Metrics for Social networks: What does really happen?

2/27/2009 | Christian Kreutz

If the social web and social media can make such a difference, then their impact should be measurable. Certainly, the question is: How much can or shall be measured? A gut feeling alone might not be enough, particularly when one needs to convince others to engage in social media. Nevertheless, I think there are some ways to get better metrics to at least measure interaction, which go beyond tools such as Google Analytics. So this is an attempt to measure interaction in social networks and the success or value of knowledge sharing?

Campaign: Storytelling and social media Beth Kanter has an excellent presentation on storytelling & social media. First of all, she emphasizes that counting metrics alone makes little sense as they need to be part of a bigger framework. She takes the case of a campaign, which might have some good analogies to single social network platforms or communities of practice.

"Return on Investment is a much broader concept that doing math. If you lay it step-by-step, it includes these:

  • Smart Objective

  • Defined Audience

  • Clearly articulated benefits statement that looks at tangible and intangible

  • Use of metrics to measure your results

  • Results translated into dollar value (donations or time saved)

  • Financial calculations: net gain, opportunity cost, or comparison to other method

  • Communicating the results"

Social network: Knowledge sharing and learning If I translate that to my case, I have not got the smartest goal in terms of quantifiable results: A high value and share of knowledge. Lets say it is quite generic. But as Richard Dennison writes here, that is exactly a problem:

If you can’t count it, it doesn’t count. We are driving quality, innovation and creativity out of our businesses and institutions in favour of quantity. It has been shown again and again that our obsession with targets simply perverts activities to meet those targets at the expense of doing something useful or meaningful.

Nevertheless, I think there are at least some metrics that let you see how intensive or broad your interaction is. A while ago I collected already some metrics thanks to Rachel Happe.

I tried to approach this issue the following clusters and example metrics:

Representation If you really want to achieve a high value you need a diverse representation.

  • A good platform has a certain mix of representations: e.g. countries, organizations or departments, etc.

  • The representation can be measured by visitors, members, contributions.

  • You can set a criteria raster. For example, an own organization is less important and external stakeholders are more valuable.

Contributions The percentage of contribution is a key indicator of the willingness to engage, and whether your website is attractive or not. For example, if more than 10% of your network is regularly participative (i.e. contributing), you have then achieved quite something.

  • Frequency of new resources and the average percentage of member contributions.

  • Mix of contributions, e.g. links are not as valuable as blog posts through a ranking.


  • Ratio of comments vs. resources: Average percentage of comments on each contribution such as blog posts, links, etc.

  • The ratio of comments towards members.

  • The amount of blog posts linking to other blog posts in the network.

Content (quality)

  • The bounce rate of your website says how much people were interested to click further.

  • Average time spent on pages.

  • Page views. The more people browse pages - the more interest they have.

  • The average amount of tags used by each contributor.

Outreach of website

  • Growth of members or newsletter subscriber

  • The amount of invitations sent from your platform.

  • The amount of links to your platform.

Of course these metrics do not bring you much further in terms of quality, but I guess that could be solved by analysing the sample content or making a survey. But, who can say what content has higher quality for learning? It is not that easy. What do you think? Do you maybe have more metrics?

I checked in the past days external statistic systems such as Google Analytics and they only offer a few from the above metrics. So it is important to choose a platform which offers you more statistics. Measuring this by mailing is much simpler. In a next step I will try to get this information out of a Drupal platform and then contemplate more about Beth's point to not only leave it on counting.

Two interesting attempts of calculators are here: