The most important social media measure? The ‘ex-haters’ number.

Aug 26, 2016

I’ve been developing a course on social media evaluation, and one metric stands out to me as most important. I call it the ‘ex-haters story’: the number of people you’ve won-around.

In this post I outline:

  • What the ex-hater metric is;
  • Why it’s one of the most important measures;
  • and how to make your ex-hater figures soar.

As well as measuring specific outcomes relating to campaign objectives, it’s important to do ongoing social media evaluation.

By this I mean, everything you do, each day on social media – from answering queries to sharing other people’s posts – it all adds up to your organisation’s reputation and how much people trust you. (More on this later). And the ex-hater metric sits here.

What is the ex-hater metric?

Simply, it’s when somebody is using social media to voice their displeasure with your organisation, your service or something about the way you work – and then you work hard to win them around, satisfy their complaint and make them like you.

Every month, you count how many people you converted from a hater to a non-hater.

It’s not about making someone brainwashed, or uncritical.

It’s finding someone who had a beef, was cynical about your motives, or generally didn’t like or care what you do. You interacted with that person and they were satisfied, had their expectations exceeded, or were cheered by the encounter in some way.

haters gonna hate

Why measure ex-haters?

Your evaluation doesn’t need to solely consist of big numbers, graphs and objective stats.  A touch of story telling adds context and meaning to your evaluation reports.

Unlike a more traditional, broadcast form of communications, on social media we are aiming to foster, long-term, two-way communications. 

This is not about one-off interactions, it’s building brand loyalty.

Or it’s about stimulating participation in public service delivery.

For government, charity, housing and socially-focused organisations, encouraging active, interested citizens is our version of businesses aiming to inspire repeat sales and peer-to-peer recommendations.

It may not happen frequently, but converting someone who’s annoyed into a neutral or supportive position is a fundamental win for your organisation and your communications efforts. You should document it.

Storify it, log what happened in a spreadsheet, write it on a whiteboard.  Whatever. But measure it and celebrate it.

When you win a person over, that person has ceases to share rumour, negative opinion or unwelcome stories about your organisation across their online and real-world networks. You can’t measure this (that is – you won’t know what doesn’t happen, as a result) but you can acknowledge your excellent and charming work.

But better than that, is this:

Ex-haters have way more interest and emotional investment in your organisation than someone who has interacts more casually.

You turned them round.  You explained. You made them think.

Cat filing its claws with faint aloofness

“OK, I’m listening”

When you create an ex-hater, it means the citizen is more likely to pay attention, your future interactions will be more positive, and perhaps this person may even share and champion what you do. Now, you could approach them again if you think they may be able to help, and they may well be willing.

I’ve learned this through experience and many of my clients tell me these ex-hater citizens can be hugely helpful later, as they engage and share more, now that they have been persuaded that your intentions are favourable.

What would it look like?

It might be a few screen grabs that show one or more social media posts showing a person sounding off. Then it shows key points in a conversation that you had that led to them being convinced that their problem has ben solved satisfactorily, or they had the wrong end of the stick, or they came around to your way of seeing things.

How to increase your ex-hater metric

To win someone around, they need to trust you.

When people trust you:

  • They don’t think the worst of you
  • They forgive you when you cock-up because they feel your intentions were good
  • They are more likely to listen to you, talk to you, do as you ask, share your stuff, answer your questions – the whole engagement shebang.

I love this chart (which I found uncredited on Linkedin) that shows the ingredients of trust.

Do all of this. You’ll have people eating out of your hands.

trust chartSeriously, to be good at all these elements takes a long-term project of professionalism, dedication and passion.

If you or any of your team are new to handling awkward interactions, perhaps this chart will help you increase you ex-hater number.

I’ll write a more lengthy post before the end of summer that shows the practical skills and tricks to build trust and win people around.

My story

I have a soft spot for this measure because in 2008, when I worked for a council, a colleague and I made a case to senior management that we should take social media seriously – and I showed them this very metric.

I told them:  ‘We won over xxx many people since we started using social media, some of whom are influential in journalism, policy and politics’.

I shared about how one person had gone from loudly criticising us to her large following, to retweeting us, taking part in consultations and sending tweets to us that ended wth kisses! All because we listened, followed up queries in a timely fashion and used a little charm!

It worked, and was the element of my evaluation that most struck a chord with senior leaders.  People need to hear stories and see real conversations as well as understand the stats.

To conclude

This is especially for those of us concerned with public service: to survive, we must put efforts into building a network of interested people who act on what we say, contribute to debate, and who listen and suggest better ways of delivering services.

Evaluation, including this ex-hater metric, can help us see if we are making progress in developing supportive communities, and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Main points for me are:

  • Ex-haters will care and be more interested in what you do than people who have not taken issue with you.
    And when you foster trust, you increase future engagement.
  • If your evaluation reports are entirely made up of stats, you’re doing it wrong. 
    The best reports give hard facts but they also tell stories, and add narrative that makes sense of, or supports, the data.
  • Measure gains to your overall community, as well as specific campaign objectives met.
    It helps you improve, and shows others a bigger picture of the work you do to strengthen relationships and reputation.

One more thing…

If you don’t like the term ‘ex-hater’, here are some other terms I was playing with (but subsequently binned) to describe this measure:

  • Won-around
  • Persuaded
  • Converted
  • Changed-mind
  • Charmed
  • Influenced
  • Satisfied
  • Convinced
  • On-side
  • Disarmed
  • Brought-around
  • Won-over
  • Convivial


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Hel Reynolds

Hel Reynolds

Author of this post

Hel is social media trainer and boss of Comms Creatives. She has been working in comms since 2005, and has been brushing up her expertise in social media for brands since the good old days of MySpace. She also draws the Comms Cartoons, and is usually attached to a mug of coffee.

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