correctly when the return is not measured in dollars, as in this case? And what if they’re all volunteer? 

        • “ROI is a certainly business term and only a business term. It is return in investment and it is measured in dollars and cents.  Period.”
          @markwschaefer  – I mean no disrespect saying this, but I sometimes find it funny when people essentially insist on something and end it with period. As if they control or dictate the conversation to begin with.
          ROI may be a business term, but is there anything authoritative – cosmic or otherwise – saying it’s only “restricted” to just that? Lots of words in the dictionary have more than one meaning (the word set comes to mind) depending on <b>context</b>.
          OTOH, a beauty of this kind of conversation is at least it gets everyone’s thoughts out. While there will be some disagreement on something or more, it’s also good if there’s some ground where people can meet.
          Anyway, sorry for an essentially off-topic rant. And thanks for the conversation since I’m also learning something here.

    • markwschaefer

       @Lisa Gerber Thanks for the clarification, I think that caused a lot of the confusion. A solid post Jenn!

      • jennwhinnem

        @markwschaefer @Lisa Gerber thanks Mark!

  • MissVersatile

    Great post. Social Media for any business, organization or campaign isn’t always about just how many sales but how brand is being perceived. In the long run, great social media presence is great for business no matter what industry. 

    • jennwhinnem

       @MissVersatile Thanks for your thoughts her MV. I think anytime you’re spending money, you need to know what you got for that money. For my organization, they’ve invested in me, and then I show them what they get for that investment: stronger relationships with our grantees, greater awareness of us, our issues, and the work of our grantees.

  • It was nice getting a peek behind the curtain of an NPO and how it is trying to measure the effectiveness of its SM campaigns. Many for-profits have a hard time figuring out what “success” is in social media; it is interesting seeing the challenges an NPO faces trying to justify SM when there is no tangible dollar result. Semantics aside, your larger point is taken: whether you call it a return or just results, value needs to come from the efforts and capital expended.
    Good seeing you here at Spin Sucks Jenn!

    • jennwhinnem

       @adamtoporek Hey Adam, glad to get to talk to you again! I’ve been out of the loop on Twitter for awhile.
      So it’s interesting that you bring up “challenges an NPO faces trying to justify SM when there is no tangible dollar result.” We have a certain reputation to maintain, that is of being a leader. For a foundation our size, we are leaders in this space (and others). Not that we do social media for its own sake; far from it. We exist to improve the health of CT residents through changing systems, not direct service…okay coming off my soapbox now.

  • karmaCRM has observed that within the last few years, we’ve watched social media change the way we deal with customers. Such channels like Twitter and Facebook have allowed companies to interact with their audience on a more intimate level, bringing both companies and their clients into a closer relationship in which conversations take place publicly.

  • GiaVolterraDeSaulnier

    Wow, this is a very interesting post for me to read. 
    For our little company, we’ve worked for non profits by putting on Renaissance Faires/Festivals (in MA/NH area) and I’ve used Twitter under AbbadiaMareFest and my own Twitter account giazzpet .  Plus I’ve been able to use other social media on Facebook, WordPress, Google, YouTube and other places I could for Free since our budget was little to nothing. 
    See, what I don’t understand is that some Non-Profits are not willing to spend the money to do the much needed work/advertising and it really comes down to how many people will come to your business or event or use your service.
    For Winslowshire Festival which gave us NO budget at all each year, I used primarily all social media where ever I could to post the event.  It was a rather small event, but with all the marketing I was able to do (with some help from @New England Multimedia and others) we were able to help the farm make over $9K last year.  For Abbadia Mare Festival which gave us a small budget, I again used Social Media and for our first year we raised $8,799 for ONE weekend.
    In the meantime, I created a fan page and blog to help other Renaissance Performers and Merchants from across the country and World promote themselves.  At this moment in time, my RPM page is almost at 3000 fans, and the blog is at over 9000 hits – so you tell me, is that worth it?  I say yes.

    • jennwhinnem

       @GiaVolterraDeSaulnier  giazzpet  @New England Multimedia   Hi Gia, thanks for sharing what you’re working on. I swear it was Jay Baer who posted on how to measure the ROI of something like this – we did x which resulted in y dollars. I have not been able to find it. It could definitely help you though!

  • Hey look – it’s @jennwhinnem ! So good to see you here! 
    Having spent a couple of years in the non-profit sector, I so get you on this. However, I was at a NP that DID raise funds, so we were very focused on dollars and cents.
    Anyway, I think what folks can really take away here is how you’ve identified your goals and how you’ve gone about measuring them. Different goals require different kinds of measurement. And, sometimes, it’s not all about the money (whether you’re in business or non-profit).

    • jennwhinnem

       @lauraclick Thanks Laura! I didn’t know you had been in the NP space. We should chat at #soslam. See you there!

      •  @jennwhinnem Yup. Spent two years doing marketing and fundraising events in the Chicago area….WAY before there was such a thing as social media. Wish I would have known ginidietrich back when I lived up there!

