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Social media measurement – The next challenge in PR evaluation

Posted by Louise Moran on 20th June 2011

There are now so many routes to key audiences as the lines between offline ‘traditional’ print and broadcast media and social media begin to blur. Do you read your favourite newspaper at home over a coffee, on a mobile app on your smartphone or tablet computer as you commute, or by clicking through links posted on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day?

This shift is happening at a time where more PR professionals are getting involved in running social media and influencer relationship campaigns for their clients. A poll at the AMEC European Summit on Measurement 2011, which took place in Lisbon in early June, showed that only 11% of clients demand social media evaluation as part of their wider social media strategy. If PR professionals are accountable for the success of a social media campaign, why are we not measuring its impact?

As an industry, PR is still stuck measuring the impact of social media campaigns in mentions and retweets on Twitter, number of connections on LinkedIn and the number of likes and comments on Facebook.

Can’t we do better?

Measure the Rainbow

Take, for example, sweet-maker Skittles. Its Facebook page has over a million fans and attracts head spinning numbers of likes and comments for each of its posts and status updates, but I’ve yet to see any news reports of increased sales.

Not all ‘likes’ were created equal and we must look deeper when assessing the success of a social media campaign. As with more traditional PR coverage, we must assess the quality of our results.

How long is a piece of PR?

Richard Bagnall, managing director of global PR measurement agency Metrica, gave an interesting presentation at the recent PRCA Technology Group discussion on PR programme evaluation outlining some of the challenges of social media measurement.

He ran a test of three social media monitoring companies by asking them to report on the same topic over a period of time. The performance of the three companies was assessed using a range of criteria including the number of results found, relevance of results and the accuracy of sentiment measurement.

All three companies performed differently at each stage of evaluation – Shockingly, there was only a 20% overlap in the results found by each of the three companies, a huge discrepancy before we even begin to assess the individual results found.

Out of the frying pan

There was overwhelming support at the AMEC European Summit on Measurement 2011 for the establishment of global social media measurement standards and judging by the quality of the solutions on the market today, this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Otherwise we may end up with another Advertising Value Equivalent on our hands, slaves to an inaccurate and unscientific measurement system, which tells us little about our actual performance as PR professionals.

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