Five Social Media & PR Measurement Trends to Watch in 2009

8 Jan

As we launch into a year with perhaps as much uncertainty, on multiple levels, as most of us have known, I offer my fearless predictions for 2009.  The single most interesting dynamic this year in my view is the tension between an increasing need for accountability and tight budgets.   

1. Social Media Dominates Measurement Conversation

In June of 2008 I did a quick blog analysis to understand the volume of posts about PR/public relations measurement compared to social media measurement.  About 80% of all posts were specific to social media measurement.  I repeated the analysis for December 2008 and got the same result.   Social media measurement is dominating the conversation.  It is interesting to note the social media measurement online conversation is not being driven (with a couple of notable exceptions) by the firms and individuals associated with traditional media content analysis.  They seem to be followers and not leaders.  New players and voices are emerging, particularly from the web analytics world.

2. Quest for Standards
For many in public relations measurement the Holy Grail is a single, powerful metric of success. A standard metric everyone generally agrees with and that is applied consistently would enable lower costs leading to greater measurement participation, and allow agencies and companies to compete on actual results, i.e. audience effects, not on cutesy proprietary metrics and algorithms.  Or so the argument goes.  In the other camp are the ‘snowflake measurement’ disciples who say each public relations program and set of objectives is unique and therefore requires unique measurement approaches – standardization doesn’t apply to snowflakes.  Driven by a desire to find ‘standard’ social media metrics, look for the standardization argument to be a hot topic again in ’09.

3. Engagement Will Be The Hot Social Media Metric
Many have said Web 2.0 is about ‘engagement and not eyeballs’.  Indeed, it looks like Engagement will be the metric of the moment in 2009.   While everyone might agree, at a macro level, Engagement is about the engagement between individuals and brands, there is almost no agreement on what Engagement really means, particularly in the online world.  There are many different views at different levels of abstraction:

  • BusinessWeek has a Reader Engagement Index they calculate as a comments to posts ratio.  An Engagement Index of 5 would indicate 5 comments per post
  • Forrester Research defines the engagement between individuals and brands in terms of the four I’s: Involvement, Interaction, Intimacy, Influence
  • And well-known web analytics guru Eric T. Peterson has developed an eight-term equation for Engagement that includes clicks, recency, duration, brand, feedback, interaction, loyalty and subscriptions.

Look for many other definitions and points of view on Engagement in 2009.   Measuring Community and Velocity may also be hot social media metrics.

4. Cross-Platform/Domain Measurement Challenges
How do you measure the influence on someone who has read your blog, posted a comment, sent a tweet to 35 followers, visited another site, referred to your blog with a trackback, texted four friends about your post, two of whom visited your blog as well?   Most measurement approaches and tools today are tied to specific platforms and not people.  As communication increasingly becomes horizontal/ peer-to-peer – online and offline – our ability to measure discrete programs becomes exponentially more difficult.  It would seem a greater emphasis on holistic approaches that are audience-centric might be a partial solution.  Look for measurement firms to begin to address this challenge in 2009.

5. A Battle of Good (accountability) versus Evil (economy)
So far, the spirit of experimentation in social media has provided a sort of ‘get out of jail free’ card with respect to having to demonstrate the value of digital and social media programs and initiatives.  It looks like all that could change in 2009 primarily driven by the economic climate.  2009 will be the year when the pendulum swings from experimentation to accountability.  2009 will raise the bar on all of use to demonstrate how social media and other PR programs are helping to drive desired business outcomes. Acting against this pendulum swing are the Evils of flat or reduced 2009 budgets.  It will be easy for many people facing budget pressures to reduce or eliminate measurement.  But you do this at the peril of credible accountability.  What do you think will win in 2009 – Good or Evil?

20 Responses to “Five Social Media & PR Measurement Trends to Watch in 2009”

  1. Tony Jones January 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    Great post! The demand to measure return on social media is going to be huge in ’09. Where do you stand on the standard vs. snowflake debate? I know Katie Paine is pretty big on the snowflake side.

