Impact Introduction

Impact is not just about how many people visit or participate. It is also about the qualities of their experiences and interactions.

Each digital user leaves a trail of what was clicked on, shared, linked to, or liked, and this can be helpful for knowing how audiences are using and engaging with your channels. Learn the rudiments of social media analytics and see how this knowledge can help you make adjustments or invest your energy appropriately. That said, quantitative analytics will only get you so far.

Not everything we can measure is relevant and relationships are not reducible to clicks and likes. Think about supplementary ways to observe or understand your impact, and ways to collect examples or stories.

You’re reaching the culmination point of this course, but you’ll find that audience engagement  is an ongoing process of learning and trying anew. If you get stuck, revisit some of the prior sections of Wanderway; there are many resources there to help you on your way.

15 minutes to skim
2 hour exercise (min)
1 hour reflection
30 minutes to explore links
15 minutes to read again
4 hours minimum, across several days

Making a Difference Interview

It really just has to make a difference to one person and then it ripples out from there.

Impressed by Wonderbound’s rich content across channels and media, we reached out to Communications Manager Amber Blais to ask how she thinks about the traction or impact of Wonderbound’s digital engagement—from blogs to social media posts to developing routines around video creation.

Read the Interview

Create a Listening Inbox Exercise

A “Listening Inbox” is a place for you to discover what others are saying about your organization, your community, and your mission. If thoughtfully cultivated and frequently visited, it can become a place of self-awareness, an opportunity to engage in conversation with others, and a source of stories about the impact you’re making.

Step 1: Create an inbox

You’ll need an inbox to collect the notifications you’ll receive. This could be the email inbox that you already use or, if you’d rather receive notifications elsewhere, create a new email address specifically for the alerts you’ll soon receive. Gmail is a reliable and free option.

Step 2: Pick channels and conversations

Revisit your notes from the Channels section to decide which channels to listen in on. For each channel you choose, consider what information you’d like to track. For example, you might want to monitor conversations on Twitter that mention your name (and common abbreviations or misspellings), or maybe you want to watch a #hashtag relevant to your community or mission, or even a stream of photos taken near your venue. Make a list of each kind of conversation you want to track.

Step 3: Connect channels to inbox

Because the types of channels, notifications, and inboxes are customizable, there are too many ways to combine them to adequately illustrate them on this site. Here are a few common things you might want notification for and how to collect them:

Depending on the type of conversation you want to track, you may need to do some research on Google. If that’s the case, start with search phrases like “instagram search to email” or “twitter mention rss feed” or “hashtag search to email.”

Step 4: Weekly review

Schedule a time each day, or once a week, to go through your inbox.

Click on any conversations, images, or posts that seem interesting to you and ignore the rest. The goal of this exercise is to listen and increase your awareness of the impact you’re having or the potential you have to make an impact in communities that are already engaging around you and/or your mission.

Take a screenshot and collect examples to share with your team or board.

As a bonus, this weekly review may also reveal who to follow or conversations you may be able to join.

Mapping Impact Reflection

In the Strengths section, you created a mind map to explore how your community might remix your assets. For this section, you’re going to create a mind map focused on measuring the impact of your digital engagement work.

Step 1: Read the article

If you haven’t already, take a look at this very brief overview of mind mapping created by the University of Florida.

Step 2: Create a list of digital engagement ideas

Start by drafting a list of “experiments” of digital engagement. Make your list specific and clear. For example, instead of listing “Twitter,” try a hashtag campaign or a conversation you are currently trying out or would like to experiment with in the future. Instead of “Facebook,” list the series of photos you’re posting on Throwback Thursday (Wikipediaof what your building looked like in the 80s.

Resist trying to measure a specific channel and instead explore what’s happening on and across channels for a single initiative, content focus, or experiment.

Step 3: Create your mind map

Write the name of one experiment from your list in the middle of a sheet of paper.

  • Circle the name.
  • Draw two lines emerging from either side of the circle. Label one qualitative and the other quantitative.
  • Using lines a spokes, draw lines from the word qualitative. List all the things you might observe about why and how people participate in your experiment.
  • Draw spokes from the word quantitative. List all the things you might count regarding whowhatwhere, and when your audience(s) participates.
  • Draw lines from each of those and list how you could collect information about each one. If applicable, draw lines across observations or circle areas where collection methods are similar, related, or mutually beneficial.

Repeat this process for all the experiments on your list, taking creative liberty to note and illustrate connections across and between experiments. Use color, highlighting, drawings, or diagrams to make your mind map memorable.

