Chances are you’ve heard this statement before:  If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

When it comes to tracking results from your social media efforts, this concept creates a bit of a conundrum for credit unions. After all, how do you really measure the impacts of being part of an ongoing conversation?

It’s a bit like leaving a business meet-n-greet, and trying to evaluate your success.  You can count business cards or recall conversations, but it is virtually impossible to know what the longer-term outcomes will be from your participation in the event.

The same is generally true for your credit union’s social media efforts.  You can celebrate the number of friends and followers you attract, count your total posts and tweets, track comments and retweets, and perhaps measure responses to specific offers you make via follow-up questions or tracking codes.  But generally speaking it is not going to be easy to measure the impacts of your efforts in the short-term.

That’s why this article from CNN shared by a Facebook friend yesterday got my attention.  The article suggests that according to a survey, 71 percent of tweets are ignored.

OK, admit it.  Hearing that made you think for a moment that therefore Twitter is a waste of time, didn’t it.  Perhaps it even led to a quick sigh of relief that maybe these social media tools don’t really need your attention.

But that type of response would be a BIG MISTAKE.

The conclusion shared in the article was based on the number of times that a tweet was either retweeted or responded to after it was posted.  That means that what it really revealed was that 29 percent of the comments shared via twitter are either responded to directly or passed along to others.

If you think about that in terms of word of mouth marketing, that is a pretty significant number of responses to comments made in an open conversation.  What percentage of the things you say about your credit union at a mixer are responded to or passed along?

My point is this.  As credit unions struggle to figure out how to evaluate the impact of social media, it is important to measure the right stuff.

It starts with a well defined strategy for your social media efforts.  A strategy that first seeks to build the following by sharing information that has value and that contributes to the conversation.

From there you can move on to sharing more specific information and offers, tracking the responses, the comments, and the passing of the information along to others.

Over time you can monitor the trends and gain additional insight into the impacts of your efforts, and you can ask those who have joined in your conversations about the impacts your efforts are having.

Just be cautious as you begin not to measure something that doesn’t matter and let it lead you to reduce your commitment. Social media is here to stay and the key first step is to join the conversation for the long-term.

ACTION ADVICE: Review your credit union’s social media strategy.  Define specific measures that you will track to evaluate the impacts you are having.  Start with the number of people you are able to engage and how it grows over time. Then move on to evaluating the specific responses to various types of information that you share.  Over time you will earn the right to share offers that can be tracked using familiar marketing and sales tracking methods.  But never forget that having an active presence and being engaged is a key measure of the impacts you will see.