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Let’s Play 20 Questions: Social Media Measurement Style

1 Oct

On August 6, I gave a webinar for Carma, co-sponsored by PRNews called, Social Media Measurement at a Crossroads. The webinar focused on the current state of social media measurement with an emphasis on efforts to develop social media metrics standards. You may download the presentation courtesy of Carma here. There were many good questions asked by the webinar participants. I thought it might be fun to capture 20 of the questions and share the answers I gave in response. And it might be cool if you disagree with an answer, to share your different opinion in the comments.

Q1. What level of social media measurement do you think should be taught at Undergraduate level in PR or Communications degree courses?

A1. Most schools only require one research class in undergraduate education. In this class, all forms of research including measurement are covered. I think all schools should have one general research and analytics course and another specifically for measurement. I would cover traditional and digital in both courses with an emphasis on digital techniques.

Q2. What needs to happen for businesses to be able to integrate Communications Performance Management with Business Performance Management?

A2. Did Philip Sheldrake ask you to ask this question? Well, the first thing that would have to happen is for companies to start demanding it. I’ve not seen much demand for this. Once demand builds, smart people will figure out how to make it happen. The AMEC Social Media Measurement Committee is going to take on the challenge of developing a balanced scorecard approach to the social media valid framework to see where that takes us.

Q3. Speaking about social business, are you suggesting social media becomes the strategic imperative with marketing, customer service, PR, employee engagement subordinate?  So these functions will be driven by SM specialists?

A3. No, not at all. I think what we’ll see if that social media permeates all of these functions and creates new capabilities and connections between groups and between customers and companies. It is up to PR or HR people to learn something about social media, SM specialists are not going to take over the world.

Q4. Are the proposed standard social media metrics valid for native ads as well?

A4. I have not thought much about this, but my initial reaction is that the metrics for native ads would be same. A promoted tweet would have the same engagement metrics as any other tweet, although one would certainly hope the performance on some of the metrics would be better.

Q5. What do you mean when you say triage social media content for customer service and support?

A5. This would refer to evaluating and routing social content to different entities or people within an organization (customer care versus technical support versus legal, for example) that are best able to understand and act on the feedback and/or respond to the post.

Q6. Don, what do you put more emphasis on these days, Likes and Follows or Shares and Comments?

A6. I believe the emphasis should be on the stronger indications of engagement, shares and comments, than on simple Likes and Follows.

Q7. How well-known and widely accepted are the Conclave standards in the social space as a whole?

A7. The first complete set of standards were published in early June, 2013. They are known by social media measurement insiders, but I think it is fair to say they are not yet widely known. We need to promote their existence and use.

Q8. How would you measure perception and attitudes through social media?

A8. Generally we would measure consumer conversations about a topic and then do some analysis to see if there are clusters of comments that represent different and distinct viewpoints, attitudes or opinions about the issue or topic. We might also want to do an audience segmentation analysis to see how these attitudes differ by stakeholder group.

Q9. Any specific comments geared towards non-profit organizations?

A9. The basics of measurement – write measurable goals, align goals with organizational KPIs, assess performance against targets –  are the same for for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. How value is created is the primary difference.

Q10. Any suggestions to measure business impact for B2B organizations? Is there a way to understand the impact of social for B2B organizations?  

A10. Most B2B companies have a focus on sales leads. Therefore demonstrating how social is helping create leads or improve lead closure rates is important. There are a lot of uses of social listening in B2B companies as well – how the company is positioned on key issues, who is talking about the company, how products and services are being discussed, etc.

Q11. What are your favorite tools to use in terms of actually measuring your programs/channels/campaigns? Do you identify the tools as you are defining the metrics (do we have the ability to measure X, Y, Z?) or do you select tools after you define your metrics (this is what we need to know, let’s find A, B, C, solutions to measure these things?)?

A11. Generally Google Analytics, a social listening platform (Radian6, Brandwatch, Netbase, Visible, etc.), channel analytics programs like Facebook Insights and also Excel. Ideally you should define metrics first, then the data required for each metric, then look at the tools best able to get the specific data you need.

Q12. What are the most common or most surprising questions you have gotten from CMOs or other key stakeholders regarding social media measurement?

A12. CMOs want to know how social media contributes value to marketing – if they are sales funnel oriented they want to know how social is helping drive the funnel for example. They are also interested if you are helping on front-end or downstream funnel metrics.

Q13. What advice do you have for small businesses for use of and measuring success of social media campaigns effectively (few resources).

A13. Start with the free tools (Hootsuite, Excel, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Google Analytics) and then work your way up to some of the paid social listening platforms. There is no ‘best’ platform to start with – it really depends on your needs and what you intend to do with the platform. Many companies start with measuring their own channels and evolve to listening to earned/ shared social conversations.

Q14. Which social media analytics do the C-suite find most valuable?

A14. The C-suite don’t really care about social media analytics so much, They care about how social media is helping drive the business metrics forward. That said, C-level folks are usually interesting in competitive benchmarking in social and positioning on key issues and topics that are important to the business. Anything pertaining to online reputation is also an area of interest for many.

Q15. How do you determine what are the correct things to measure?

A15. Measure what matters to the organization. Measurement is about performance against objectives so make sure your measurement program is aligned with business objectives. Don’t measurement ‘social media’, measure what you are trying to accomplish with social media.

Q16. How can someone who is interested in the movement toward standard metrics get involved helping to move the PR industry forward? In other words, how can someone get involved in the debate?

A16. I would suggest interacting directly on the smmstandards.org website. Volunteer to help. Leave suggestions. You could also get involved through one of the PR associations – IPR, PRSA or CoPRF.

Q17. What software would you recommend be used by PR firms to most cost effectively measure social media efforts for clients?

A17. A good social listening platform, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and the other packages offered by the channels, and good old Excel. Beyond that it really depends on the nature of the social media effort.

Q18. I think a lot of the issue with measurement is confidence in the measurer (i.e., your source). Whenever you cross-reference measurements (e.g. what Google analytics says vs. what your web marketing automation says like HubSpot), you can get wildly different answers. That has stopped me from putting too much faith in my metrics process. Thoughts?