Step 4 (Optional): Highlight one

If you would like to delve deeper into the map you’ve drawn, consider reviewing it and selecting a collection method for an observation you think would either help you understand your impact and/or help you tell the story of your impact.

Research the best practices for that method and spend the next month investigating what you learn based on collecting that data. Revisit the map as often as you like to do the same.

On Impact with Chad Weinard Go Further

Chad Weinard is an independent technologist and digital strategist who connects people to museums and museums to people. Most recently he was director of digital media at the Balboa Park Online Collaborative where he led a team developing mobile, web, video, and in-gallery experiences for museums.

Chad’s Links on Quantifying Impact

#1 – Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Nonprofit Social Media Data Dilemma

Measuring what we do is important. That said, optimizing for social media performance risks losing sight of why you’re using it in the first place—you’re not using social media to be great at social media, you’re using it to further your work or mission.

#2 – An evaluation framework for success: Capture and measure your social-media strategy using the Balanced Scorecard

The goal is to measure how effective social media is at furthering your work. Measuring outcomes instead of outputs is a useful approach, whether you are a nonprofit or an independent creative.

Chad’s Link on Telling Stories of Impact

# 3 – Storytelling with Social Media Data

How you report your social media impact to stakeholders is crucial—adding context to social media metrics to focus on personal/organizational goals rather than social media success. Storytelling and anecdotes can be more effective at communicating outcomes (the “…so what?”) than raw numbers or data visualization.

Chad’s Thoughts on Scaling Impact

Social media impact can happen at multiple scales. The tendency is to associate social media with massive scale (numerical, geographic) and near-instantaneous time horizons. But, it may be that one-on-one interactions (providing “delight”) and unobtrusive, light, comforting daily presence over the long-term can lead to greater impact. Instead of global reach, social media may invite close-knit, local, in-person interaction that leads to long-term relationships (Tweetups, Instameets, etc.)

Chad’s Links on Direct Impact

# 4 – Media relations in a disintermediated world

Social media allows organizations to take advantage of disintermediation—taking a message directly to an audience. Instead of lobbying a journalist to tell the story of an exhibition, for instance, social media allows organizations to tell their own stories. Akin to “content marketing” where businesses develop content that informs or inspires to generate goodwill toward the brand, creatives and organizations can use platforms to share their missions and work directly.

#5 – Facilitation Toolbox

For nonprofits whose mission is to educate, inspire or advocate for social change, social media can be a tool to do this directly. An art museum, for instance, needn’t only use social media to promote educational events;  social media can itself be a teaching tool.

Chad’s Links on Organizational Impact

# 6 – Social Media and Organizational Change

#7 – Digital Storytelling for Social Impact

Social media impacts many departments in an organization. Marketing is a typical home for social media activities, but it’s not always a natural fit. (And the perspective of this course is that social media is about relationships, not just transactions.) Education (online learning), membership and development (nurturing relationships), curatorial (content and thought leadership), visitor services, and community outreach are all areas where social media can show impact.

Technology initiatives, and social media in particular, can push nonprofits to embrace organizational change. Social media and social media managers can impact organizations internally as catalysts and change agents.

Social media rewards:

  • speed (approvals/sign offs at an operational level),
  • agility (flattened hierarchy),
  • content and insight from across the organization (communication, transparency, collaboration),
  • audience focus and empathy,
  • data-driven decisions,
  • understanding of how to operationalize mission and strategy, and
  • broad content knowledge (to make connections) and technical knowledge of media creation and social networks.

What are your assumptions? Think Deeper

What are we learning, really?

Digital engagement enables regular contact with our audiences and the more data we collect, the more we may think we have our audiences figured out. However, there is disagreement about the nature of such learning and a risk of making assumptions that don’t allow for fluidity and change. How can we use data to inform our questions and prompt new learning frameworks rather than demanding that data provide clear-cut answers?

Impact is about assessment, but it is also about learning that enables you to refine your work. Key nuggets of knowledge often come after the fact. How could you build assessment into processes so you can learn—and improve—as you go? What flexibility is needed to respond to what you find out?

Is change always good?

When it comes to measuring impact we may have the presumption that people have to change their behaviors, participation levels, or online activity in order to meet our imagined goals for digital engagement. But what can we accept—and learn—from our audiences as they are? How can learning from our audiences help us to improve the quality of our impact rather than just the quantity of clicks or likes?


This course was created to encourage small and under-resourced non-profit professionals to navigate the changing landscapes of digital engagement with a spirit of possibility, experimentation, and thoughtfulness.

Read more about what inspired the course and learn about its makers.

Wanderway was commissioned by the Wyncote Foundation

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