  2. metricsman January 9, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    Hi Tony, thanks for your comment and kind words. I would agree that Katie is the eloquent voice of the snowflake camp. I guess I recently have begun to move from a committed snowflake to a position in the middle. I believe there would be merit in agreeing on a few basic metrics for Exposure and Engagement, but recognize there will always be a need to customize additional approaches and metrics based on particular campaigns. So if our objective is to create Exposure for a client or our company, we ought to have a few standard metrics we can use as a starting point – OTS, view-thrus, etc. Same thing with Engagement. This would bring some of the benefits of standards, but still allow for customization to be layered on top.

  3. Impotant January 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm #

    Огромное вам человеческое спасибо, очень актуальная заметка.

  4. Guillaume Foutry January 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    Good post and thanks for the links on #3, will be really helpful!!

  5. Leslie Hawk January 14, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    good post – i think there can be a standard for PR measurement regardless of the campaign. Maybe not necessarily what you measure but what you look at and the criteria by which you grade your campaign. Regardless of what kind of campaign you do simply measuring whether or not you get a hit isn’t going to work. You must look at the tone, resulting action of target audience etc of your campaign.

  6. Nancy Evans January 28, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    I’ve been a lurking reader on your site for a while and wanted to step up and thank you for providing such continually interesting and provocative content. (After all, if people are going to insist on looking at the number of comments as a measure of audience engagement, I want to assist!)

  7. metricsman January 28, 2009 at 1:27 pm #

    Thanks for your kind words and assist in my comments/post ratio! If I could choose just two possible reactions to my blog, ‘interesting and provocative’ would probably be the two I would choose.

    Quick observation on comment/post ratios. While it certainly is one indication of audience engagement, it also is a reflection to some degree on the type of blog or post. News oriented posts/blogs will generate less comments than thought leadership oriented posts. If a reader found the news interesting, they might be more inclined to link to it than comment on it. All that to say when comparing blogs you have to look at more than just comments/post.

    Thanks again, Nancy.

  8. Julie O'Neil January 29, 2009 at 8:48 pm #


    Interesting predictions. What value do you give to the idea of measuring relationships that develop via social media?


  9. metricsman January 30, 2009 at 11:24 am #

    Hi Julie,
    Thanks for your comment and nice to see you at the Measurement Commission meeting yesterday. Not sure how to answer your question and I think it depends on whose perspective one takes. Are we interested in relationships between individuals that grow via Facebook or are we referring to the relationships between consumers/individuals and brands/companies? If the latter, I believe we should be interested in measuring the brand engagement enhancement driven by PR programs through social media channels. I might argue engagement is how relationships are strengthened, i.e. higher levels of engagement lead to stronger relationships.

    Let me know if I’ve totally missed your point…

  10. Dirk shaw February 2, 2009 at 3:17 pm #

    Excellent post. You hit the nail on the head with the cross domain tracking. For me, any metric i can track from tweets, trackbacks, web analytics and the list goes on, has ended up in a spreadsheet. this allows me to align the variety of metrics to my specific goals. Very cumbersome, but is a way to have a single view to present to my teams.


  11. Mike March 1, 2009 at 2:59 am #

    Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

    Making Money $150 An Hour

  12. Ali Magnano June 23, 2009 at 9:44 am #

    Cool post!
    Thanks for the info, check out my blog I think you will like it.

  13. Shreesh Sarvagya August 27, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    Very interesting post indeed, and it would be even more interesting to learn how things have shaped up in last eight months since the article was written…
    Also, I think there is a need to clearly establish that there is a natural synergy between communication and marketing efforts, and that the former is a more cost effective medium to achieve the same business goal…
    I would be really interested in a post on that subject because a lot of us keep lamenting on the size of our budgets, without ever trying to understand that it might be our inability to establish the ROI/credibility of PR that business owners are investing more with the marketing guy. Research is a lot of hard work and I suspect that the PR professional is rarely willing to go the extra mile…


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