Social Media Metrics for Federal Agencies

Social media is transforming how government engages with citizens and how it delivers service. Agencies are using social media to share information and deliver service more quickly and effectively than ever before. Increasingly, these tools are also being used for predictive and sentiment analysis—using the vast amount of real-time data from these social platforms to predict emerging trends and respond to them quickly (referred to as “social data”).

Analysis of this social data is critical not just for agency communication offices—but also for program managers at every level of your organization. Social media in government increasingly requires accurate, targeted performance analysis to ensure we’re taking full advantage of these tools to deliver better service and engage with our customers.

Below are a set of recommended, baseline social media metrics, developed and maintained by an interagency working group of the Federal Social Media Community of Practice. The purpose is to establish a common, yet customizable approach to analyzing social data using the most cost-effective methods available. It provides a framework for agencies to measure the value and impact of social media in addressing agency mission and program goals. The aim is to move beyond obscure results of social media activities towards more sophisticated and more accurate assessments, leading to better informed decision-making.

Part 1: Social Media Metrics and Social Data: Why They Matter

Part 2: How to Use the Metrics

Part 3: Baseline Social Media Metrics, by Category

Part 4: Resources, Training, and How to Provide Feedback

NOTE: These recommendations are presented in a “living, open document” designed to progressively evolve based on continuous feedback, as new methods and tools become available. They are the beginning of a shared inter-agency approach to this emerging field, one that will allow agencies to collectively advance towards better strategic outcomes through social programs for citizens.

Part 1: Social Media Metrics and Social Data: Why They Matter

Social media is a powerful tool to help agencies meet program goals. The primary functions are to:

  • Share: Inform citizens of public services through social content
  • Listen: Observe, analyze and understand what citizens are sharing to improve public services
  • Engage: Respond, collaborate and create with citizens to improve public services (sharing and listening)

Each government agency has a unique mission and unique strategic needs for providing services to the public. As a result, each agency's social media strategy—and corresponding metrics—may include emphasis on different combinations of these three functions to provide the most benefit for citizens.

These benefits can include but aren't limited to:

  • More effective distribution of critical information to citizens and communities, whether for emergency response, education or awareness.
  • More responsive public programs that citizens help shape, and better customer experience by listening for feedback.
  • Better informed strategies that operate on the most up-to-date and accurate data, leading to greater efficiency.
  • Increased use of innovative tools and services from small businesses and entrepreneurs that drive further innovation.

Part 2: How to Use the Metrics

While agencies will continue to have unique requirements, working towards a common set of baseline social media metrics across all federal executive branch agencies has many benefits. These include using consistent terminology to describe our work, providing government-wide views of how agencies are using social media, and identifying government-wide trends that may be helpful to individual agencies as benchmarks.

The baseline social media metrics in Part 3 are designed to align generally with the larger Digital metrics guidance on HowTo.gov, part of the White House's Digital Government Strategy. The broader digital metrics outline five major categories for analysis. These recommendations adopt those categories as universally shared between Web and social analysis, and provides two additional categories for agencies to directly link their metrics to goals: campaigns and strategic outcomes.

There are 10 basic metrics that agencies can analyze through all platforms; organized into seven main categories:

  • Breadth
    • Community Size
    • Community Growth
  • Depth
    • Conversions
    • Viewing
  • Direct Engagement
    • Engagement Volume
    • Engagement Responsiveness
  • Loyalty
    • Return Community
  • Customer Experience
    • Sentiment
    • Indicators
    • Survey Feedback
  • Campaigns
  • Strategic Outcomes

Agencies should use combinations of these metrics based on strategic needs, and share with the community what combinations best support their targeted outcomes. For example, Growth and Loyalty measures emphasize building a community, while Direct Engagement and Customer Experience metrics report the health of an established community.

Note that we've provided examples of metrics for the most widely used social media tools being used by federal agencies. Many of these example can be translated for use on other tools. Read more about free social media tools that are being used by federal agencies and have federal-compatible Terms of Service agreements.

Part 3: Baseline Social Media Metrics, by Category

Breadth

Breadth is measured through standard social media analytics that provide high-level information on the breadth of traffic to, and content usage of, a given social media activity.

Community Size

How to Use It—Provides high-level data on the size of your direct and indirect community.

Benefits and Considerations—A fundamental volume metric illustrating potential popularity of your account. It's often assumed more followers are indicative of a more effective strategy, however this metric must be considered in context of other measures.

How to Measure—As the most standard category of social media metric, these are easily reported through the social platforms themselves or their native analytics programs.