A18. I might separate the issue of the measurer from the sources of data – really two different issues. Regarding sources of data, this is a true issue in that different databases yield different estimates for things like audience size. Compete versus ComScore is a notorious example. However, I don’t think this is a reason to not measure. It simply means we must state assumptions and sources and be consistent over time in using comparable sources. I believe that standard metrics will eventually lead to sanctioned sources for audience data like Arbitron (now Nielsen Audio) for radio or Nielsen for TV.

Q19. Let’s say a social media post leads someone to a landing page, but they do not take immediate action. But they come back the next week and complete the conversion funnel. How do you credit the original social media post…is this a matter of tracking cookies for x number of days? What is practical?

A19. Yep, most people count the first click and then track for a period of time depending on the type of product. It gets even more complicated if you try to suggest there should also be credit given to what happened before the first social media click – for example, money invested in building the brand. Value attribution is an inexact science for sure, with lots of assumptions and compromises.

Q20. What are best ways to measure target audience reach and engagement rather than wide general reach?

A20. Thanks for asking this. The best way to measure is to clearly define your target. If the target is Females 18 – 34, then you should only take credit for reach and engagement of this specific audience only. Given that most tools rely on voluntary bio data, the information is inconsistent and difficult to come by.

Thanks for reading. @Donbart

A New Framework for Social Media Metrics and Measurement

12 Jun

Last week in Madrid, AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications) held their 5th European Summit on Measurement. This one was entitled, Unlocking Business Performance – Communications research and analytics in action. One underlying premise of the program this year was that the time for talk is behind us and the time for action and putting into place the principles and practices of sound measurement is upon us. The later part of the program featured an update from Salience Insight Commercial Director Mike Daniels on social media standards including the recently published standardization effort from the cross-industry group called The Conclave which may be found here.

Once Mike discussed where we are with respect to standardization, Richard Bagnall (@richardbagnall), Chairman of the AMEC Social Media Measurement Group, and I as his vice-chair, presented a session on creating a new recommended framework for social media metrics and measurement. Essentially we tried to answer the question: how do we take the standards work coming from The Conclave and operationalize it to create proper social media measurement? Here is an overview of what we presented and what we are encouraging everyone to adopt and use. The framework templates, usage guide and a short video synopsis will be available for download from the AMEC website, Social Media Measurement section, in the next week or so.

Valid Metrics Framework and Social Media

Our journey begins with the Valid Metrics Framework, a measurement planning framework and template developed under the auspices of AMEC. The framework was designed to be flexible enough to address multiple aspects of public relations within a consistent measurement framework and approach.

VMFII

Some of the most positive aspects of the Valid Metrics Framework are that it:

  • Provides a mechanism to link activities to outputs to outcomes
  • Tracks through the familiar sales funnel
  • Helps create a focus on outcomes.

One of the applications of the Valid Metrics Framework was for use with social media programs. Two potential issues were surfaced by early adopters of the framework in social programs. The intermediary effect, which in traditional public relations is the impact on the media, seemed at odds with the social world of direct interaction between consumers and brands, and consumers with each other. And use of the marketing sales funnel, while familiar, was only relevant in a percentage of social media use cases and perhaps not the best way to model common uses of social media like customer relations and building relationships with stakeholder groups. Also, thought leaders like Forrester Research and McKinsey & Company had noted the traditional communications funnel was not necessarily funnel-shaped in social media. They described the discovery process that occurs when investigating companies and brands that often cause the consideration set to expand rather than be reduced, and the fact that a lot of engagement around brands happens post-conversion event. For all of these reasons our task was develop and recommend a better framework and approach.

Models and Frameworks

When we use the word model, we are referring to a representation of a system, in this case social media. In the original Valid Metrics Framework, the model used was the traditional sales funnel. A framework adds additional dimensions to the model and is operationalized with metrics. In the Valid Metrics Framework the additional dimensions are the phases – activities, intermediary effects and target audience effects. We looked at both of these aspects individually and collectively when considering alternative approaches.

We studied and evaluated about fifteen different social media and communications models. A couple of common patterns emerged. Several of the models, including Forrester’s Customer Lifecycle and McKinsey’s Customer Journey showed a post-purchase engagement/experience step. We judged this important to include in our recommended approach. And we considered the importance of Engagement and Influence, as two key concepts in social media marketing and measurement, and decided to try to make these two elements explicit in our model as well.

Suggested Social Media Metrics Model

The model we developed is derivative of the categories chosen by The Conclave (Note: Richard Bagnall and I also participate in The Conclave) to organize social media metrics and definitions. We took a slightly different perspective on the front end of the model and reordered the back-end to create this model for our new framework. The descriptions of the stages use the definitions from the smmstandrards.org work wherever possible.

New Model

You will note Engagement includes both interactions with owned social channels as well as earned social conversation of people ‘talking about you’ in social channels. The definition of Influence is clear and concise, the result of a lot of discussion and prevailing clear thinking. The concept of Impact includes the outcomes of social initiatives as well as the Value those initiatives created. (I usually advise to always attempt to measure impact, and attribute value when it is feasible and makes sense.) Advocacy includes a very helpful definition and conditions that exist with advocacy.

Creating the Framework

To create the framework, we explored various ways to address the ‘phases’ of the Valid Metrics Framework. Two ideas stood out:

  • Use a simple structure that captures social media metrics from three key perspectives – programmatic-level, channel-specific and business. Programmatic metrics are those directly tied to social media objectives. Channel-specific metrics are just that, the metrics that are unique to specific social channels – tweets, RTs, Followers, Likes, Talking About This, Pins, Re-Pins. Business metrics are used to show the business impact of the campaign or initiative.
  • Use Paid, Owned, and Earned media metrics for integrated programs containing these elements. Borrowing the definitions from Forrester, Paid are social channels you pay to leverage (e.g. promoted tweets, display ads), Owned are channels you own and control (e.g. website, Facebook page) and Earned is where customers become the channel (e.g. WOM, viral)

There are certainly other ways to think about this (e.g. Business Performance Management) and we intend to possibly add others based on industry feedback and suggestions.

