Social Media Measurement Lags Behind in Rising Tracking Trend

Social media may have already made its way into mainstream communications but, according to the results of the PR News/BurrellesLuce Media Measurement and Analysis Survey, it hasn't broken through the measurement front--yet. The survey, which polled more than 600 communications professionals, revealed that nearly 30% of pros spend the most time measuring online media, but only in the context of traditional media outlets' online versions (,, etc.). As far as actual digital channels go, only 6.6% of respondents measure coverage on blogs, and even fewer--4%--incorporate social media into measurement and analysis efforts (for the full survey results, see page 2). This is a significant disconnect, especially considering the increasingly central role digital platforms play in connecting brands with target audiences. "Social media is now a mainstream phenomenon," says Curtis Hougland, CEO of Attention PR. "People no longer simply consume media, they create and share it; 45% of Internet users publish content and 82% participate in social media through links, social networks, applications, RSS, blogs, forums and aggregators. They are conversing about your company with or without you." Given this reality, why are so few communications execs measuring social media conversations about their brands? A general lack of knowledge is often cited as a reason, as is the lack of standard metrics that apply across the board. But these assumptions are more excuses than legitimate barriers to social media measurement because they don't take into account the wealth of measurable elements that are intrinsic to these channels, including key message pick-up, conversions and traffic to Web sites. Plus, there are the intangible benefits of social media engagement, which Hougland identifies as the following: Drives traffic through natural search and referring site URLs by generating inbound blog links and conversations. Engages new audiences. Inspires measurable brand advocacy and word-of-mouth. Improves performance of working media and extends value of traditional media. Manages reputations and messages across social media. "More communication takes place online, so more data is published," Hougland says. "This data enables greater measurement. More measurement equals greater accountability and transparency." Speaking of data: The vast majority of respondents (71%) consider audience figures to be very important when choosing how to collect the content they plan to measure. This is inconsistent with the media most focus on measuring, though, because it is far easier to gauge audiences online than in traditional media. What's more, approximately 58% of survey respondents report that built-in measurement capabilities are very important when deciding how to collect content. As far as cost considerations go, only one-quarter of respondents rated cost as most important when choosing means for collecting content. This does fall in line with social media measurement, because, according to Patrick McCrummen, American Red Cross' acting SVP of marketing and communications, "[Social media] data and metrics don't have to be expensive. Neither does analysis." (For a list of social media tracking tools, see sidebar.) Ultimately, communications executives should overlook social media measurement at their own risk, as it is increasingly becoming the best gauge of their target audiences' sentiment toward their brands. "You need to look at your media relations results in a holistic way," says Steve Shannon, EVP of BurrellesLuce. "Take the audience figures you can glean from social media and start tracking those. There's no reason you can't assess social media coverage for tone and message pick-up just as you would traditional media." The Bright Side While communications executives' comfort with social media measurement still appears to be lacking, the survey did offer some positive news: Almost half (49%) of respondents report that the time spent measuring media relations results has increased over the past year. This suggests that media measurement and analysis have been demystified enough to become central communications activities. "Increasingly, measuring the effectiveness of PR efforts is a mandate," Shannon says. "In the tough times that are ahead, this will become even more so. It's difficult to spend money on PR campaigns if you can't quantify results." Indeed, survey respondents identified the most valued type of media analysis report to be one that measures PR effectiveness. The only trouble with that, Shannon says, is the inability to pin down one clear definition of PR effectiveness. "The holy grail of PR effectiveness is what PR people want to show," he says. "But they need to define what that means to them, whether it's key message inclusion, tone, sales generated or leads generated." Regardless of the types of media being measured, the point of knowing what drives your own organization is key to effective measurement. "The primary goal is to make sure that you are measuring what is most important to your business objectives," McCrummen says. "And, evaluating impact is an essential part of the task." After PR effectiveness, survey respondents cited ROI, campaign evaluation, competitive benchmarking and reputation management as the most valuable media analysis reports, in that order. These are less nebulous than PR effectiveness, and they also share natural synergies with social media. Executives can test message effectiveness via SEO; reach big audiences with small budgets through viral marketing; and manage reputation risks by monitoring conversations in the blogosphere. No matter the path you choose, just follow Hougland's rule of engagement: "Join the conversation, or get out of the way." PRN CONTACTS: Steve Shannon,; Patrick McCrummen,; Curtis Hougland, PR News & BurrellesLuce Media Measurement & Analysis Survey 1. What type(s) of media relations measures would you consider relevant (check all that apply)? Target media coverage 15.6% Strategic messages 14.0% Impressions 13.0% Prominence 12.7% Favorability 11.9% Original vs. syndicated content 10.6% Share of ink 5.7% Story abstracts 4.3% 2. How important are these items when choosing how to collect the content you plan to measure (rate from 1 to 5, with 5 being most important)? a. Audience figures 5 34.8% 4 35.8% 3 16.5% 2 5.3% 1 6.3% No response 1.3% b. Comprehensiveness 5 21.2% 4 38.2% 3 26.5% 2 7.9% 1 3.7% No response 2.4% c. Cost 5 24.9% 4 24.4% 3 31.6% 2 9.7% 1 7.4% No response 1.9% d. Images of coverage 5 15.4% 4 28.6% 3 33.8% 2 12.8% 1 5.8% No response 3.6% e. Photos and graphics included 5 18.9% 4 25.9% 3 29.8% 2 15.9% 1 7.1% No response 2.4% f. Measurement included 5 26.4% 4 32.0% 3 24.1% 2 9.5% 1 5.0% No response 2.9% g. Text-only content 5 5.5% 4 16.8% 3 40.6% 2 21.7% 1 11.5% No response 2.9% 3. Of the media below, choose the two that you currently spend the most time measuring? Print 38.7%% Online media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) 29.7%% Broadcast 15.9% Blogs 6.6% Radio 4.0% Social Networks 4.0% Other 1.1% 4. What type(s) of media analysis report would your organization find of most value (pick four)? PR effectiveness 16.7% ROI 11.5% Campaign evaluation 10.6% Competitive benchmarking 10.4% Reputation management 8.8% Strategic planning 7.8% Social media impact 7.1% Issues management 6.9% Social media awareness 5.8% Expert effectiveness 4.7% Crisis management 4.0% Product evaluation 3.3% Forecasting 2.2% 5. Provide the estimated number of hours per month you and/or your department dedicate to media measurement: 1-5 hours 36.9% 5-10 hours 28.0% 10-15 hours 16.8% More than 20 hours 12.0% Zero hours 5.8% No response 0.5% 6. Has the time you've spent measuring your media relations results changed over the past year? Increased 49.2% Remained the same 42.7% Decreased 7.1% No response 1.0% Social Media Measurement Resources If you want to track conversations about your brand in the blogosphere, measure mentions on social networks, count downloads of your brand's customized widget or quantify "tweets" on Twitter, the following are just a few of the ever-growing number of tools at communicators' disposal: Technorati: Collective Intellect: Techrigy: BoardTracker: Linqia: Twing: Brandintel: Google Alerts: Addictomatic: Gigya: Widgetbox's Widget Syndication Metrics: Mixercast: MuseStorm: Tweeterboard: Tweetscan: Summize: Xinu: Blogpulse:

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