 

Platform Examples Name of Metric Definition
Facebook 1) Fans The number of people who 'like' your page.
  2) Total Reach The number of unique people who have seen any content associated with your page.
Twitter Followers The number of accounts that subscribe to your Twitter feed.
YouTube Subscribers The number of subscribers to your channel.
Google+ Have in Circles The number of accounts that circled your account.
Tumblr Followers The number of people who follow your posts.

 

Community Growth

How to Use It—Provides high-level metrics on the growth of your direct community.

Benefits and Considerations—A fundamental volume metric illustrating potential popularity of your account. It's often assumed more followers are indicative of a more effective strategy, however this metric must be considered in context of other measures.

How to Measure—As the most standard category of social media metric, these are easily reported through the social platforms themselves of their native analytics programs.

 

Platform Name of Metric Definition
All Change in Number of Community Size The number difference between current fans, followers and subscribers from the previous month.

 

Depth

Depth is measured through high-level, standard social media analytics that measure the extent (time), outcomes and context of a visit. It provides information on the number of desired actions users complete as a result of your social media strategy, whether its engagement, access to data or registering for services.

Conversions

How to Use It—Provides metrics on the volume of desired actions through social media channels, such as click-throughs.

Benefits and ConsiderationsThis metric is important for describing your social strategies' effectiveness in encouraging action from your community. It doesn't ascribe value on their experience or reaction, however, which is why this metric must be placed in context with other more qualitative metrics.

How to MeasureThe data presented in this category can be collected and reported through a number of analytics programs, including Google Analytics (available through the Digital Analytics Program). To set up Conversions in your Google Analytics dashboard, for example:

  • Open your Google Analytics account.
  • Select the Traffic Sources tab.
  • From the Social drop down menu, select the Conversions page.
  • Google Analytics displays conversion from social traffic sources.
  • Record Conversion and Conversion Value into your spreadsheet.

 

Platform Name of Metric Definition
All Conversion Number of completions of a desired activity, such as click-throughs
  Conversion Value The value of activity completions

 

Viewing

How to Use It—Provides video-specific information on the depth of how often certain videos are viewed, and for how long.

Benefits and ConsiderationsVideo needs its own category for depth measurement, as the way the content is experienced is unique. A goal should be to set a benchmark for how long your users are viewing the video. For example, if an agency is conducting a training then the best possible scenario is having the intended audience view 100% of the content. A video could have a high number of views, and yet only by comparing with minutes watched can we determine whether the desired number of participants succeeded in viewing a majority of the content. For this reason, these numbers should be closely compared and reported within context.

How to MeasureYouTube's "Minutes Watched" and "Views" metrics can be collected through the native YouTube analytics tool.

 

Platform Name of Metric Definition
YouTube Views The number of total unique views for your channel
  Minutes Watched The number of minutes viewers watched content on the channel
  Top Videos The most widely viewed videos on your channel

 

Direct Engagement

Direct engagement measures the extent to which a visitor uses the social media content.

Engagement Responsiveness

How to Use It—Provides data on how successful an agency is in reaching response-time benchmarks.

Benefits and ConsiderationsThis data allows agencies to set benchmark goals for response times, which can be a key factor in quality customer experience. Agencies may aim to respond within 24 hours, or within 2 hours, depending on available resources.

How to MeasureThe data presented in this category can be collected through updating a spreadsheet after a target event, or through the course of a work day. It may be helpful to collect the content of the queries themselves in order to apply to long-term content and engagement strategy.

 

Platform Name of Metric Definition
All Questions Answered/Service-based Transactions Number of questions answered through social media.
  Response Time Average time it takes to respond to a service request on social media.

 

Engagement Volume

How to Use ItProvides metrics on the volume and frequency of an agency’s engagements with citizens.

Benefits and Considerations—The analysis allows you to identify trends in what your community values, and what elicits engagements in response. This analysis can then be applied to other strategies and tactics in order to refine your engagements. This data allows you to, in comparison with other volume-based metrics, determine the frequency and effectiveness of your engagements.

How to Measure—The high-level data represented in this category is collected and reported through the native analytics programs for each individual tool—Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights, and YouTube Analytics. Google+ currently has a limited native analytics tool called Ripples, but they plan to release a more robust version with features similar to the others. In the meantime, Hootsuite may be used to track the provided metrics for Google+. Tumblr notes can be most easily counted by viewing the account’s archive.

