Tough questions
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Measuring is easy, but the questions are hard

If you’re in charge of your library’s social media and/or content marketing, then you already know that measuring your work isn’t all that hard.  Getting stats for virtually anything you post online is relatively easy these days; there’s built-in and third-party tools galore. You want numbers? You got ’em. They’re everywhere.

What happens, though, once you have those numbers?  That’s way, way harder. Post-statistics-gathering is where a lot of us get hung up, because those numbers force us to think about some tough things…and some of those things don’t always have clear answers.

  • Which metrics matter? As I mentioned, there’s no lack of statistics for our work. But not all of those measurements necessarily are meaningful for everything we do.  Picking out our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) is something that can take some time, and there’s not (yet) any solid, standard checklist of which matter the most. Oh, you’ll find that the experts all weigh in on the topic, but there’s sometimes little agreement among them. The best you can do is read the arguments and use those you think work best for the medium you’re measuring.
  • What do I do now? While there are tons of numbers to be had, precious few of them will tell us how to use that data.  We can look at the metrics around pieces of content and likely fine-tune things some, but what if you think you need to change direction entirely? The numbers won’t often tell you where to go from here.
  • How do we tie them to the other things our libraries do? Sometimes, a campaign’s success can be easily seen in increases in circulation or attendance, but not always. How do we measure building relationships and trust? Maybe people really liked that funny library cat video, but how do those “likes” tie to the library’s mission? Libraries struggle with this kind of thing most often when their content marketing isn’t guided by a written strategy founded on the library’s strategic plan.
  • Is it worth it?  We’re not alone in being frustrated. In a report released in 2015 by TrustRadius, 60  percent of the marketers surveyed named “measuring ROI [return on investment]” as their top challenge.  I think that, for most of us doing this work in libraries, we know it needs to be done. But it can be hard work to show the value to administrators, or even to ourselves.

But, here’s another question, that may help you to focus more:

  • Would your library spend money to change a particular number?

Creating online content already costs your library money, in staff time if nothing else. Measuring the effects is about justifying that time. If an important criterion needs to be changed, will your library want more time and/or money devoted to that?

What do you think? Do you struggle with these questions? Any helpful advice?