Social media “struggling for effective metrics”

Posted on: August 11, 2008

After nearly a decade of social media, a new report from the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) has found that although it is clearly changing “the way we think about media and influence … [companies] are still struggling to find effective metrics for deciding who are the influential players” (p.16).


This is a refreshingly honest appraisal of where we are on measuring the effectiveness and impact of all those blogs, podcasts, websites and wikis. The report, New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations, also has a set of eight case studies which illustrate a wide range of measurements and non-measurements of outcomes.


For example, the world-famous Mayo Clinic has been encouraged by popularity of podcasts to expand its range of social media for health enquirers; Union Gospel Mission assiduously tracks online comment about it and engages with a new audience, but is unsure whether this engagement has the credibility of traditional media; whilst M/A/R/C Research can point to its CEO’s informative and quirky blog as creating opportunities for him to meet new audiences through writing and speaking. The case studies also show that a single metric for influence is a forlorn hope, as it is with traditional media.


The report summarises current measurement and evaluation practice as:


          Top criteria for determining the relevance or influence of a blogger or podcaster are quality of content, relevance of content to the company or brand, and search engine rank.

          For evaluating a person’s influence in online communities and social networks, the main measures are participation level, frequency of activity and prominence in the market or community.

          About half the surveyed communicators formally measure their social media activities. Their goals are “to enhance relationships, improve the reputation of their businesses, drive customer awareness of their online activities and solicit customer comments and feedback.” (p.16)


SNCR has reservations about the narrowness of current evaluation practices. It expresses surprise (its word) that, in evaluating influence generated by their own social media campaigns, practitioners placed more weight on “standard Internet measures like search engine ranking and website traffic … as being more useful in determining their organization’s own influence than audience awareness or bottom-line results. The popularity of the quantitative criteria was particularly intriguing because the benefits of conversation marketing have been widely touted to be brand awareness and customer satisfaction” (p.12). That is, volume was being measured at the expense of depth and interaction.


The way ahead is a more qualitatively-focused approach to measurement and evaluation of social media and influencers. Before an AVE is invented for social media, can PR people move on measurement of the conversation rather than over-interpret the peripheral data?


[Note: The author is a member of the Commission on Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation, whose host, the Institute for Public Relations, is a sponsor of the SNCR report. He was not involved in its research or writing.]


4 Responses to "Social media “struggling for effective metrics”"

Well, I agree though social media is a big hype but there is no metrics to substantiate its effectiveness!


The PR industry just has to get away from Marketing and marketing thinking.

After all, marketing as practised is an unmitigated failure and should be put back into the Stygian cage it came from. Which brilliant marketer was it that manufactured the credit crunch? Who is the genius marketer who managed to miss out the ‘market segment’ of billions of people who remain ‘poor’ across the continents during the 20th century boom in marketing? Who was the person looking at online metrics who did not understand the significance of Shirky’s book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ or Anderson’s ‘The Long Tail’ as well as many others (anyone read ‘Blown to Bits’ as a PR text?).

Corporately contrived consumer segments, brand values and that tribe of thinking that gave us communism, fascism and mass marketing to alleviate the pain of failed mass production is just so out of date.

To use reach, repetition and subservience as measures of PR is brilliant if you are Big Brother. Today, people counter Big Brother with transparency, porosity and human and technical agency. The old ogre is mortally wounded. Let him die.

Today, the commons is also a goddess fair and free in the networks of networks across many dimensions.

I know that the idea of many dimensions is hard to understand but the math has been with us for most of my life – it is common place. To ignore it, for a profession that has difficulty counting, is just a weak excuse and feeble minded.

The metrics are there, they are tougher than mere ‘page impressions’ or ‘Aves’ and its time to turn from those minds that were so heavily influenced by linear communication such as the telegraph, posters, Pathe News, the ‘miracle’ of two black and white TV channels and mass circulation newspapers.

All too soon, immersive experience will be a norm and then who will care a jot for reach?

Wrong dog, wrong bark, wrong tree and bad hearing.

[…] Social media “struggling for effective metrics” Just what is success and how do you measure it click here for the article […]

[…] 10, 2008 Tom Watson of the Dummyspit blog has brought to my attention a new report (pdf) from the Society of New Communication Research that […]

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