 

Platform Examples Name of Metric Definition
Facebook 1) Most Engaging Content A compilation of the highest performing content based on 'Engaged Users,' 'Talking About This' and 'Virality'.
  2) Fan Mentions The number of mentions, likes and comments that illustrate engagements between users and content.
  3) Talking About This The number of unique people liking, sharing, or commenting on your posts.
Twitter 1) Most Engaging Content The top three-five performing tweets for the month based on level of engagement (clicks, favorites, replies, retweets).
  2) Mentions The number of unique mentions, including replies and retweets.
Google+ +1 Shares The number of times customers "+1" your engagements.
YouTube Engagements The number of instances where citizens engage with your agency through thumbs up, comment and shares.
Tumblr Notes The number of likes and reblogs a post receives.

 

Loyalty

Loyalty is measured through standard social media metrics of visitor loyalty and returns.

Return Community

How to Use ItProvides metrics on how many community members are returning to websites through which social media channels.

Benefits and ConsiderationsWhile not a complete approach to analysis since this measures loyalty through social conversions to websites, it begins to unlock this key data for agencies. As new methods become readily available to agencies on measuring return community without reporting personally identifiable information, those will be shared here with agencies.

How to MeasureThis measurement, performed within Google Analytics, requires a one-time setup step of social media sources as segments, but once completed it can be easily reused for future measuring.

You'll need to create a custom segment inside Google Analytics specific to your social media traffic.

Visitor loyalty numbers will depend greatly on your customers and the content you produce. Therefore, it's important to look at your baseline levels, set a goal and measure your trend over time.

 

Metric Name of Metric Definition
All Regulars Percentage The percentage of users who repeat-visit from a particular social media source.

 

Customer Experience

Customer experience is derived from sentiment, surveys, and high-tier social data from customer service measures. The purpose is to listen to what customers are saying about specific programs or events on social platforms so that data can then be used to improve strategies and services. Notably, this form of social media performance analysis has traditionally been the most difficult for many agencies due to a shortage of available tools for government that ensure citizen privacy protections. Despite these challenges, as technologies and techniques improve, citizen experience analysis offers some of the highest potential growth for agencies that want to realize the potential of the data.

Privacy ActIt is important to note that The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a) includes provisions, supported through guidance from OMB, that protect personally identifiable information (PII) of citizens. As a result, when analyzing customer experience data agencies should take precautions not to report information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person or can be used with other sources to uniquely identify a single individual. Most commonly this will be in the form of user names, which is why it is not recommended to list “Top Influencers,” a common metric for the private sector.

OMB Guidance on PrivacyOMB Memorandum M-10-23 Guidance for Agency Use of Third-Party Websites and Applications (PDF, 103 KB, 9 pages, June 2010) states in Section 3.e, that If information is collected through an agency’s use of a third-party website or application, the agency should collect only the information “necessary for the proper performance of agency functions and which has practical utility. If personally identifiable information (PII) is collected, the agency should collect only the minimum necessary to accomplish a purpose required by statute, regulation, or executive order.”

Agencies as a result may analyze useful aggregated data that is not personally identifiable such as sentiment, demographics, feedback and community characteristics. Social media managers should meet with their legal counsel and privacy officers when developing analysis strategy to ensure that appropriate agency policies are followed, and any necessary protections are in place.

Sentiment

How to Use ItProvides metrics on the context of what is being shared about programs.

Benefits and ConsiderationsThe analysis allows you to identify trends in what your community values, and what elicits engagements in response. This analysis can then be applied to other strategies and tactics in order to refine your engagements.

How to Measure—There are a variety of free tools available to quickly collect basic, high-level sentiment analysis around accounts, campaigns and programs. Before using them, it is recommended that managers consult with their privacy officers and legal counsel to ensure the tool has acceptable Terms of Service for government use and privacy protections. Also, managers should inform GSA of their interest in a free tool, for possible federal-friendly terms of service negotiation. A growing number of paid services are also available to agencies, which traditionally offer more in-depth analysis. A few examples of these paid tools used by federal agencies include Topsy and Radian6.

 

Platform Name of Metric Definition
All Sentiment Positive, negative, and neutral engagements about a specific program, event or topic.

 

Indicators

How to Use ItProvides information on characteristics that influence or are associated with an agency’s social programs.

Benefits and ConsiderationsThe analysis allows you to identify trends in what your community values, and what elicits engagements in response. This analysis can then be applied to other strategies and tactics in order to refine your engagements. Identifying indicators and trends associated with them are also an initial step towards predictive analysis capabilities, as exemplified by the CDC’s flu outbreak program and USGS’s earthquake early warning detection system.

How to Measure—Like sentiment, this metric is commonly available through free online tools. Before using a tool agencies should consult with their legal counsel whether the Terms of Service are acceptable to their agency, or contact GSA to explore negotiating federal-friendly terms.

