State legislative sessions are underway and from gun control to higher taxes, State Policy Network member organizations are hard at work trying to further the free-market movement. This is their time to shine, highlighting misguided bills and legislators alike, so we were excited to see how the organizations might use social media to build support for their message.

Just as badly as Democrats want to take away your guns, we’d love to see the Illinois Policy Institute get some competition for the top slot, yet month after month they consistently leverage social media to reach broad audiences and engage them. Congratulations — again — to the Illinois Policy Institute for taking top honors!

Your February 2013 SPN social media rankings:


How This Works

2013-02-27-IPIMore than a few SPN organizations have reached out to either learn more about the rankings, or to make their case for a higher ranking. Here’s how we reach what we believe to be a very accurate measure of the strength of a social media program.

We measure social media effectiveness by looking at two core metrics: reach and engagement. We then see how those relate to each other. For instance, some SPN groups have a lot of followers on Twitter or Facebook, yet did not make the top 10. Why? Because they have very few people talking about them on these channels. Conversely, the Advance Arkansas Institute, for example, does not have a large audience at all (#44 for Facebook likes and #37 for Twitter followers), but engages that audience with gusto (40% of their audience is talking about them on Facebook), and they consistently rank high.

It is easy to assume that as the audience grows, the share of that audience who participates will decline. That depends on how the audience is built. An audience built by ads alone will likely not be as engaged as one built by organic methods. It also depends on the creativity of the organization. The Illinois Policy Institute is in the top 10 for number of Facebook Likes, but they also rank #1 for audience engagement. A remarkable 67% of their audience is engaged with them on Facebook. In fact, when we checked just this morning, their engagement rate was a whopping 113% — in other words, there are more people talking about IPI on Facebook than they have fans.

How do they do this?

2013-02-27-FFFirst, they are posting. A lot. No individual post is getting a tremendous amount of engagement on the IPI Facebook page, but by posting something interesting several times a day, the impact snowballs. Second, they are posting primarily images. This is smart for several reasons. Not only are images more engaging to a Facebook audience, but also Facebook itself prefers image-based posts when deciding what posts should appear on a user’s News Feed (the homepage). By posting images, the Facebook algorithm is more likely to display their posts to people in their audience, who are then more likely to “like” or share the post.

IPI is not alone on this front. The Freedom Foundationfollows the same path, with interesting images posted frequently to their Facebook page. They rank #6 for the total number of Facebook Likes, but still come in #2 for the number of people talking about them, creating an engagement ratio of 12.5% (#4).

2013-02-27-AAIGranted, these are large think tanks who might have a full-time social media director. Not every group can do that. So how can smaller groups improve how they use social media? The Advance Arkansas Institute is a great example. They don’t post images as frequently (although they do that regularly) but they have turned their social media into a news feed of action in the state legislature. This makes them a vital resource for activists, legislators, and lobbyists who may not expect to get all of their breaking news from AAI, but who want to hear the conservative perspective on the news. That is AAI’s unique place in the Arkansas policy world, and they are leveraging it effectively.

Have other tips for using social media effectively? Drop them in the comments below!

Looking for Your Group?

While we cannot release the full list of results, we have created state-specific profiles for organizations who have asked to see how they ranked. If you are interested in looking at your organization, just contact us and we’ll put one together for you.


The SPN Social Media Index was created via Insights from Flat Creek ( Information was compiled on 2/18/2013. Data was recorded for the following metrics:

  • Facebook Likes
  • Facebook Talking About This
  • Twitter Followers
  • Twitter Mentions

Based off of these metrics, researchers also developed engagement scores for Facebook and Twitter. Due to inconsistent adoption and smaller audience size, metrics for Pinterest, Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, PicasaWeb and mobile apps were not pulled, although some members have adopted these tools.

Each of these six metrics were given a score relative to the rank of the organization for that metric. A total of those scores was then compiled and ranked. The top possible score would be 100 if an organization was ranked first for all metrics. The lowest possible score would be 0 for an organization that ranked last for all metrics.

Researchers collected website information from the SPN Directory and Google. If links to social media properties were not available directly on the organizations’ websites, they were further compiled by searching Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

Additional information was collected to provide context to the social media numbers. These details included:

  • State Population
  • State Expenditures (2010)
  • State Debt (2010)
  • State 2008 presidential election results

While information specifically regarding the operations of SPN members, such as revenue and number of employees, was not readily available, that information will be requested for future updates to the SPN Social Media Index.

For questions or comments regarding this study, please contact Allen Fuller with Flat Creek Digital.