Evaluating the Impact of Your Social Media Outreach Efforts

Many business educators are using social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, in a professional capacity. For example, they are using course-specific hashtags, sharing online resources, participating in Twitter chats for teachers, posting materials for students and/or parents, and obtaining real-time professional development from the individuals and organizations that they like or follow.

This is not surprising at all because social media is where people go today for information and support. If the number of Facebook users was equivalent to residents of a country, it would be the largest country in the world equivalent to 1.6 Chinas and 6.5 United States. In addition, social media is free and provides timely dissemination of information, expanded outreach, and access to diverse audiences.

A key outcome from social media use for personal finance education is engagement with learners. Engagement can be defined as learners’ emotional involvement with, or support of, a social media post. Commonly used measures of engagement include likes, shares, clicks, comments, retweets and quote tweets, and direct messages. Research has found that social media posts with videos and graphic images receive about three times more engagement than those without visual content beyond written text.

Social media can be time-consuming, even addicting. Therefore, it is important to have an implementation plan. Decide how many minutes you want to spend per day as both a consumer and a producer of personal finance information, what content you will include, and who your target audience will be. Better still, write a social media mission statement. Below is my Twitter mission statement as an example:

“To provide useful, research-based personal finance information (and occasional non-controversial personal anecdotes) to an increasing number of followers.” 

Once, you are established on social media with an online profile and a plan, you are not done. You will probably be curious about your outreach or, as in my line of work, may be required to include social media impact evaluation metrics in reports to grant funders and administrators.

Below are 12 key metrics and methods to use to measure your influence and impact on social media:

  • Increase in Friends and Followers- Start posting valuable online content and friends and followers will come. State the increase in both numerical and percentage terms. For example, “In 2018, the number of followers for [name of social media account] grew from 1,000 to 1,500, a 50% increase.”
  • Clicks on Unique Links- Create a unique link for online content using the Bitly link URL shortener. Then insert the shortened link into social media content and use Bitly to provide link analytics.
  • Number of Retweets and Shares– Use one of two methods to obtain this data. The no-cost, low-tech way is to manually tally this information from Twitter or Facebook notification messages. You could also write the cost of an analytics service such as Sprout Social into grant project budgets.
  • Comments and Direct Messages- Create a Word document to copy and paste, or take screenshots of, positive responses from learners received via social media. Save responses that indicate that information was useful and/or relevant or that someone acted upon (or planned to act upon) the information that you provided. Encourage learners to share feedback by using a unique hashtag. Below is an example of feedback received from a teacher at my Financial Education Boot Camp.
  • Viewer Counts– Aggregate the viewer counts that are provided by certain online platforms. For example, the blogging site Blogger and the online video site YouTube both provide counts for the number of people who view blog posts and online videos, respectively. See example below:
  • Embedded Survey Link Findings– Create a brief online survey to assess the impact of your social media content using a platform such as Qualtrics or Survey Monkey. Consider providing a participation incentive (e.g., gift cards) to increase responses. Pull a report and report the results.
  • Increased Website Traffic from Social Media Links- Enlist a school IT expert to assist you in obtaining website traffic data. Increased website viewership may also be evident from increased attendance at school events or increased use of program materials that are featured on a website.
  • Influence Metric Tools- Use these tools like a net worth statement to benchmark progress over time. A previously popular tool called Klout is no longer available. A good substitute is a Kred score which has a high influence score of 1,000 and 12 outreach levels. See my Kred score, below, as an example.
  • Online and Offline Information Requests– Keep track of requests for information related to social media content. An ongoing social media presence often confers “expert” status and people will contact you to make comments, ask follow-up questions, and share resources.
  • “Before and After” Social Media Advertising Results- Consider using grants or special projects funding to experiment with Facebook post boosts and Twitter ads. Use online advertising to launch campaigns for a limited period of time and tailor the posts to support program goals.
  • TweetReach and HashTracking– Use these applications to track the use of a Twitter hashtag. Two examples are hashtags used for professional conferences and Twitter chats. Limited reports can be obtained from TweetReach and HashTracking for free. Full reports will require payment of a fee.
  • Archive Social Media “Stories”- Get more reach from individual social media posts by combining them into a “story.” Then track engagement on the “story” link. This strategy is especially useful to assemble tweets from a conference or Twitter chat. A popular platform called Storify is no longer available. A good substitute is Wakelet. See a sample dashboard below.

 

Social media literacy is a 21st century teaching skill that can enhance personal finance learning activities and interactions with students. This post discussed the advantages of social media use and 12 different ways to measure impact. There is no cost to using social media except for the use of your time. The next step is up to you. I encourage you to “get social” by developing a planned social media outreach and evaluation strategy. I also hope to see you soon in the Twitterverse. My Twitter handle is @moneytalk1.


About the blogger: Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D, CFP, holds the rank of Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University, and is Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Specialist in Financial Resource Management. She also provides national leadership for the Cooperative Extension programs Investing For Your Future and Small Steps to Health and Wealth™. A certified financial planner®, Dr. O’Neill received her Ph.D. in family financial management from Virginia Tech and has written over 1,700 consumer newspaper articles and over 160 articles for professional publications. She has also received over three dozen awards for program excellence and over $1 million in external funding to support her financial education programs and research.

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