The AMEC Social Media Valid Framework

Currently we have developed both versions with sample metrics (taken from the smmstandards.org work where applicable). We are calling them The AMEC Social Media Valid Framework. Here is the version with Program, Channel and Business Metrics shown.

Valid Metrics Framwork

Where Do We Go From Here?

Look for the completed frameworks on the AMEC website shortly. We encourage you to adopt the frameworks for use by your company or clients. If you like them and find them useful, please help promote them widely. And please provide your feedback on the proposed framework on this blog, or through the social channel of your choice. We’re listening and looking forward to the dialogue.

Time to Get Real About Social Media Audience Reporting

12 Jun

Though almost everyone would agree that social media is about engagement and not eyeballs, too much of digital and social media measurement is focused on audience size. How many Followers do we have? How can we get a million Likes? How many unique visitors did we have to our site this month? And unfortunately, audience size estimates in social media grossly overstate the actual relevant audience. We seem fixated and oriented toward ‘how many’, while our focus should be on ‘who’ and specifically, ‘who within our target audience’. Generally speaking, the advertising industry has led the way with audience measures and is ahead of where the public relations and social media camps are with respect to level of sophistication.

In television advertising, the concept of Target Rating Points is a refinement of Gross Rating Points where you only measure and get ‘credit’ for the percentage of the gross audience that meets your target audience criteria. In an effort to keep refining the audience data available, Nielsen has evolved from diary-based data to electronic data to software at the set-top box level that allows operators to monitor channels choices and changes. In audio-based media, Arbitron’s Portable People Meter recognizes today’s mobile world and begins to address cross-platform measurement. It is also interesting to reflect on the U.S. Congressional involvement in television audience ratings accuracy (or lack thereof as it were) that led to the formation of what is now known as the Media Rating Council in the early 1960’s. The time has come for social media audience research to greatly increase in sophistication, accuracy and relevance.

When we think about social media audience size measures today, the emphasis is on Opportunities To See (OTS), although almost never by this name. We might call them Impressions or Reach, but what we really mean is how many people had the potential to see this content item. There are two overarching issues here:

  • Opportunities to see are not the same as actually seeing
  • The metrics count all possible members of the audience, regardless of whether or not they are part of the targeted audience or can even buy the product or service.

OTS is also a prevalent metric in the public relations industry which has always focused on stating the highest possible audience measures. In traditional media we know the probability of any one person in the audience actually seeing the article in question is a fraction of the total audience – a reasonable estimate is 10% or less. So OTS greatly overstates the actually number of people who saw a given article. To compound the audience overstatement, we have the practice of using audience multipliers to ‘credit’ earned media for either a perceived credibility advantage over advertising or to account for pass-along circulation (see this IPR white paper for more on multipliers). Thankfully the practice of applying multipliers (and its evil cousin AVEs) is out of favor and rapidly on a path toward extinction.

In social media one can make the case the audience metrics situation is actually exacerbated in that the probability of any one follower seeing any one tweet, for example, is most likely an order of magnitude less than in earned media – my guesstimate is 1% or less. Before you call BS on this guesstimate, play around with a few Twitter factoids – the recent Pew Research study suggesting only 8% of Twitter users use it daily, the perishable nature of most individual’s twitter streams, and the fact that a reasonably high percentage of Followers of a brand are bots, and the reality is that only a small fraction of twitter followers actually see tweets, let alone find it interesting enough to share or comment on. And, of course, not all Facebook Likes see every post you make either. Riffing on the old, ‘if a tree falls in the forest…’, if you tweet into the twitterverse and no one sees it does it make an impact?

Evolving from ‘opportunities to see’ to ‘relevant audience’ measures.

Most social media campaigns have a specific target audience in mind, often described with demographics (Female, age 18 – 34), psychographics (who worry about feeding their family healthy food on a budget) and behavioral (access deal and coupon sites regularly) dimensions. Yet when it comes to reporting and measurement we take credit for the entire audience (total OTS) rather than the percentage of the audience that meets our targeting criteria. Trying to promote lingerie to 22 – 29 year old ladies? No worries, count all your Twitter Followers and all the visitors to your website – the men, the young and the old – everybody counts. Trying to sell camo clothing to male hunters? No worries, everybody counts – male, female, hunters, non-hunters and PETA members, too. Of course this all seems a little silly and strange and I suppose it would be if it wasn’t the way most social audience reporting is done today. It is unusual to see someone in social media, or PR for that matter, report only the relevant audience opportunities to see. Why is this? I believe there are three primary reasons:

  1. Legacy – the PR industry has historically reported gross potential audience size rather than the relevant audience size. When social media came around, this same orientation toward gross audience measurement was used.
  2. Data – there is a lack of consistent social media demographic and psychographic audience data available and it often resides in channel silos rather than cross-platforms. And often the audience data from one platform (e.g. ComScore) does not match the data available from another platform (e.g. Compete).
  3. Standards – there are no standards for social media audience metrics and no codified best practices for audience measurement.

Where do we go from here?

First, we need a change in mindset of how we think about audiences. From ‘how many people theoretically had the potential to see our content’ to ‘how many of the people we were targeting actually saw our content’. Big audience numbers are irrelevant. Relevant audience numbers are big.

Next, as the demand for audience data that contains demographic, psychographic and behavioral data grows, it is reasonable to assume one or more of the large media data companies might start to aggregate and make the data available. Privacy concerns, cookies and other issues are also in play here.

And last but not least, industry standards for social media audience and engagement metrics and definitions are necessary for transparency and replicability that will increase credibility of social media measurement and reporting. 2012 will go down as the year that serious cross-industry progress on social media metrics standards began and gained momentum. There has already been a lot of progress (See this post from Katie Paine), and this week in Dublin at the 4th AMEC European Summit on Measurement the theme is around attempting to define standards for social media metrics and measurement. To tune into the debate as it occurs in Dublin, monitor #SMMStandards and #AMEC2012.

What  are your thoughts on the need for social media metrics standards and the use of target rather than gross audience size estimates?

