Want to improve the results you get from the effort you put into your online presence?
Your nonprofit’s best online strategies are the ones informed by your data. Data not just on activity but also on what content is most popular across your website, emails and social media channels. You don’t have to be a data expert to have great data-informed online strategies!
Data is gold because it tells you what your community is interested in online, beyond what you want to communicate or actions you want to have folks take. Most nonprofits are able to talk about what they are interested in and what they are doing. The organizations that have the most success online are those that listen – they listen to their online community by looking at data.
Top Online Content
I’m not talking about esoteric or hidden data in the depths of Google Analytics, I’m talking about a handful of essential foundational pieces of data. While the number of website users, email subscribers and social media followers over time is worth tracking, I’m talking primarily about the most popular pieces of content across your online presence. What were the three most popular stories on your website over the last month? Most clicked-on links in your emails? What three pieces of social media content had the most engagement? Just those few data points can help steer you towards greater online success.
A content report doesn’t have to take more than 30 minutes a month to create. Once you know where to grab the data points on content in Google Analytics, your bulk email program and social media channels, it’s easy. Once you start sharing a monthly report, that helps give everyone an idea of what content resonates the most with your online community. For your content report, include the 3 top stories on the website by number of website users, the 3 links in emails with the most clicks, and the 3 top social media posts (I suggest tracking comments and shares, not likes).
Key Performance Indicators
The ideal partner to a Top Online Content report is a report on Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). KPI’s are the top data points you identify as most useful for understanding how well your online activities are driving desired actions. These could include the number of active website users per month, the number of email list subscribers, the average number of clicks on your enewsletter, the monthly average number of comments & shares on Facebook, the monthly average of retweets on Twitter, etc. You can choose what KPIs are important to you and your nonprofit.
KPIs are the numbers you are going to track regularly. Think of it like the dashboard of a car – it tells you how fast you are going and how much gas you have. That is great information to follow over time to see if you are improving, declining or holding steady to your averages. Yet know that, like a car dashboard, a KPI report doesn’t tell you the right direction to travel – that is why it needs its partner, the Top Online Content report.
Start by deciding on limited number of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). For each KPI, identify the current baseline and then set a goal. If social media is currently sending 43 people to your website every month, set a goal to increase that to 50 per month within 6 months. Try different strategies to reach that goal and note which ones work and which don’t. Try different tactics around the strategies that work.
Establish a Habit
Establish a habit of gathering and sharing KPIs and what content is engaging your online community every month. Each month, share with interested staff (and board if appropriate) your Top Online Content and KPI reports. Include the 3 top stories on the website by number of visitors, the 3 links in emails with the most clicks, and the 3 top social media posts (comments and shares, not likes).
Establish and maintain the habit of gathering the top online data each month – just put an appointment in your calendar each month. Once you get the first one done, the other ones will be easy and take little time.
Once every quarter or every few months, sit down with a colleague and review the data – what worked? What did we think would work and didn’t? What types of content are popular and can that guide us as we create new content moving forward? This is where part of the data-informed magic comes, using the data from your community to plan how you will use your precious time to create more content your community will love.
Done well, being data-informed leads to growing your following on social media channels, growing your email list and increasing visits to your website, all of which can lead to improved results with advocacy, events and fundraising!
To help you get started, you can click on these two example reports. All data is for example purposes only and may not reflect your results. Both are Word documents and will download when you click the links.
I hope you find these helpful and you can use data to make the best of your nonprofit’s online presence.