 

Platform Name of Metric Definition
All Top Keywords Positive, negative or neutral keywords are most associated with your social media content.
Twitter, Google+ Top Hashtags Categories most associated with your social media content.

 

Survey Feedback

How to Use ItProvides key results of customer satisfaction surveys conducted for an agency’s social community.

Benefits and ConsiderationsSurveys are one of the universal ways to measure customer feedback through mail, the phone, websites and now social media. Like its technological predecessors, however, response percentages to surveys can be quite low, and must be put into context as a result. It is recommended agencies use surveys around targeted campaigns especially, as citizens are more likely to respond if they are invested in the program.

How to Measure—Most agencies already have access to survey software through their web analytics programs. Agencies should coordinate pre-existing web analysis with their social media analysis in order to best identify trends in overall digital services and reduce duplication of efforts. Agencies should also make sure social media surveys are covered under existing Paperwork Reduction Act clearances.

 

Sample Question Subject Metric
Satisfaction 1-5 Scale
Feedback/Ideas Fill in the Blank
Demographic Information Multiple Choice

 

Campaigns

Campaign analysis reports how specific programs and tactics perform using the core five categories of metrics listed above. This narrative section allows you to combine metrics to tell the story of a campaign.

How to Use It—Provides coordinated analysis of the performance of short-term projects or long-term programs.

Benefits and Considerations—The analysis allows you to identify trends in how an agency’s coordinated social projects perform, which may then be refined to better impact strategic goals. This data can be used to improve tactics in the short-term, or feed the development of long-term programs. The reporting of Campaigns provides the opportunity to not just report numbers, but illustrate what those numbers mean. Each agency will likely have a unique application of metrics in the Campaign section, given the diversity of organization needs even in pursuit of shared mission objectives.

How to MeasureCampaigns are measured through combinations of metrics, based on the desired outcomes of the activity and characteristics such as community size, engagement levels and responsiveness.

 

Example Activity Sample Metric Combinations Narrative Illustrated
Twitter Townhall a. Conversions b. Engagement Responsiveness c. Return Community Explains how answering questions with links to follow-up information led to click-throughs from regular community engagers.
Google Hangout educational training a. Community Size b. Return Community c. Survey Feedback Explains the performance of a social training program through volume of participants, likelihood of return users and how those users rate the engagement.
Hashtag Listening a. Sentiment b. Indicators c. Engagement Volume Explains what is being communicated in context of a hashtag, what factors influence engagement on the subject, and how active that engagement is.

 

Strategic Outcomes

Strategic Outcome analysis reports how the performance of social media strategies directly impact strategic priorities of the organization.

How to Use It—Provides in-depth analysis that directly links social performance metrics with mission impact.

Benefits and Considerations—This section may be the most critical for agencies to report—how the performance of their social programs pursue and achieve mission goals of the organization. Each month, no matter how an agency functionally uses social media, it is recommended there should be items to report. If there are no compelling examples of clear impact on organizational goals, it’s an indicator that you should revisit your strategy and policies.

How to MeasureStrategic Outcomes are reported narratively through combinations of metrics, campaigns and the goals of your organization.

 

Sample Strategic Goal Sample Metric Combinations Narrative Illustrated
Support Small Business a. Engagement Responsiveness b. Community Size c. Small Business Twitter Campaign Explains how a campaign to support small businesses is achieving its strategic goal through responsive customer service for the community.
Reduce Costs a. Engagement Responsiveness b. Conversion Value c. FAQ Awareness Campaign Explains how a campaign to reduce costs is supported by responsiveness, successful conversions and cost comparison between social conversion versus traditional methods.
Improve Customer Service a. Engagement Responsiveness b. Survey Feedback c. Digital "Call Center" Campaign Explains how the quality of service for a response center exceeds customer expectations through responsiveness benchmarks and feedback directly from citizens.

 

Part 4: Resources, Training, and How to Provide Feedback

Resources

Training

Digital Government University (DGU) is preparing a series of trainings based on these recommendations and upcoming additions. Once announced they will be posted in HowTo.gov’s Up-Coming Training section.

For access to related training videos and presentations, please visit HowTo.gov’s On-Demand Social Media training section.

How to Provide Feedback

We look forward to your insights in how these recommendations may evolve, and continuing the dialogue on how government can continue using social data alongside other open data sources to strategically improve citizen services and reduce costs.

Ways to provide feedback and engage on this topic:

We’re also looking to set up a collaborative space to make it easier for multiple contributors to add and upgrade the content. Stay tuned for more information.

 


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Content Lead: Justin Herman
Page Reviewed/Updated: April 19, 2013

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