Measuring social media

In recent posts I’ve talked about social media and the great impact it’s having on the way we do PR. I’ve also discussed the Barcelona Principles and how I believe they are a sustainable set of tools that will help PR practitioners effectively measure their work.

Last week, the CIPR produced a detailed document that explained ways in which social media could be measured. The document aims to work alongside the recent research, planning and measurement toolkit that the CIPR launched in October 2010. Both documents aim to provide CIPR members with the most up-to-date ways of thinking and measuring their use of social media.

Like I’ve discussed previously, I believe PR practitioners should not only be identifying and monitoring tweets, Facebook likes and online conversations, they should also be getting involved in current conversations and initiating new ones with the aim of understanding how all of these interactions can have an impact on an organisation. For example, just because somebody has ‘liked’ your product or organisation doesn’t necessarily mean you have created a lasting ‘relationship’ with them. Ask anyone who ‘likes’ items on Facebook and I’ll guarantee they can’t tell you everything they are connected to! PR practitioners need to firstly understand why people operate like this on social media platforms and secondly find a way of measuring how effective each ‘like’ is.

The first point the document makes is that it depends entirely on what you have set out to achieve whether metric measurement will be interesting and most valuable to you. Not all social media can be effectively measured using metric techniques. They may tell us how many people have clicked a link but they don’t tell us what the reader thought of the information or whether it changed their opinion on the subject in question. An organisation needs to decide whether metric measurement would be an effective way of measuring social media use depending on the needs of their organisation.

Secondly, there will never be a set of concrete principles that will allow PR practitioners to effectively measure how successful an organisations use of social media has been or is. This is because as the document points out ‘each marketplace is unique, and as your organisation is unique, your strategy will be unique. And so, therefore, will be the suite of measures you design, deploy and manage by.’ No two organisations can use the same method of measuring social media when no two organisations will have the same social media strategy. I think this is a very good point to keep in mind! You can never compare how another organisation has achieved such results when your organisation could be using completely different platforms in completely different ways.

The document goes on to state points such as:

  • Social media measurement is a discipline, not a tool or a ‘single metric’
  • Evaluating quality and quantity is critical, just as it is with conventional media
  • Measurement must focus on ‘conversation’ and ‘communities’ not just ‘coverage’
  • Basic quantitative data is easy to measure – but not terribly valuable

Although quantity is valuable, quality is a lot more worthy and substantial when it comes to measuring social media. The quality of a ‘tweet’ is more beneficial to an organisation over the number of ‘likes’ their Facebook page has achieved over a period of time. Quality shows us exactly what our audience are saying or thinking about us, where as a metric number doesn’t really give us this information, it only tells us how many people have connected with us. As the fourth point states, metrics may be easy to be measure but they aren’t really valuable.

For more information on other suggested ways of measuring social media and to read the rest of the document click here . The document is also available on the CIPR website within the research, planning and measurement pages and is also available for non CIPR members to access until 11 April. After this date, the document will be incorporated into new Social Media Guidance for members which will be launched at the CIPR’s Social Media Conference.


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  1. Trackback: Measuring social media « The World of PR | Midia Social

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