How Audubon Society’s Social Marketing Programs Take Flight

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It’s one thing to have an active social media strategy. It’s quite another to measure its success and adjust accordingly to achieve program objectives. As VP, audience engagement, for Audubon Society, Elizabeth Sorrell has an intimate knowledge of social media measurement trends and will share her expertise at PR News' upcoming Social Media Summit Aug. 9-10 in a session entitled, “Measuring What Matters: How to Tie Analytics to the Bottom Line.”

Sorrell will not only describe ways to set a measurement plan and analyze social media data, but also how to communicate program results with senior leaders. In anticipation of that session, she offers a glimpse of key points to be addressed:

Be just as active measuring your social media programs as you are engaging on social platforms. “It’s tempting for some organizations to focus on the fun aspects of social marketing and put aspects like measurement off for a rainy day,” Sorrell notes. This can be especially true, she says, for smaller operations happy just to be able to maintain a consistent social presence that seems to be working.

Audubon Society, vice president, audience engagement, Elizabeth Sorrell
Elizabeth Sorrell, vice president, audience engagement, Audubon Society

“However, without measurement, there is no way to know if the time and energy you are dedicating to social media is actually paying off. It can be hard to find the time to take a step back from the day-to-day to focus on the big picture—but it’s very much worth it.”

Organizations are certainly capable of measuring their programs, but other factors often come into play. “Capacity and culture are two of the biggest challenges,” Sorrell says. “Obviously, capacity can be an issue depending on the size of your organization. But culture can be an enemy to measurement as well.

“Sometimes the results show tactics that might have worked elsewhere or could be near and dear to the organization’s identity aren’t working on social platforms. It’s hard to invest time and resources into an idea that seemed great and isn’t paying off."

Make sense of all the metrics. Sorrell says the best way is to start with your ultimate business goal and then work backwards from there. “Once you know your goal, find an audience, or who you need to accomplish that goal. Then you can marry them to platforms.” She cites strong third-party research on who is using platforms and how, in particular from Pew Charitable Trust. “Now that you’ve homed in on platforms, you can start to look at which metrics are meaningful on the platform and think about how you can create content that will help you achieve those platform-specific goals,” she explains.


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“Of course, there is also the consideration of how metrics change on the platforms,” she points out, noting Facebook recently said that comments are the new shares when it comes to how its algorithm values engagements. “Which means we had to pivot to a social marketing strategy on Facebook that attempts to inspire more comments on our content and posts.”

As far as effective tools to help in the measurement process, Sorrell couches her comments by noting the suite of tools a nonprofit uses is likely different from what a for-profit company might use. She goes on to say, “We’re fans of SimplyMeasured for reports as well as timely needs (“What was our best performing post about puffins last summer…?”). We also use Hootsuite’s link-tracking capabilities since we couldn’t pass up the chance to have ow.ly as our link shortener.”

Communicate with your senior leaders. “I should say I’m very lucky in that senior management is very invested in social at Audubon and understands the long-term value of these efforts,” Sorrell says. “The best advice I have is to develop methods to demonstrate the impact of your work. Whether it’s monthly dashboards that you share with relevant teams, quarterly meetings you host with senior leadership, etc."

And if the results aren’t as satisfactory as you hoped, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t be afraid of communicating with leadership what didn’t work. “I find that this fear leads to organizations continuing to work on a tactic or strategy that isn’t producing results."

It’s tempting to try and force something to work in an attempt to recoup resources spent, but you’ll see a much more powerful return if you know when to call a loss a lesson and pivot accordingly. "I find we learn as much—if not more—from things that didn’t work as I do from our biggest successes,” says Sorrell.

Jim Alkon is a contributing writer for PR News and Editorial Director of BookTrib.com, a website where readers discover emerging authors.