  • Scott and I discussed this ROI debate this morning. He shared a conversation he had about music theory language with a classically-trained musician. Scott is NOT classically trained, but teaches music. They ended up agreeing on the necessity of maintaining standards of meaning of terms (like “flat”) in order to not confuse music students. Now I get what @markwschaefer said to me earlier in this thread: “…it’s not productive to re-define basic business terminology. Just confuses everybody, especially clients.”But are business schools maintaining the standard definition of ROI that folks are insisting on here? Curious!  @KenMueller stated in an earlier comment here (one of the first comments): “I just spent some time last week at the Wharton School of Business discussing some of these same issues. The general consensus is that ROI does not, and was never meant to, mean something tied specifically to financials, revenue, and in this day and age, But in the old school traditional business mode, that is the most common use. Even the classic business texts refer to a variety of meanings for ROI, not all of which are purely $$$.”

  • Scott and I discussed this ROI debate this morning. He shared a conversation he had about music theory language with a classically-trained musician. Scott is NOT classically trained, but teaches music. They ended up agreeing on the necessity of maintaining standards of meaning of terms (like “flat”) in order to not confuse music students. Now I get what @markwschaefer said to me earlier in this thread: “…it’s not productive to re-define basic business terminology. Just confuses everybody, especially clients.”
    But are business schools maintaining the standard definition of ROI that folks are insisting on here? Curious!  @KenMueller stated in an earlier comment here (one of the first comments): “I just spent some time last week at the Wharton School of Business discussing some of these same issues. The general consensus is that ROI does not, and was never meant to, mean something tied specifically to financials, revenue, and in this day and age, But in the old school traditional business mode, that is the most common use. Even the classic business texts refer to a variety of meanings for ROI, not all of which are purely $$$.”

    • By the way, to clarify, Scott never tried to change the meaning of the word “flat.” 😉

    •  @New England Multimedia   To clarify further, if you look at the history of the concept, modern ROI was created by the folks at Dupont and they clearly were focusing on monetary investments, but the “return” portion they defined as both monetary and non-monetary. They understood that there are intangible returns that, at times, outweigh the actual financial intake. Even further, even from a purely financial standpoint, we HAVE redefined the terms. The original model of ROI was based on total investment and total return. There was no breaking it down into its smaller parts, which is how we generally do things now. They understood something that we have lost, and that hopefully social can bring back: nothing works in a vacuum. 
      For instance, someone might see a TV commercial, go to your website, and click and purchase something. Theoretically, the TV commercial was the driver. But was it really? It may merely have reinforced something that someone told them via word of mouth, or an article they read in a magazine. When you isolate out the individual parts, you lose a lot, especially when we preach about total integration of platforms and marketing messages and branding. There are so many subtleties that you cannot easily isolate those items. 
      That’s the major way that we have redefined ROI, and, in my mind, have lost a lot. I believe that our current definition actually hinders us, and is what is causing some of the problems in our businesses.

      • jennwhinnem

         @KenMueller  @New England Multimedia Ken, thanks for breaking all of that down. It sounds like your thought is that by bringing in the non-monetary portion into the ROI equation, we’re hindered. Is that right?

  • cbaccus

    Great insights here and while many of us work in for-profit situations this article showcases business results that do not lead to transaction and those results have value too. We use similar metrics to understand share of voice, how effective social media properties are to drive to our newsroom/blog/site, and the impact of engagement.

    Thanks for sharing Jenn. and congrats on the guest post!

    • jennwhinnem

       @cbaccus Thanks Chris, great to see you over here too. It’s nice to hear that the head of social media at AT&T understands the benefits of measuring things not tied to dollars. Sometimes I think it’s more complicated than just getting to look at dollars. If you ever come out to CT again let me & Steve know! We can relive “the good all days” cough sputter choke.

  • Yikes, three letters can stir up quite the brouhaha. Ahem… walking around. 😉 Or stepping into it with three other letters mentioned by some smart folks: KPI. I’m curious – not fully understanding the nuances between non-profit and philanthropy – what next?
    Looking at your list, as a PR type I want to know what next now that I’ve identified, found, reached, measured audiences. What are they doing next, what do I want them to do next? Make good on the grants, so we can recognize/share, build on that? Tell others? I guess I’m curious about actions, perhaps a misconception thinking that one result, one success of your social efforts is some active, non-revenue ‘buy-in’ on part of your target audiences. I think looking at what comes FB engagement and tweet chat, measuring that and looking at what it tells you could be another way to track your successes. FWIW.

    • jennwhinnem

       @3HatsComm Hey Davina! Great to see you here. You have some great thinking here on “what action do we want them to take next?” One step would be to share our content, another is to feel more comfortable in sharing challenges in their project process, learn better what we’re looking for in our grant-making process….to name just a few.
      As for how philanthropy is part of the nonprofit sector – buy me a drink and I’ll tell you about it sometime!

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  • NicoleB

    Jenn, so glad I found this post on Spin Sucks – I’ve only recently begun working in PR and my clients are not in the consumer sector/big-name brands. One client is a non-profit, others are professional services firms… strategizing around social media has been difficult to say the least! I think your three questions will help me get a social media plan off the ground – in the end, it’s all about engaging with audiences, whoever they are! Really great guidance, thank you. 

    • jennwhinnem

       @NicoleB I’m glad I could help! Best of luck in your new venture.

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  • For anyone still listening here, found an Ad Age piece on marketer confusion about ROI which became the impetus for a post I wrote today on that topic. Seems the definition of ROI and how it’s regarded is not fully clear by many marketers and based on research by AMA and Columbia Business School.

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