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.