The following is an excerpt from Chapter 6, Social Media Metrics of the PR Measurement Guidebook, Vol. 5. To read more about the guidebook or to purchase a copy, click here.

3 Ground Rules for Social Analytics

As social media has emerged as a major campaign component, learning to drive and improve a variety of new KPIs is crucial for PR teams to prove their contributions to business goals. While it’s easy to get caught up with new and flashy tools, tracking social media’s effects against business goals requires long-term commitment.

Communications professionals are leveraging their skills into services that have critical importance to success in the shifted online landscape. Terms like community management, online influencer identification and outreach, content development and social media analytics have all been added to the PR practitioner’s jargon.

Israel Mirsky, executive vice president of emerging media and technology at Porter Novelli, says the metrics associated with new services tend to denote or connect to results closer to the moment of influence or purchase and have a fast turnaround.

Mirsky provides three ground rules for social media analytics:

1. Know What You’re Looking at

● You are not measuring the “overall” conversation— you are measuring the public online conversation.
● The Internet has no true borders—beware of “comprehensive” regional analysis.
● Do not accept an unqualified volume graph that hasn’t been swept for spam.
● Get and agree on the Boolean search that’s being used.

2. Trust No One But Yourself

● Start with a reputable provider. For a primary social media analytics tool, you should be paying at least $600 per month for one user seat license before analysis begins, even if volume is virtually zero. Any less and the data is virtually guaranteed to be poor.
● Don’t trust any vendor of social media analytics reporting that builds their own tools for aggregation—they have a strong interest in telling you that their tool is best at everything. No tool provider is best at everything.
● Don’t trust your social media vendors to tell you what they are good at—devise methods to test and compare them.
● It’s your responsibility to build your programs such that they are more measurable: unique names, making event URLs unique and facilitating the creation and incorporation of analytics findings.

3. Constantly Improve Your Methods

● Tie KPIs directly to business objectives or a clear proxy.
● Ensure your programs are designed to affect the KPIs you are aiming for.
● Decide on a timeline in which demonstrable effects should appear in KPIs.
● Prepare plans ahead of time to change the program if things aren’t working.
● Repeat.