Guest post: Beth Kanter Interviews Dan Michel from Feeding America on Social Media Measurement

Dan Michel, Digital Marketing Manager, Feeding America Twitter: @dpmichel

Social Media Measurement is this month’s theme on the Zoetica Salon hosted on my blog Facebook page. Last week, Dan Michel offered an intriguing answer to this question: “What form of social media measurement does your organization engage in; Community participation, advocacy (earned mentions, discussions), or donations ($ or time)? ”

I thought it would useful to have a more in-depth conversation in the Zoetica Salon with Dan so we could delve into KPIs for social media. The conversation was fast and intense on Facebook, so that’s why I’m taking the time to summarize out here.

Dan is the Digital Marketing Manager for Feeding America where he oversees the execution of their external digital strategy which includes social media. Feeding America is the nation’s leading hunger organization with a network of over 200 food banks serving 37 million Americans struggling with hunger.

Feeding America’s strategic plan has a broad goal to mobilize the public in three outcomes areas: donations, public policy advocates and brand awareness and foster engagement. One KPI (Key Performance Indicators) they use for their social media strategy is share of conversation. As Dan Michel notes, “Our social media strategy focuses on brand awareness and engagement and is part of an integrated communications strategy. We spend time identifying and building relationships with super-advocates online and engage them — similar to the way you engage major donors or champion advocacy constituents. “

For example, during Hunger Action Month in September, Feeding America created a tab on their Facebook page where people could share a different action every day. The theme was “30 Ways for 30 Days“. Dan says, “We measured that through each action and each was track-able. At the end of the month, we could gauge our share of conversation in the hunger through listening tools. “

Using Radian 6, a listening tool, they do a pre/post share of Conversation about hunger. Says Michel, “We did increase our share of conversation during that month about 150%!” They also track how many fans and followers as a way to gauge how effective their tactics were. Michel reports that those increased during the month of September at a faster rate.

Social media results are also reported to senior management as part of their organizational reporting for their strategic plan. Says Michel, “In this specific case, we share our social media measurement results as part of the overall campaign report. For digital and social, we have a cross-departmental team creating digital goals together with each department acting as a subject matter expert. The team is creating an overall digital dashboard that can be shared with the organization as a whole.”

Feeding America also tracks conversions for donors using Google Analytics so they can follow the path of the donor – from a like or comment on Facebook to online donation form. “It is still a little clunky and requires work but that information is very valuable. We are low on the donation conversions but we are seeing social media become very important in helping with public policy efforts – like the recent Child Nutrition Bill. We saw a lot of interest and click thrus from Twitter particularly.” They used Google Analytics to see where traffic is coming from specifically to their advocacy pages surrounding the bill and looked at Twitter retweets.

Dan also emphasizes that social media acted an accelerator and that it was a multi-channel campaign both online and offline and used both grassroots and grasstops tactics. As Michel notes, The bill passed and our advocacy folks are taking a well-deserved break.

Source: Social Marketing Analytics by John Lovett and Jeremiah Owyang

Feeding America uses KPIs for social media to not only support bigger organizational goals but also measure Dan’s job performance. To come up with goals, notes Michel, “We took a snapshot of the previous and determined a “reach goal” for the next fiscal year.” Michel says you need the rights goals and the right KPIs. Another internal challenge is to get the different departments on the same page about what to measure. This done on the front-end through cross-departmental teams where each department acts a subject matter expert and a shared dashboard that can be shared with the organization as a whole. Michel also observes, “It is important to realize that all these different measurements (donations, constituents, policy actions, conversation) are dependent and can affect of each other, it isn’t an either/or.”

Dan says, “I have been doing web for a long time and increasing unique website visitors was always a KPI. With social media now is that as important anymore? Maybe?” (See this research report from Altimeter on the new social media analytics and the accompanying links from this blog post by Jeremiah Owyang.)

Dan offers this advice to other nonprofits about social media measurement:

Examine existing strategic plans/board outcomes and ask “How can social media support those?” Realize that there may not be an apples-to-apples comparison but examine how your social media efforts are helping you achieve your bigger organization goals. Also, social media is a great way to work cross-departmentally and begin conversations that should have been happening earlier between departments.

Have questions about social media measurement? The Zoetica Salon continues the social media measurement conversation with this excellent discussion facilitated by Kami Huyse “Social Media Measurement: Attention, Attitude, Action

We could all give a little more

People who work in non-profits often see the incongruous phenomenon of many who have little giving a tremendous amount, either of their time, energy or their limited money.  Here Joanne Batson, CEO of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia describes one such example.  

This serves as an inspiration for us as we move into the holiday season.  Do you have examples from your own experience?

Saving up for the holidays

Bart Brown is the President/CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest, the Feeding America member food bank in Springfield, Missouri.  Here he talks about the great work of the food bank.  I was particularly touched by a story he told of a child who depended on the school backpack program, the son of a substance abusing mother, who had to hide his food, saving cans over months so he’d have enough to hold him over during school holidays. It’s not the kind of saving most of us have to worry about doing.

Partners in the Fight





LULAC National President Rosa Rosales; Bob Jilbert, Roadrunner Food Bank; Tyson Team Members; LULAC Board Members


Four years ago, Tyson Foods and Feeding America formed an innovative partnership with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), in which we committed to collaboratively donating one million pounds of food into communities with significant Hispanic populations and strong LULAC Councils.  That milestone has long been surpassed.  To see some of the communities into which this food has gone, see this Google map.

Yesterday, we began our fifth year of this partnership by donating a truckload of Tyson products (31K lbs.) at the National LULAC Conference to Roadrunner Food Bank of Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

We plan on keeping going.  As important as the food donated, bringing more people into the fight against hunger is what is going to create long-term impact from partnerships like this.

It’s a great honor to have great partners.  Working together, we know we make a difference.

It’s Friday Afternoon. Know Where Your Kids Are?

 I originally put this post up last February.  As we near the end of the school year, it’s important to consider just how important school lunch is to the nutritional needs of some kids.  And what is going to happen in a few weeks when summer vacation begins.


By Ed Nicholson                                                                           photo by eyeliam–Creative Commons

A colleague of mine came into the office last year with a compelling story.  Her eight year-old grandson frequently spent time with her on weekends. Often he was accompanied by a good friend: a normal looking kid; clean, well-dressed, well-mannered.. The friend had a voracious appetite, eating just about everything in his path.  When my colleague made a lighthearted comment about how much he could pack away, he said, “We don’t eat much at my house on the weekend.”   Turns out, life was pretty tough for this kid.  His single dad was making some choices that didn’t exactly put nutrition at the top of the priority list for his family.

Unfortunately, this kind of story is way too common in our land of plenty.

It’s Friday afternoon here in the Ozarks.  Along about the time this posts, school kids around the country will be eating lunch.  For some of them, it will be the last good meal they’ll have until Monday.  If  I’m reading the charts correctly, over 15 million kids participate in the free school lunch program.  For a lot of these kids, the school lunch program is their lifeline; there just aren’t three squares on the weekends and holidays. 

We know there are lots of stories about these kids out there.  If  you have one  and would like to tell it here, leave us a comment, and we’ll get with you.  You can guest post, or just let us tell it.

Meanwhile, there are lots of ways you can help.  Go to the Share Our Strength or Feeding America web sites.  Or go visit your local food bank. 

No kid should dread the weekend.