Three Fundamentals of Great Social Media Measurement

20 Feb

If you want to evaluate the robustness and effectiveness of your approach to social media measurement, ask yourself these three fundamental questions:

  • Does the approach measure the ‘right’ things in order to show the business impact of the programs and initiatives? 
  • Will stakeholders of the report receive the data and actionable insights required to make strategic decisions?
  • Are the data and insights presented in a clear and concise manner that tells a story and makes it easy to understand and act upon?

Measuring the ‘Right’ Things

Social media metrics are derived from three primary sources:

Ideally, a robust social media measurement program will have a rich metrics set that contains metrics from all three areas. Metrics tied to program objectives allow for direct measurement of program success. Fundamentally, measurement is about assessing performance against objectives. It is surprising how often social program objectives are slanted toward channel-specific metrics (e.g. Likes or Followers) and not the specific outcomes desired for the program – what you hope to accomplish by implementing the program. Also, relying too heavily on channel metrics limits you to what you can measure rather than what you should measure. Business outcome metrics are used to connect the dots between social media programs and the business results they are designed to drive. Social programs that cannot answer, or at least address, the management question, “How is this impacting my business”, are more susceptible to resource allocation scrutiny (#pleasecutmybudget). Stated another way, if management asks how we’re doing in social media and we reply, “great, post virality is up 6.1% this month”, we make it difficult for that individual to understand how social media/business initiatives are helping move the business forward.

Getting to Data and Insights that Inform Strategic Decisions

Expectations for social media measurement and analysis have risen. In addition to sound analysis and reporting of performance against key metrics and KPIs, understanding audience dynamics and developing actionable insights are rapidly becoming de rigueur. Insights may be defined as synthesizing and interpreting data to provide actionable information and knowledge that informs strategic decisions. Too many social media measurement programs take a social-centric rather than a business-centric approach to insights. They often feature insights and recommendations that are tactical in nature – the best time of day or how many times to tweet, or what type of content seems to be most successful. Ideally, insights and recommendations in social measurement reports would be operating one level above this, informing strategic decisions about how social programs and conversations are impacting, or could impact, the business. To do this requires an understanding of the business function (e.g. marketing, customer service) impacted by the social program and an ability to ask the right questions prior to starting a social media analysis. 

For example, let’s say Company X plans to introduce a new video game. A social listening program has been implemented to analyze the early consumer reaction to the game. Based on the listening analysis, changes to the packaging, marketing or even the product itself are possible. If you are in charge of the marketing campaign for the game, what are the types of social media insights you need to make decisions about the game and the marketing campaign?

  • What is the level of buzz about the game?  What is the overall sentiment? How does this compare to previous game launches?
  • What are people talking about in social media – availability, cost, specific features of the game, packaging, marketing campaign?
  • What features of the game do consumers seem to like most?  Least? Specifically, what do they like or dislike?
  • What are the most influential gaming enthusiasts saying about the product?
  • Who are the promoters and detractors? What is the ratio of promoters to detractors? How does this compare to promoters and detractors from previous game launches?
  • How much social media conversation contains recommendations or expresses purchase intent?  How does this compare to previous launches?

Answering these types of questions provides actionable insights that provide context and can inform strategic marketing decisions.          

Presenting Results

Dashboards have gotten a bit of a bad rap – not because dashboards are not useful, but because some have used them as THE measurement report rather than just one aspect of a good report. I’m a dashboard proponent for a few reasons:

  • Deciding which metrics to feature on a dashboard is a good strategic exercise requiring you to focus on the very most important and relevant metrics for the intended audience
  • Online, dynamic dashboards are an effective user interface that can be used as a launching- off point for drilling into data to understand the underlying story
  • Good dashboards present a snapshot of overall performance that is easily absorbed and understood.   

A dashboard-driven social media measurement report is versatile and effective in many situations. A typical report might consist of one of more dashboards and then a deeper dive on each of the key metrics featured on the dashboards, along with audience insights, strategic insights and recommendations. This format provides a quick snapshot (dashboard) of results, ideal for those stakeholders interested only in topline data, and provides sufficient depth to satisfy those more interested in the underlying drivers of the metric  

Social media measurement programs that are built around metrics tied to business outcomes and show how programs are performing against objectives are important. Reports that deliver clear insights that inform strategic decisions are important. And delivering those reports in a compelling format that enhances usability and effectiveness is important. How do your programs stack up?

Bringing Some Clarity to Social Media Influence

10 Dec

The emphasis on influencer marketing in social media has reached a fever pitch in 2011 and with it a flood of tools and opinions on how to navigate the influence waters. This is interesting in that one of the most powerful aspects of social media marketing is the ability to establish connections and relationships directly with prospects and customers and not have to go through an intermediary to communicate. But we’ll leave that to the social strategists to reconcile and justify. Influencer marketing is hardly a new strategy. Through the years, much work in traditional public relations utilized influencer targeting (e.g. market analysts, financial analysts, KOLs, other customers) to help amplify and endorse a brand or a company’s products and services. So why is there so much discussion and confusion about influence in social media? Let’s explore.       

Influence Basics

A definition I like for influence is: effecting change in another person’s attitudes, opinions, beliefs and/or behavior. I believe the most overlooked word in this definition is change.  Without change influence has not truly occurred. One challenge here is influence can happen without any resulting short-term observable action. Influence takes hold primarily between the ears, not necessarily with hand on mouse or wallet. This creates fundamental challenges when trying to measure the degree to which influence has occurred.

Another challenge we face is that influence is contextual not absolute. People who influence others do so primarily in areas where they have specific expertise or authority. It is common to be influential in one area but have little or no influence in others. One of the main issues with current influence tools are they do a relatively poor job of establishing contextual relevance.

The distinction between creating influence within a target audience and who/what has influence over the target has a tendency to get muddled. To clarify, determining who has the potential to influence the target audience, (the influencers), is a targeting question. Have we created influence, (changed attitudes, opinions, beliefs and/or behavior) is a measurement question.   

Influence is purposeful. In real life or digital life, when we set out to change the opinion, attitude, beliefs or behavior of another person or group, we do so with a downstream motivation – for them to take a specific action. The list of possible actions is lengthy – buy a product, visit a website, tell a friend, vote, wave a sign and donate to name a few. Of course, not all desired actions are equal in terms of amount of influence required for change. Opinions might be easier to change than an attitude. An attitude is easier to change than a belief. Behavioral change can range from relatively easy to nearly impossible depending on the specific behavior. In marketing, the ultimate behavior or action we try to influence is purchase behavior. It is important to think through the specific actions you hope the target will take as a result of being influenced. This is also the sweet spot for influence measurement.

