Ask someone in IT how they would measure social technology used inside the company. Then, ask one of the senior leaders how they would measure internal social. Here’s what the responses look like:

IT Opinion

Leadership Opinion

Things the platform can measure automatically

Things that matter to the business

Clicks, visits, votes, ranks, number of comments, posts, exit page, number of file uploaded

The extent to which social leads to innovation, productivity improvements and cost reduction

Number of email servers shut down because of reduction in email and email attachments

Improved ability to find experts within the organization

For HR and Communication, it’s not unlike understanding engagement survey scores; you have to do some qualitative analysis.

Not Just Quantitative But Qualitative Analysis

We might put several key findings from an engagement survey into focus groups to dig into what is driving the results. Measuring social demands similar qualitative exploration.

And it stands to reason. Social technology is just that, social. So, we cannot solely measure it in the absence of the human analyst. Particularly if we want to evaluate the actual value it delivers to the organization.

This is not to say that there is no value in the automated data. Absolutely look at the automated data, such as:

  • Number of comments
  • Number of blog posts
  • Number of visits to blog posts
  • Number of ratings
  • Number of likes
  • Number of images uploaded
  • Top hashtags used in posts
  • Days and times of day of highest activity

Most of these should be easy to pull out of your social tools no matter the platform. Most are available in SharePoint 2010 and beyond (e.g., hashtags don’t play without a third-party tool such as Sitrion).

Dig Deeper, Analyze Content, Ask Questions

But to get at value, you’ve got to dig deeper. That second level includes research such as:

  • Comment analysis
  • Posts with the most comments
  • Posts with the highest rating or most likes
  • Nature of images shared

Ask questions about the way employees are using the technology:

  • When they comment, do they add links to valuable resources or documents that support the topic?
  • What types of posts get the most comments?
  • Who is commenting versus rating versus liking?
  • Are commenters, raters and likers different from posters?
  • What is different about the posts that get more likes as compared to those that get more ratings?
  • What types of images do people share the most?
  • How can images be leveraged into larger value for the organization?

Focus groups, or the more informal roundtable, are a great way to dig into more details. Bring groups of employees together to respond to your questions and dialogue. You get to listen.

Collect Success Stories

Whether you use focus groups, roundtables, or surveys to gather additional insights, try to collect success stories along the way. These can be used to promote the use of your social elements for business value.

Most importantly, they uncover important business benefits realized as a result of social technology. These stories are what executives want to hear about to prove ROI.

  • What innovations came about because two people connected?
  • What savings were realized because one team found another working on the same thing?
  • What processes were improved as a result of social that led to better customer service?

This all may seem pretty elementary to some, but I cannot count the many times I’ve talked to organizations that just look at electronically delivered metrics. Organizations do not inherently know how to measure social.

Go Beyond Electronically Delivered Metrics

Moreover, we are apt to lean on the easiest method – the one that doesn’t absorb too much resource. To get at the value we have to roll up our sleeves a little higher.

Many executives want value in return for what they view as a questionable investment. They aren’t squarely in our camp yet and want data to validate their support.

So, as you move toward a more social intranet, or a full-blown digital workplace, make a plan to measure social use well.

Stacy Wilson, ABC, Eloquor Consulting, helps companies communicate more effectively with employees in the digital workplace. Her specialty is supporting governance, usability, content and adoption for digital workplaces/intranets, along with change communication for technology change such as ERP implementations. Connect with Stacy at LinkedIn or on Twitter, or with Eloquor on Facebook.