So it’s been a while since this book was written. There’s been time to watch the data-informed NPOs in action.

The heart of this book lies in its case studies. Not only do these examples highlight the concepts but they also serve as a great encouragement to us NPO types. I liked this cheerleading aspect of the book and got quite swept along by the possibilities of social media.

One thing I did notice is that after reading this book the most spectacular success stories I notice -the ones that make me swoon with admiration- are campaign based. They often combine a powerful dose of an NPO’s values with brilliant use of social media tactics. Take, for example –doSomething.org’s Pregnancy Text  (a campaign to increase awareness of Sex-Ed amongst teens).

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from dosomething.org

The temptation is to use the book’s approach for each campaign -making the defined goals at the beginning of the seven step process the goals of that campaign. I think the intent of the book is for data measurement on each campaign but ultimately to affect overall organizational impact. This campaign would be considered to be a rung on the engagement ladder towards activist, empowered and educated teens.

So, do the millions of kids who signed up for a text baby, go on to avoid teen pregnancy and did they go on to engage in other activities: teaching their grannies how to be wired (in a good way) or making a five minute playlist to help their friends take shorter showers? That is data-informed strategy leading to “a goal of motivating young people to make positive change both online and off…” –not just clever data-driven tactics in one campaign.

We are back to focusing on impact and its measurement…which brings me to the interesting case of SeaWorld.

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Photo from seaworldcares.com

SeaWorld -a (for profit) example in the book for using data-informed social media to handle crisis -has taken a spectacular reputation nose-dive. With their #AskSeaWorld they’ve become a case study for how not to use Twitter. After learning the hard way that Twitter may not be the best platform for message control in a vicious PR battle, they have retreated to a less interactive website. They are now attempting a spectacular pivot to reposition themselves as a conservation leader. Good luck with that…

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from Leiliani Munter’s Twitter feed 

Only 1 in 4 of the US public now feel that it is OK to hold orcas in captivity (Whale & Dolphin Conservation survey, 2014).

The take home message here: social media measurement builds on your goals but when these are misaligned with public opinion, your strategy may well be doomed.

In the end, if NPOs are to keep moving forward, data-informed strategies can help them do that. This book certainly explains how. Data-informed strategies can tell an NPO whether their supporters are aligned with their values and whether that alignment will lead them to support their goals.

The ultimate challenge for you is to use this approach (and others) to measure whether reaching your goals leads you to your intended impact.

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