While creating an action/behavior change is the ultimate reason for influencing someone, it is helpful to think of the process of influence as two stages – opinion, attitude or belief change – and then, because of this change, did an action occur or was a behavior changed. Stated another way, the opinion change is an intermediate or micro outcome and the desired action is a final or macro outcome. Depending on the type of purchase decision there may be a time lag between the micro and macro outcomes that make it difficult to connect the dots. In his book The Business of Influence, Philip Sheldrake presents a concept called the “Maturity of Influence Approach”. Basically it melds two important concepts to use when thinking about influence measurement – focus on the influence, not the influencer (Philip refers to this as “influence-centric), and to start at the macro outcome/action and trace the path of influence back to the source(s) of influence. One simple example of this in a B2B context would be to ask the prospect at the time they are ready to make a purchase, “what sources of information or opinion were most valuable to you in making your decision to buy our product?” A similar question or two can be asked using a pop-up survey in an ecommerce situation. 

Influence and Engagement Confusion

A primary source of influence confusion is failing to distinguish between a simple act of engagement and the process of being influenced. If someone in my Twitter stream sends out a tweet and I retweet it, have they influenced me to retweet or have I simply engaged with that individual’s content? Many who have written about social media influence have suggested that in RTing the tweet, I have been influenced to do so. I do not believe that is the case. I have engaged with the content, but have there been any true changes in my attitudes, opinions, beliefs or behavior? Again, the operative word here is change. Does the act of RTing constitute a behavioral change? Probably not. Engagement – yes, influence - no.

Engagement is a necessary pre-condition to Influence. (This social media measurement model addresses the distinction) Without engagement you don’t have the opportunity to influence. Influence, however, only occurs if that engagement leads to a change in attitudes, opinions, beliefs and behavior.   

Influence, Popularity and Celebrity Confusion

There also seems to be some confusion about the difference between influence, popularity and celebrity. Although related, and in some cases overlapping, they are three distinct concepts. In my opinion, at least some of the confusion stems from Klout and other influencer tools that seem to measure popularity but call it influence. So what is the difference?

Popularity is the state of being popular – widely admired, accepted or sought after.

Celebrity is a famous person, renown and fame. 

If popularity is about being well-liked and celebrity is about being well-known, influence is more about being well-respected, with associations like knowledge, persuasion and trust. Some of the confusion lies in the fact that some celebrities do have influence over the types of behaviors that make the cash register ring. Oprah comes to mind. Other celebrities, while very popular, don’t really have the ability to create meaningful influence. They can get content re-tweeted (WINNING!) but do they have any influence over the types of actions brands really value?

Keeping Online Influence in Perspective  

As we discuss the intricacies of digital influence we should also keep in mind the majority of influence occurs in the analog world. I’ve seen estimates ranging from 70 – 90% of influence occurring by offline WOM. It’s personal. It’s about real family and friends and not Twitter friends. Influence is about a relatively small number of people (Dunbar’s Number suggests humans have a finite cognitive capacity to have around 150 social relationships with other humans), and not mass influence. The fact that most influence happens offline presents another significant measurement challenge.

In summary, I’ll leave you with a few sound bites on social media influence:

  • Influence is about change
  • Engagement leads to influence
  • One can be popular but not influential
  • Measure the influence not the influencer
  • Don’t forget offline when measuring online influence.

Thanks for reading.  See it a different way?

Measurement 2020 and Other Fantasies

23 Sep

At the 3rd European Summit on Measurement held in Lisbon in June 2011, standardization, education, ROI and measurement ubiquity emerged as the key themes in response to a call to set the Measurement Agenda 2020.  Delegates to the conference voted on 12 priorities they thought were most important to focus on in the period leading up to 2020.  The top four vote-getters became the Measurement Agenda 2020:

  1. How to measure the return on investment of public relations (89%)
  2. Create and adopt global standards for social media measurement (83%)
  3. Measurement of PR campaigns and programs needs to become an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit (73%)
  4. Institute a client education program such that clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programs (61%)

For a very nice overview of the Lisbon session and the Barcelona Principles that came before, read this post from Dr. David Rockland of Ketchum who chaired the Barcelona and Lisbon sessions.  David pretty much said it all on these sessions, so I’ll just add a couple of comments and share a few thoughts on what I believe the future of measurement 2020 could be.

The rallying cry coming out of Barcelona has been focused and loud – death to AVEs!  Will there be a similar thematic coming out of Lisbon and what might it be?  My money is on standardization, borne out of cross-industry cooperation.  As David points out in his post, and in the words of AMEC Chairman Mike Daniels, “The Summit identified some significant challenges for the PR profession to address by 2020.  However, what we also accomplished in Lisbon beyond setting the priorities was to harness the commitment and energy of the industry to agree what we need to do together.”  The current cooperation and collaboration between industry groups – AMEC, Institute for Public Relations, PRSA and the Council of PR Firms is unprecedented in my time in this industry and is focused on tangible outcomes.  Cross-organization committees are already at work developing standard metrics for social media measurement for example.  The spirit of cooperation is uplifting.  While the outward thematic appears to be standardization, cooperation is the enabling force.  

I was also struck by the symmetry of the call to end AVEs in Barcelona and the call to codify ways to measure ROI in Lisbon.  One follows the other.  In my opinion the primary reason AVEs exist is because PR practitioners feel pressure to prove the value of what they do, and quite often they are asked to describe the impact in financial terms.  AVEs are perceived as a path of least resistance way to express financial value.  Except, as we all know, AVEs don’t really have anything to do with the impact public relations creates.  They are a misguided proxy for financial value.  Hence the need for research-based methods to determine true return on investment.

