With all the talk about social media becoming the best way to communicate to almost any audience, one needs to think about how to measure that success financially. Chuck Hermann talks about this issue in his post on PR-Squared, a popular public relations blog by Todd Defren.
In public relations, practitioners assign a monetary value to editorial space based on Advertising Value Equivalency. However, can the same measurement be applied to Facebook when the number of inches on a page is already pre-determined by the site’s limitations? Only actual “likes” can be measured however there are ways to measure how many times a page has been viewed, or how long a user looked at a page. Twitter can be measured by how many followers a user claims, but it gets complicated when one asks if retweets should be included.
Comparing social media to traditional media is problematic and the almost infinite ways to be seen via social media make the ins and outs of charging for time spent on it incredibly vague and convoluted. Hermann says that the return on investment of social media is better regarded as an art than a science. There will always be conflicting ideas and confusion and most likely, limited consensus.
To make things that much more complicated, social media numbers have the potential to be just that, just numbers. These numbers are going to make whoever is managing the social media look great, but the real answer lies in whether fiscal numbers rise with the creation of social media. Sure, a page may have 50,000 likes, but is that going to translate into consumers rushing to stores or online and buying the product? Will someone like something because they are already a loyal customer, or will they buy something because they liked it on Facebook?
Maybe social media needs to be looked at differently than ony other kind of editorial placement. Maybe we need to see social media as more qualitative than quantitative. Maybe it should be used to create a buzz via that social Internet, and let the traditional editorial pieces take it from there.