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Steven Linzell

Digital Communications Officer, Madrid

Part of Digital Diplomacy

23rd June 2015 London, UK

Digital evaluation: crunching the numbers with Ripjar

Last month FCO Posts in Europe created over ten thousand pieces of digital content, including tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, photos, infographics, videos and audio clips. But how do you evaluate the effectiveness of all this output? Part of a Digital Hub’s role is to help Posts in the region figure this out so that lessons can be learned and we can continue to improve, to be more focused, to make a difference.

But before we talk about results, it’s important to note that evaluation is not an afterthought. Working out if the campaign has been a success is intrinsically linked to the very start of the planning process, right back to the objective-setting stage. The Government Communication Service has some great content on evaluating government communication activity so I won’t go into detail here, but in short if you want to measure success, you need measurable objectives.

We’ve experimented with quite a few tools (usually free ones) over the last year or so to try to gauge the public reaction to our online activity, but we seem to have found a very good one in Ripjar. This relatively new piece of analytic software brings together the public outputs from a range of social media platforms and lets you query it in real time or in more depth after the fact. It’s going to make it much easier for us to evaluate impact and signals a move away from quantity towards quality. Not just impressions, but interactions (retweets, shares, likes, mentions), away from output and towards outcomes. With Ripjar we can create timelines that highlight the lifespan of a Twitter post (not long), or build stream filters that show the value of content in local language (in one recent case, 20% more engagement). It’s exciting stuff.

We’re still getting to grips with the information that we can pull out of this undoubtedly powerful tool, but already we seem to be turning up some interesting insights. For example, on our recent Climate Diplomacy Day activity, querying data by age showed that virtually no-one under the age of 24 reposted our #ClimateDiploDay tagged content. So maybe we need to review our content and messaging for a younger audience. Or perhaps we need to do more to get that audience segment to follow us in general. Either way there’s something to learn.


Another example of valuable findings comes from our recent #MagnaCarta activity. It was immensely popular. An average repost factor based against original output is between x2 and x4. #MagnaCarta outstripped this by miles, recording a factor of about x7, even before adding in extra #Runnymede and #MagnaCarta800th variations.


Not everything can be boiled down to charts and graphs, and there is always a risk that we look too hard at the numbers and ignore the one-to-one interactions that take place ‘at the coal face’. But people often ask us whether digital communication has any real world impact. Well, last month, the combined digital output of Posts around Europe sparked twenty-five thousand interactions. That means thousands of people saw our messaging through digital channels and did something. That’s the start of some real leverage.