All of the priorities coming out of Lisbon are excellent goals for the industry.  And like David Rockland, I believe they will be achieved, and be achieved before 2020.  Here are three other items on my wish list for Measurement 2020:

Word of Mouth/Word of Mouse Integration: For those of us focused in social media and other digital technologies, we can’t allow our digital lens to color what is fundamentally an analog world.  Research studies suggest the majority of word of mouth happens in real life.  From an influence perspective, I don’t think too many would argue that word of mouth from a trusted friend or family member is more powerful than word of mouse from someone you follow on Twitter.  Digital cross-platform research is difficult enough, but when one huge platform is ‘real life’, we have significant challenges in measurement.  WOMMA and others have made early attempts to define measurement approaches for offline WOM, but much work remains.  We need ways to assess its impact and then we need to think about ways to attribute value to that impact.  Mobile is a wild card here as it becomes the preferred platform for online activity.  The need to triangulate online, mobile and ‘real life’ measurement presents significant challenges today, and may still by 2020.

Cookie Wars: We all know the measurement versus privacy showdown is coming, right?  The first shots have already been fired.  The collection of source-level personal data, enabled by cookies, is crucial to measurement and insights but has the potential for misuse or unintended disclosure.  Some sophisticated consumers have had their fill of cookies.  Although the broader issue might be framed as social sharing versus privacy control, how it plays out will have a direct impact on digital analytics and measurement.

Integrated Measurement across the Paid Earned Shared Owned (PESO) Spectrum: Measurement has increasingly become integrated.  It began with integrated traditional (Earned) and social media (Shared) measurement and then progressed rapidly to Earned, Owned and Shared, which is where most integrated measurement programs are today.  Many leading-edge integrated programs today also include advertising or Paid media.  By 2020, integrated measurement across the PESO spectrum will most likely be the norm and not the exception.  A key enabling element here in my view is some base level of agreement on how each area should be measured and standard metrics for each.  It will take significant cooperation between industry groups, vendors, agencies and major customers/clients for cross-discipline standardization to move forward effectively.  We are at the beginning of this movement in 2011.  By 2020, it will be fascinating to look back and see how all this plays out.

When looking ahead to 2020, I am reminded of a measurement discussion pulled together by PRWeek a couple of years ago.  Many of the Measurati attended.  In response to a question of where measurement will be in five years, David Rockland replied (paraphrasing here), ‘Who knows?  Five years ago who would have guessed we would all be focused on how to measure social media?’  So, there is a certain fantasy element to discussing 2020 challenges in measurement.  What are your measurement fantasies?

Selecting the Right Social Media Listening Platform is a Process Not an Event

17 Sep

It is not difficult to find a social media listening platform – there are over 100 to choose from.  What is difficult is to find the right tool.  It takes a keen understanding of scope and requirements.  It takes an evaluation and selection process that will surface the best platform to fully meet your  requirements.  And it takes a well thought-out process for deploying the platform across the organization in an effective and efficient manner.   There are many questions to be asked and answers to be given.  Asking the right questions at the right time is crucial.

It is helpful to think of the overall listening platform selection process in three phases:

  1. Plan – Define requirements, stakeholders, scope
  2. Select – Create a platform evaluation process tailored to your unique requirements
  3. Deploy – The selected platform across the organization with training, workflow and other important issues addressed.
To read the rest of this post and to download the free eBook, Social Media Listening Platforms: How to select and deploy the right social media listening tools for your company, please click here.

AVEs Don’t Describe the Value of Media Coverage, They Sensationalize It.

26 Jun

Saturday, Wall Street Journal columnist Carl Bialik, The Numbers Guy, addressed the subject of advertising value equivalency (AVE).  This is perhaps the first example of a mainstream media publication shining a light of the controversial practice of AVEs.  (You can read the story here.)

The primary reason advertising value equivalents exist are because they are perceived to be a way to attribute value to programs that would otherwise be difficult to value directly.  They are a path of least resistance approach to return on investment calculations, but not a valid one.  Let’s take a deeper dive into the three specific examples in the WSJ story, ask the tough questions and discuss more valid ways to think about value attribution and ROI.

American Airlines  

You can enjoy both questionable valuation techniques and hyperbole in this article.  American Airlines stands to “make boatloads of cash” and “the airline company could gain as much as $95.9 million of exposure”.  Of really, let’s take a closer look.

The most incredible part of this financial calculation is the financial calculation itself.  The calculation is apparently based on sign placement within the arena and presumably the ‘impressions’ the brand will receive when people attending the venue see the signage and when TV cameras catch the signs when showing the scoreboard or during the action.  This is a very passive form of advertising that should have as its objective either creating top of mind awareness or perhaps creating more brand affinity.  Rather than using an advertising equivalency model that has no validity, a true measurement of the value created by naming rights would ask a series of questions designed to determine the actual, tangible (or even intangible) impact on the business:

  • Revenue: Can incremental revenue generation in the form of higher passenger miles be directly attributed to the exposure created by the naming rights?  Is it possible that incremental revenue would actually be realized on a game by game basis, or would any positive impact be realized over a longer time horizon?  Have new customers been created as a direct result of the exposure generated by the naming rights?
  • Brand: Can the increased exposure lead to people perceiving the brand differently and can the difference translate into higher transactional revenues generated or increased brand loyalty?

So where exactly are the ‘boatloads of cash’ American Airlines made?  Are they hitting the income statement in the form of incremental revenue or enhanced brand loyalty (repeat business)?  Are they residing on the balance sheet in terms of brand goodwill?  Given that American’s parent company AMR lost $11.5B dollars in the first decade of the 21st century, its last profitable year was 2007 and they are projected to lose money in 2011 and 2012, they could use the cash.  Perhaps they could use it to fund a ’bags fly free’ program or for enhancing their Advantage program to create more brand loyalty.  I would strongly suspect American’s shareholders would prefer a do-over on the investments made on naming rights to the ‘boatloads of cash’ they are now enjoying from the investment.

