Social Media Measurement on a Shoestring: Pay-to-Play Trend to Lead to Better Native Analytics

PR professionals use a plethora of social media channels for a variety of purposes. And numerous tools can measure and evaluate the effectiveness of social media and PR campaigns. They also can be used to measure and evaluate your competitors’ efforts. We asked several PR pros for tips on approaching social media measurement as well as how to measure competitors’ campaigns and apply lessons learned to your own work.

Tim Baker
Director of Digital Marketing & Acquisition, Amazon

No Money, No Problem: While Baker works for the world’s largest retailer, he didn’t always, so he’s sensitive to the needs of PR professionals at smaller companies who want to delve into social analytics. His contention: Social media measurement need not be an expensive proposition. “All the tools draw from the same data. The expensive ones provide more analysis. The free and less-expensive tools require you to provide more of the analysis.” But he cautions that expensive tools not only come with steeper price tags, they also demand more time. “There’s a cost in time spent” with expensive tools, he says. The time element, Baker argues, must be part of your calculation when choosing tools. While some bemoan the plethora of tools, he sees the situation as an opportunity. “With so many tools out there, competition is fierce. There’s a tool rolled out every week, it seems...So vendors want your business in this crowded market, which means you can sometimes negotiate a better deal.” That said, Baker feels strongly that PR pros ignore free tools at their peril. “You don’t always need to buy a tool.” He touts Facebook’s “robust” analytics and says “ Twitter is rolling out more [free tools].” He anticipates that as more channels become pay to play, they, too will offer tools. He mentions Snapchat and Instagram in this regard. “If you have someone on staff who’s really qualified and analytical, they can get by using inexpensive tools and free data,” he says.

In addition to time spent, decide what your goals are, he says. Are you using social to boost brand awareness? Generate leads? Amazon has used social for those purposes and others, Baker says, including learning how to improve communications and marketing. Amazon measures for quality of engagement and time spent on site, for example. When it works with influencers, it’s used analytics to measure the quality of followers a blogger has, he says. Once you know what your goals are, you will better be able to determine what data to measure, Baker adds.

Is There an Analyst in the House? But how to afford a data analyst on a small budget? Baker’s tip is to take advantage of vendors. “Many tools vendors have people on staff who know the tool inside and out and are available to help clients analyze data,” he says. They’re especially good for deeper analysis, he says. Baker also advocates hiring vendor staff “on a project basis…in a small firm you’re unlikely to need a full-time analyst,” he says. “A lot of vendors can be great partners.”

Mark Weiner
CEO, Prime Research

Competitive Benchmarking: Like Baker, Weiner advocates setting goals for measurement. Goals, he says, should be: Meaningful (to the business), measurable (able to be quantified) and reasonable. This last characteristic is where using competitive benchmarks is critical, he says. “You shouldn’t set goals and objectives without comparing them to competitive benchmarks or you run the risk of being way off,” he says. In addition, if senior executives say your goal should be 40, for example, and you feel it should be 10, if the competition is at 9, you can make a more compelling argument, he says.

What to Benchmark/When: It’s best to benchmark for yourself and the competition “what matters most to the business and PR’s ability to contribute to a meaningful business outcome.” And “the best way to begin is to ask about executives’ preferences. Which competitors? Which benchmarks? Once you’ve established the benchmarks…it’s wise to provide a preliminary landscape analysis showing the current state of play. With the benefit of senior executive feedback, one can steer PR investment decisions toward those benchmarks, which executives consider to be most important to the business.”


Jennifer Sunshine
Digital Channel & Communications Leader, GE Power & Water

Out of the Box: For Sunshine, competitive data goes beyond PR. “You should be looking at competitive analysis to determine how your product compares and to give your sales team insights,” she says. Sunshine believes in involving the product and marketing teams when setting up data collection. “You should be working as a broader team so that this data can be disseminated and people can take action on it,” she says. Senior leadership should be brought in when action needs to be taken based on the data, Sunshine adds.

CONTACT:,, @weinermark,

This article originally appeared in the October 12, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.