Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Measuring social media PR

At a recent conference on social media, organised by ‘Don’t Panic’, the question that came up again and again was around evaluation. Edelman’s Marshall Manson, a very inspiring speaker at the event, was honest enough to say that there is no silver bullet on how to change our ancient evaluation methods to fit the brave new online world. Clearly AVEs have no place here (I for one will be glad to see the back of them - I'm amazed at how many clients demand them still), nor placement numbers.

I think we need to change how we see evaluation. Effective use of social media is all about creating dialogue with third-party influencers (ring any bells from the old world of pure media relations?), who then have an impact on the commercial success of a business. How you define that success is the key to measurement.

If you know that one particular blogger has a real influence on, for example, driving sales leads to a b2b site, then PR should be measured against how messages have been a. communicated to that blogger, and b. communicated by that blogger. The rest can be measured by an analytics tool to assess the business impact of the blog.

Going further back up the chain and our first job as PR practitioners is to identify who those social network groups, bloggers, forums etc are that have the greatest impact on business success. There are specific tools – Attentio is one – that use technology to do this, measuring bloggers for instance by prolificacy, message and impact (links, readers etc).

So, in summary, we need to:

1. agree on what it is we’re measuring. I would like to see this include a combination of:
a. output: conversations with influencers
b. out-take: messages conveyed to and communicated onwards by those groups (this is word of mouth in its purest sense)
c. outcome: lead generation targets – to fit in with overall marketing targets

2. identify who the influencers are. These might include a mix of third-party influencers such as journalists, social network 'activists', bloggers, forums and advocates, analysts etc)

3. put out money where our mouth is, and measure against the real impact PR has against the objectives outlined above.

So it is possible to measure the impact of PR in this new world. In fact, it's easier than it was before. If we get it right, PR will become on of the most important parts of the sales and marketing mix. Get it wrong, and we’ll watch social media being taken off us by our colleagues in online marketing and even SEO agencies.


Marshall Manson said...

Great post, Kate. I completely agree with you. For me, there's never been any satisfactory answer to the question, "How do you measure the value of PR?" And the rise of social media has only served to reveal again that there isn't a good answer to the question. When asked, I often try to spin the question around, and ask in return, "What's the value of a reputation?" We know, of course, that reputation does have value, and that it's important both to individuals and institutions, but I don't think anyone can credibly argue that we can attach a quantifiable value to it. So, from that perspective, your advice to our clients is exactly on point: Judge us on our thinking and our performance. We know that positive outcomes yield positive business benefits, but we're not going to pretend any longer that we can put a precise value on those outcomes. By doing so, it strikes me that we're taking our own advice -- always a good thing -- and becoming more transparent and authentic with *our* customers and clients. And there's value in that, too.

Linda Margaret said...

I like your layout of the issues at hand. I think you might find this video interesting. It's very helpful when explaining the position of social media to clients less acquainted with the Internet:
Our company produces software that a lot of PR analysts find very useful in measuring and monitoring social media in real time. We find that often it is useful to offer some basic social media consultation on the side. While many of the concepts are traditional, the format of the media is just not.

Darika said...

Nice post Kate. Totally agree with you that online media is a big plus to finally making PR "measureable".

I pull my hair out on AVEs as well. They're just meaningless numbers, always were. Hoping they'll go away now with new measurement coming through...