Couple Won’t Cash In on Kiss

15 minutes of fame is rarely worth $10 million.  In this case, the celebrity agent is suggesting the news value of the coverage generated by the kiss is somehow equivalent to advertising value and assigns what appears to be an arbitrary and ridiculously high value to it.  (He later admits he just made the number up.)  Just how was the couple going to monetize their 15 minutes of fame?   Yes, they turned down a few talk show opportunities and perhaps the National Enquirer would have thrown a few dollars their way for an exclusive, but the assertion that any major brand would have paid them to endorse their product is wildly speculative.  I would guess that if you did a survey after the event, a small number of people would remember seeing the coverage, and a very small percentage of the people who did see it would have recalled Scott Jones’ name.  So perhaps Mr. Jones walked away from tens of thousands of potential dollars in the short-term, but nowhere near the sensationalized estimate of $10 million.  15 minutes of fame might be worth 10 thousand dollars, but certainly not $10 million.

Obama Enjoys a Guinness

So Guinness is a winner and received $20 million worth of “free publicity”?  What was the outcome of the publicity?  Again, in order to determine the value of the “free publicity” (this term is despised in the PR industry by the way), Guinness would have to be able to measure incremental revenues directly attributable to the publicity generated.  Did sales of Guinness increase as a result?  Were new customers created?  Did existing customers feel compelled to drink even more?  What was the value of the incremental sales?  These are much more difficult questions to answer but are the correct ones to ask in order to measure the publicity.  Not by focusing on the mythical value of the coverage as measured by flawed advertising equivalency, but measuring the outcome or what happened as a result of the publicity.  The assertion that President’s Obama’s image was softened and will help keep him in the public’s favor is highly dubious thinking.  Perhaps it helps him in Boston, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a Presidential image non-event.

Beginning last Summer in Barcelona,  the public relations industry has come together to publicly state advertising value equivalency is not a valid measure of public relations.  The so-called Barcelona Principles are explicit against AVEs and also call for a focus on measuring outcomes and not (just) outputs.  While it will take some time for the PR industry to totally leave AVEs behind, there is a lot of momentum right now to make this happen sooner rather than later.  No serious measurement effort can use advertising value equivalency to attribute value and be credible.  

Social Media Listening Platforms – Plan, Select, Deploy (Part One – Plan)

19 May

It is not difficult to find a social media listening platform/tool – there are over 100 to choose from.  What is difficult is to find the right tool.  It takes a keen understanding of your scope and requirements.  It takes an evaluation and selection process that will surface the best platform to fully meet your requirements.  And it takes a well thought-out process for deploying the platform across the organization in an effective and efficient manner.   There are many questions to be asked and answers to be given.  Asking the right questions at the right time is crucial.

It is helpful to think of the overall process in three phases:

Plan – Define requirements, stakeholders, scope

Select – Create a platform evaluation process tailored to your unique requirements

Deploy – The selected platform across the organization with training, workflow and other important issues addressed.

This three-part series will tackle each phase one at a time.  First up – Plan.

In many ways, the planning phase is the most important.  Overlook an important detail here and you may or may not be able to overcome it later.  Here are ten topic areas to discuss within your organization to make sure you are setting yourself up for success.

  1. Stakeholders – What are the primary stakeholder groups within my company or organization?  Possible stakeholder groups might include marketing, corporate communications and customer service/care at the macro level.  Depending on the size of your organization, various regions, divisions, groups or product lines may also be distinct stakeholder groups.  Once you have identified the primary stakeholders, set up time to meet with each group.  Understand how they currently use social listening tools and what, from their perspective, are ‘must have’ capabilities versus ‘nice to have’ capabilities in a social listening platform.  Ask each stakeholder group the applicable questions from the list below.
  2. Geographic Scope – What languages and countries are stakeholders interested in including in the platform?  Try to understand the relative priority of each country and language.  Also be sure to comprehend future requirements.  For example, if Chinese is not a priority today but will be within two years, you may want to only consider listening platforms that support two-byte languages.  Also probe to assess if social media content will need to be translated into other languages.  This may be primarily an internal workflow issue or outsourcing issue, but might also be a platform consideration.
  3. Value-added Services – It is very important to develop a point of view on how monitoring, analysis and reporting will be done within your organization.  Will each stakeholder group be responsible for doing this themselves or will a centralized analytics and insights group be responsible?  In addition to the self-serve approach, you could consider outsourcing this work to your social listening platform vendor or to one of your agencies – PR, digital or advertising.  In my experience, it is easy for a company or organization to underestimate both the skill and time commitment necessary to make the self-serve approach effective.
  4. Content/Data Types – Social media listening platform vendors generally include content from the primary social media properties -  Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums, YouTube and MySpace (being generous here).  Flickr is also included in many.  Currently on vendor roadmaps are properties like Linked-In and perhaps customer review sites.  Make sure the content types the platform supports meets your stakeholder requirements.  It is also very important to understand how the social content is being aggregated and how frequently (see Reporting for more on latency issues).  The fundamental ways in which content is aggregated in social listening platforms are crawling the web, RSS feeds and third-party content aggregators (e.g. Boardreader for Forums).  Many platform vendors employ a hybrid approach.
  5. Metrics and Analytics – Most social listening platforms either have a set group of analytics that deliver specific metrics or they offer configurable analytic ‘widgets’ that may be used to create metrics like share of conversation or volume and tone trend.  Some platforms offer a combination of these two approaches.  Based on your needs and measurement strategy/approach, define the analytics and metrics you would ideally like to see (e.g. volume, sentiment, messages, share-of-conversation, association with key topics).  In the vendor selection phase, this list will be useful to compare and contrast vendors.
  6. Keywords and Topics – During the planning phase, it is wise to develop a list of the major keywords and topics you believe will be necessary for the listening platform.  These keywords might include the company name, key competitors, industry issues, market segment names,  brand names, product names, key spokespersons, executives and competitor and industry spokespersons.  Social media listening platforms have varying degrees of sophistication with respect to their search capability.  Some have full Boolean logic, others offer very simple AND/OR logic.  The importance of this difference depends to some degree on you company/brand name as well as the sophistication of the people who will be configuring and maintaining your system.  If, for example, your company name is a common word (e.g. Apple, Visa), you will need stronger logic capabilities that include proximity search.
  7. Integration – Integration of varying data types – search, web, social, advertising, customer opinion and others – is the present and future of online measurement.  It is therefore important to understand what capabilities, if any, the social listening platform vendor has to integrate with other data types/streams.  Do they offer the ability to connect with web analytics packages via API for example?  The web/social integration is becoming increasingly common.  If you need to integrate traditional media with social, it might be a nice feature if the social listening platform allows third-party content aggregators like Factiva, Lexis Nexis, VMS or Critical Mention.
  8. Reporting – During the planning phase it is helpful to think through a series of questions about reports and reporting.  What type of reports are necessary?  Who will be responsible for their creation?  How often will reports be issued?  Does the system need the capability to automatically generate and deliver reports?  What about automated alerts?  There are quite a wide range of report capabilities represented by the various vendors in the listening space.  One potentially critical area to explore during the vendor evaluation phase is related to report frequency and perhaps to report type (think crisis).  That is how often new content is brought into the system.  Content latency issues may cause real problems during a fast-moving crisis.  Generally, the content latency differs by media type.  Best for Twitter and worst (perhaps) for forums, some of which restrict crawling to no more than once per day.  Within Twitter, the type of relationship the vendor has with Twitter should also be explored.  Not all Firehose arrangements are the same.  While most social media listening platforms claim to be ‘real time’, it is interesting to ask the vendors to define what they mean by ‘real time’.  The answers may surprise you.
  9. Access – Discuss who needs access to the listening platform and what they want to see and be able to do once they are in the system.  Do your different stakeholder groups (Divisions, product lines, brands, corporate, marketing, etc.) want or need a customized view of the data perhaps presented on a separate dashboard within the system?  It is also a good idea to have a perspective on who your power users will be versus the casual users.  This distinction applies not only to system access, but also in areas like training.
  10. Engagement – Some social media listening platforms support engagement with content owners directly from the platform, others do not.  Some engagement capabilities are elegant, others are rudimentary.  Make sure to explore the engagement needs of your stakeholders and understand how important this capability is to them in the short and long-term.  If engagement capabilities are important, you will also want to explore if the system allows users to tag content, assign content, manage assignments and track workflow.

