Which metrics matter for websites and social media channels? It depends. Too often nonprofits measure what they’re told they should measure, and what others are measuring. What makes more sense is to measure what matters now for you and your organization — and what data you can act on to improve your outcomes.
Citing a term from a new book, Lean Analytics, The Agitator blog warns: “Fundraisers…Beware of Vanity Metrics.” In the book, authors Alistair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz explain, “If you have a piece of data on which you cannot act, it’s a vanity metric. If all it does is stroke your ego, it won’t help.”
Roger Craver of the Agitator writes, “Part of the problem with ‘vanity metrics’ is that nobody does anything with them. But more importantly, and dangerously, they are often used to drive absolutely bad decisions. For example: ‘If I put more spend into online search advertising, it’s a quick, guaranteed way to drive up the number of website visitors.’ A meaningless strategy. A meaningless result!”
Roger lists some metrics that could be considered “vanity metrics” for fundraisers. They include benchmarking; website hits; page views; visits and unique visitors; “likes,” friends, and followers; and number of email addresses. Another one I would add is “time on site.” There seems to be this impression that the more time people spend on your website, the better. But if a visitor is there to get a certain piece of information or to make a transaction, don’t you want them to be able to do that quickly?
Which leads me to another post that’s making the rounds, from Mashable, titled “6 Digital Metrics You Should Be Watching.” A few key points:
1. Active supporters. It’s better to have a smaller audience of active supporters than a large number of inactive followers. Tracking the number of people who follow you is fine; tracking the number of people who share, comment, and engage is better.
2. Return visitors. It’s great to attract a lot of people to your website, but how many are coming back? And how often? Are they getting what they need?
3. See you later, alligator. We like to pay attention to our new followers, but what about the people who unsubscribe or unfollow? What can you learn from them? Similarly, when and why are people leaving your website? What’s the last page they’re on before they leave, and what does that tell you?
4. Response time. How long does it take your team to respond to an inquiry that comes in from your website or social media channels? How can you shorten that time?
As Mashable points out, these are just some of the things organizations can and should measure. What metrics do you find most (and least) useful?