Measuring Social Media: a post from Frank Ovaitt, President of the Institute for Public Relations

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“A new blog is created about once every two seconds. New videos are posted to YouTube even more frequently. Virtually everyone with a computer (98%) goes on line to search for information before making a purchase. Video search is taking over text search as the most popular form of searching. Politicians, marketers, and individuals are embracing new forms of social networking…at unprecedented levels.”

So says Katie Paine (KD Paine & Partners, and member of the Commission on PR Measurement & Evaluation), in her newly revised paper on the Institute for Public Relations’ website: “How to Measure Social Media Relations: The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same.”
PR people have to think differently about the blogosphere. It’s not about screaming louder, but engaging in real conversations. But they also need new approaches to research and measurement.
Or do they? The tools and techniques may be new, but the underlying structure may not be all that different.
If you are trying to measure the impact of your own blog, the metrics are often financially oriented – assessing ROI, impact on sales or lead generation. Like any communications effort, you need to start with clear objectives to have something to measure. Then there are essentially three things you can measure: outputs (stuff you did that is easy to count), outtakes (how heads have changed because of an interaction), and outcomes (what others do that represents a business result for you).
Assessing what other bloggers say about you, while requiring some new tools and terms, has similarities to traditional media analysis. The paper explains standard criteria (depth, dominance, tonality, etc.) and three essential types of quantifiable data in the blogosphere: links, hits/eyeballs, and sentiment. But more important, what do you do with the data once you have it?
First, don’t over-react. A negative comment is not a crisis. Trends may indicate a looming crisis, of course, if complaints are going up and relationships are getting worse. And if a widely read and respected blogger comes after you – especially with compelling facts – it’s time to do something fast (like fixing the problem).
“The old command and control, top down message delivery is no longer an option,” Katie writes. “Dr. James Grunig’s Excellence Model of two-way synchronous communications is the rule of the day. Consumers can now choose to accept or reject your messages, depending on whether they find them useful, interesting or relevant. And they’ll be more than happy to tell you what they like and don’t like.”
Tell us what you think…
Frank Ovaitt
President and CEO
Institute for Public Relations

3 COMMENTS

  1. There is a fourth type of data when assesssing bloggers: something like network strength or the level of connectedness of the node (=blog). Counting links isn’t enough, it’s important who you link to and by whom you are linked (something like technorati’s “authority”). There might even be a fifth one – level of “trust” -, but I’m not sure at all how to measure that.
    I’d be happy if the “old command and control … message delivery” wasn’t an option any longer, but for the time being I’m not at all convinced that it is true in all situations and areas. It’s a model that still works (almost) perfectly in some regions – like Austria. However, some have begun to listen to what the prosumers say …

    Oh, btw.: according to David Sifry (technorati) it’s 1.4 new blogs per second.

  2. I totally agree with Markus Pirchner. To build high-quality networks (related to the PR objectives) and to measure them (the best way to improve them, btw.) is IMHO one of the biggest challenges for PR. Since trust is one of several aspects helping to build up strong networks we maybe needn’t to measure trust separately for the moment.

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