In Part Two, we’ll examine a rigorous process for social media listening platform vendor evaluation and selection.

AVEs are a Disease – Here’s a Little Vaccine

16 Apr

One of the truly insidious aspects of public relations measurement is the use of advertising value equivalency (AVEs) or media value to assign financial value to public relations outputs.  It is a highly flawed, path-of-least-resistance attempt to calculate return on investment (ROI) for public relations.   To make matters worse, the practice has clearly moved into social media measurement as well.  For example, research studies that attempt to monetize the value of a Facebook Fan/Liker by attributing a CPM value from the advertising world.  Online media impact rankings also utilize equivalent paid advertising costs to assign monetary value to online news and social media.  AVE is like a disease that has infected and spread throughout the public relations industry.

In June of 2010, the PR industry came together in Barcelona to draft the Barcelona Principles, a set of seven principles of good measurement intended to provide guideposts for the industry.  The principle that has generated the most conversation is this one:

Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is Not the Value of Public Relations

 While many of the Measurati have been preaching against AVEs for years, there now appears to be a critical mass of outrage that may kill the practice in the coming years.  Here are four compelling reasons why I believe we must make this happen – the sooner the better.

1. AVEs Do Not  Measure Outcomes

AVEs equate an article with the appearance cost of an advertisement.  It does not speak at all to the results or impact that the article may have on a reader.  Advertisers do not judge the success of advertising on how much the insertions cost.  Imagine an advertising manager being asked by his or her boss, “How are we doing in advertising this year?”, and them replying, “Great!  We have spent $500,000 so far!  The true value of public relations or social media is not the appearance cost, but what happened as a result of the PR or social media effort – the impact it has on brand, reputation and marketing.  You will note the Barcelona Principles also call for a focus on measuring outcomes and not (just) outputs.  What happened as a result of media coverage is inherently more interesting and valuable than how much coverage was obtained.

2. AVEs Reduce Public Relations to Media Relations

You are, or become, what you measure.  AVEs do not address the impact or value of several important aspects of public relations including strategic counsel, crisis communications, grassroots efforts, viral campaigns or public affairs.  In other words, AVEs reduce PR to just the media dimension by only assigning a value in this area.  If only AVEs are used to assess PR value, the results will understate the totality of value delivered by PR.  AVEs also cannot measure the value of keeping a client with potentially negative news out of the media, yet that may be the primary objective of the PR practitioner.

3. AVEs Fly in the Face of Integrated Measurement                

Good marketing, branding and reputation campaigns have always been integrated to varying degrees.  The digitization of our lives has accelerated integration.

Advertising and PR actually work together synergistically, yet AVEs treat them as cost alternatives.  Studies have shown ads that run in a climate of positive publicity actually receive lift from the PR.  Conversely, ads run in an environment of negative publicity will likely not be successful and/or may be perceived negatively by consumers.  We have seen exposure to brand advertising increases conversion rates in social channels. Integrated campaigns and programs require integrated measurement.  AVEs don’t play well in this world.  They are analog and segregated in a digital and integrated world.

4. AVEs Provide No Diagnostic Value

Too much measurement energy is focused on score-keeping and not diagnostics.  This is one reason why single-number metrics like the Klout score and others have great appeal to many.  However, measurement is fundamentally about assessing performance against objectives with sufficient detail and granularity to determine what is working and what is not.  AVEs fail miserably in this regard.  AVE results can actually be misleading and result in false positives.  AVEs may be trending up while important metrics like message communication, share of favorable positioning and share of voice are falling.  Unfortunately, AVEs provide neither a valid single-number score nor any diagnostic value.

Some have said the Barcelona Principles are the ‘end of AVEs’.  I would agree directionally with that statement with one minor addition, Barcelona was the ‘beginning of the end of AVEs’.  Awareness of the practice and recognition of its flaws are at an all-time high in our industry.  More education and evangelism are required.  Understanding concepts like impact, tangible value, intangible value and (true) return on investment help foster much more sophisticated conversation about the total value delivered by public relations and social media.  AVEs are a disease, education and knowledge are the vaccine.  AVEs won’t die easily.  The momentum generated by the Barcelona event has provided focus and intent.  It is up to all of us to make AVEs a thing of the past.

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