Track Your Results Toward Social Impact with Clear KPIs

How to set appropriate measurement and engagement goals that drive results.

Digital storytelling metrics and KPIs should be set with the desired impact in mind. These KPIs should include measurements of reach (number of people who have seen your content) and engagement (action taken by audiences in response to your content), which can further the storytelling goals identified in the Strategy Toolkit, such as:

  • Raise money
  • Build awareness of organization’s brand 

  • Raise awareness of an issue 

  • Mobilize people to take action 

  • Recruit volunteers 

  • Attract new members 

  • Change public policy 

  • Change attitudes or behavior 

Disciplined measurement habits should be part of every activity. Comparing content type, reach and engagement for each story being told will help you determine what practices, story types and formats are leading to success on different platforms. 

Creating a KPI Statement

Before establishing KPIs, it can be useful to craft a statement establishing what you’re hoping to measure. This will help you choose the right metrics, and also serve as a mission statement for your storytelling strategy. You can refer to it throughout the process and use it to help you select the right metrics. Below are four examples of how a digital trend among your users might translate into a measurable outcome. For each of your goals, you must determine the exact KPIs you will use to measure your story’s success.

  • Example: I want to know whether supporters are telling other people about my organization. I will determine if more people are visiting my site, and I will determine if we gain more followers on my social networks.
  • Example: I want to know if my supporters are sharing information about an issue with their social networks. I will determine if people are Sharing, Liking or Retweeting my stories on social media, and if they are creating original responses to or about my story.
  • Example: I want to know if my story is helping to increase donations or raise money. I will determine if people are visiting the donation page more often, and I will look for a rise in donations.
  • Example: I want to know if my story is driving action and getting communicated to decision-makers. I will determine if more users are signing a petition or taking a pledge, and I will check for an increase in email registrations.

Don’t Expect Instant Success

The chances of getting 10,000 Facebook Likes 
in a day or raising $50,000 online in a week may be slim if these numbers are not typical for your organization. Aim for gradual and steady increase in your KPIs, rather than dramatic overnight changes. How do I set realistic goals for each KPI based on my storytelling strategy?

You’ll need to experiment. There is no universal solution. Understand that social networks are fluid—audience responses vary depending on platforms, time, interests and other external factors. Your content needs to be fine-tuned frequently to produce optimal results based
 on your audience’s actions and factors leading to these actions. Reaching and engaging your target audiences to generate desired results is often a trial-and-error process.

Start small and track growth over time. Set monthly goals tied to your overall objectives as well as quarterly and annual benchmarks.

If one of your stories goes viral and another doesn’t, don’t abandon the content. Analyze what was done differently. Also, remember that virality isn’t always determined by the quality of your content–it can also be a result of timing of your post and how it relates to other conversations in your social network. Look to take advantage of key moments where relevance and timeliness can drive greater reach and engagement.

Don’t give up on social networks—there are different routes to success. If you aren’t achieving your target goals, pause and revisit your strategy and check if your content meets your narrative framework.

What online actions do you want your audience to take on each platform in response to your stories?

It’s important to track and determine whether online actions and reach are increasing in response to your content over time. An increase in actions and reach shows that your content is motivating people to spread the word or do something to advance the cause.

How often should I evaluate social media metrics?

Routinely evaluating your strategies will help identify what is working and what requires adjusting to optimize KPIs. Depending on the capacity of your organization, goals and benchmarks can be set for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly reports.

What should I do with the metrics I’ve tracked and collected?

Use this data to optimize your content. As a rule of thumb, take the content that has gotten the most traction and give preference to similar content as you build your editorial calendar.

Don’t abandon stories that haven’t received as much attention as you’d like. Change the way you share them. Avoid changing your entire plan at once or focusing on individual elements. For example, try a different platform, release time or type of story and observe the results.