Public Works Partners is offering an online course for workforce development service providers on using social media to connect with participants and increase program outcomes. This is Part 7 of an 8 part series:
- Why Social Media?
- Making social media a part of your overall participant engagement strategy
- Deciding which social network to use to interact with participants
- Using Facebook groups, pages, and/or profiles to interact with participants
- Deciding what to post to social media (and how to do it)
- Building your audience
- Measuring the impact of social media on your outcomes
- Teaching participants how to use social media
Welcome back to Social Media for Workforce Development! In our series of blog posts, we’ve covered every aspect of getting social media up and running for a workforce development program. If you were starting from scratch with this guide, you would have selected one or more social networks appropriate to your target audience, built an audience, and created content that’s eye-catching, relevant to your target audience, and inviting for engagement. Participants now tell you that they see workshop announcements on social media and communicate with career advisors with ease from their smart phones. Social media is now an integral part of your participant engagement strategy.
Mission accomplished, right? Not quite yet. Your audience could still be larger, and your posts could do a better job of cutting through the noise and reaching their intended audience. And you probably want to know just how much of an impact social media—or any of your other engagement strategies, for that matter—is having on the outcomes that matter the most to you and your funders. Fortunately, all of this is possible using a combination of the data that social media sites generate plus some additional data capture on your part.
Let’s start with two basic aspects of your social media that you probably want to improve: 1) size of audience and 2) reach of content. Facebook provides a lot of useful reports for both of these areas through Page Insights. (Remember that these advanced analytics are only available for Pages, not Profiles or Groups, so keep that in mind when setting up a Facebook presence.)
This dashboard provides week over week trend indicators that can give you a very quick sense of how well you’re doing without having to spend a lot of time interpreting charts and graphs.
Don’t be intimidated by these graphs. At the end of the day, it’s a simple matter of counting the size of your audience and measuring it over time against growth goals that are realistic given your program’s size. Facebook makes this easy to do.
Facebook also makes it easy to quickly assess how well specific pieces of content are performing:
At a glance, you’ll be able to tell which posts caught your audience’s attention and which ones didn’t. This won’t tell you why, but it will give you the basis for some analysis. Maybe a photo of a participant did better than another photo because the lighting is better, or because the caption was particularly engaging. Maybe posts that were published in the evening (don’t forget to use the scheduling feature!) do better than those published in the morning. Over time, using these reports can give you a better understanding of what does and doesn’t resonate with your audience, which you can use to adjust your content strategy and improve performance.
But what happens when your participants put their smartphones away and actually engage with your services? At this point, it’s up to you to track how participants are showing up at your front door. But chances are good that you’re already doing this and that you just need to adapt your information collection practices slightly to track social media in the right way. Your forms probably already ask how attendees found out about the event or program, so it may just be a matter of adding options that reflect social media. And you probably want to be more specific than just “social media”: if you’re using both Facebook and Twitter to connect with participants, you’ll want to know which of those is more likely to bring workshop participants in. If you aggregate and analyze this data over time, you’ll start to get a sense of how often social media gets people in the door, how well social media compares to other methods of outreach, and how many of those who engaged with services because of social media go on to achieve program outcomes.
Tracking social media’s impact on retention, which likely involves lots of participant engagement over a long period of time, gets tricky. But there’s still plenty of data to be gathered from anecdotal conversations with staff who conduct these retention activities. They probably have a good sense of how best to reach participants, and the experiences of several different staff can form a good consensus opinion on how well participants respond to social media versus other forms of communication. And don’t forget to ask your participants about how they prefer to be engaged! Their answers may surprise you.
This combination of quantitative and qualitative data gathering should give you a solid understanding of how your social media outreach—and other forms of participant engagement—is performing and can enable thoughtful adjustments in strategy and tactics. By repeatedly measuring and adjusting, you’ll create a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement that will ultimately lead to improved participant engagement and higher outcomes.
In the last post of the series, we’ll talk about some things to keep in mind when teaching your participants how to use social media. Until then, please send us your feedback and questions. Comment on this blog post or contact us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or our Facebook page.