Increasingly, information and dialogue are shared through social media platforms and social media networking services, shaping the terms of debate and engaging stakeholder groups in different ways. For many people this also includes the mobile phone as an entry point to a wider set of internet based services, and increasingly a social layer mediates people’s access to and use of the internet. For younger users in particular, social media is woven into the fabric of their everyday lives in a way that it often isn’t for the older generation.

Despite an often exaggerated hype around the potential of social media, evaluation questions about ‘who is engaging who and to what ends?’ still apply.

A proliferation of methods for tracking social media have appeared over recent years, particularly in the business sector where issues of branding, reach and influence are to the fore. Given the networked form of much social media, many of the frameworks to understand social media draw on tools from network based approaches to evaluation and complexity theory, to understand emerging patterns of influence and dialogue.

This is a rapidly evolving field and the resources gathered here are only a partial introduction that aims to highlight the potential for developing evaluation of social media components of engagement projects. Please share tools and applications that you have found useful by commenting below.

Introductions to Evaluating Social Media

Presentation: Evaluation and Social Media (35 pages)

Dr Cameron Norman

This presentation introduces the distinctive characteristics of social media and appropriate evaluation frameworks, and key things to consider when evaluating a range of current social media platforms. It includes introductory sections on complex systems and developmental evaluation, both of which are seen as relevant to evaluating social media.

Webpage: Evaluating Social Media Efforts: one approach to consider

A simple framework for approaching evaluation of social media from the UD Department of Health Substance abuse and mental health service, with framing questions and types of outcome, and links to a selection of social media analysis tools

Report: Future Connect: a review of social networking today, tomorrow and beyond, and the challenge or HIV Communicators (79 pages)

Pete Cranston and Tim Davies et al, Communication for Social Change Consortium

Not an evaluation guide, but an extensive introduction to the growing and changing role of social media in communication with important insights and recommendations for how to understand and use social media platforms, with an emphasis on developing country experience. Includes a clear overview and introduction and case examples from Brazil, India, South Africa and Thaliand, with insights into the way social media platforms work and are used in practice. The report is focused on HIV communication but with a much wider application.

This resource was developed by Robin Vincent as part of supporting the Wellcome Trust linked community of practice on evaluation of public and community engagement and was originally hosted on the eMOPs website.

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