With more public relations programming occurring online than ever before, the measurement world seems increasingly seduced by readily available and increasingly sophisticated web analytics. Indeed, with respect to social media in particular, it seems the majority of thought leadership in measurement today is being driven by web analytics gurus and not measurement gurus (there are a few exceptions of course). No real problem here since web analytics add real value in understanding online behavior. They do a good job of understanding the what, the who and the where. And the cost is often quite low to obtain the data.
A concern with a singular emphasis on web analytics is they do not provide any real insights into the whys driving the behavior. What are people thinking when they interact with our content? Are we influencing the way they perceive the brand or company? What are the reasons they buy or not buy a product? These insights not only help us better measure our results, they help inform the development of better and more effective future programming.
I don’t see this as an either/or proposition. The best answer is both. And add in content analysis too as a diagnostic tool. A holistic, integrated social media/PR measurement approach that utilizes web analytics, content analysis and primary audience research adds measurement richness and provides valuable formative insights. All research/measurement is good. More is better. Holistic is best.