Earlier this month I attended Salsa Labs’ 2013 Community Conference. This gathering of advocacy organizations, non-profits and public affairs agencies occurs once per year, and is one of the best places to pick up new ideas, touch base with industry-wide best practices, and provide advocacy organizations with our advice. (Beekeeper Group Partner Henri Makembe spoke on a panel that discussed lessons non-profits and advocacy agencies can learn from political campaigns.)

One focus of the conference was on advocacy campaigns on social media.

Below, check out the top 3 takeaways from that discussion.

Supporter sentiment is important

The best way to truly find supporter and community sentiment is by going through your Facebook and Twitter pages every day and seeing if your community looks to you as a go-to resource. Determining if your community is responding to your message is a key metric to look for. Find out if your supporters trust you publicly. Are they referencing your public-facing communications materials? If not, you must determine why you’re not reaching them.

‘Likes’ should not be the goal. Turning your likers and followers into truly engaged fans and community members is.

The numbers tell the story

It takes a lot of time to dig into Facebook Insights and Twitter analytics data (which has recently been updated, by the way), and you can hire out that analysis to outside firms that use algorithms, but the most accurate measurement of a community’s engagement can be found by investing the time and resources to take a deep dive into your social media platforms.

Rank the conversations being held on your platforms weekly. This means that every week, go through and rank your comments, it shouldn’t be too complicated. Who is your top commenter? Who is beginning and interjecting in your online discussions? Determining your engagement begins and ends with understanding your community.

Content creation needs to happen during the news cycle, not after

The government shutdown is driving people to convert from passive community members to action takers. If you have a “Contact Congress” button on your website or social media page, you may see conversion rates go through the roof right now because your tool is part of the news cycle.

Advocacy organizations must be nimble. Many organizations are too risk-averse. When you’re waiting for upper-level sign-off on a Facebook post or a Tweet, the news cycle will pass you by and the opportunity to activate your supporters will be lost.

In this day and age where people are online for hours and hours per day, you can’t afford to have a traditional online content clearance process. Your content should be proactive, anticipating breaking news, rather than reactive, and behind the news cycle.