SM Measurement: To Each Their Own Method

As social media has grown more and more popular in the past few years, so has the need for public relations experts to measure this powerful communication tool as a campaign tactic for clients. While I can say that practitioners have gotten a handle on this nifty tool for public engagement, we still have not mastered the correct way to evaluate it. This shortcoming will prove harmful if not resolved; causing professionals to under or overestimate its potential and miss important indicators that demonstrate success or failure.

Social Media Examiner is not letting this opportunity to unlock social media’s full potential slip through the fingers of PR practitioners. A four-step process based on brand awareness has been devised to evaluate it, which includes splitting up measurement into categories that focus on exposure, engagement, and influence. The last step is reserved to account for a combination of ROI-driven and brand awareness, called The Lead Generation Funnel. The author, Nichole Kelly, recognizes that many people wish to figure out a way to measure social media, “the bad news is there isn’t a single clear-cut answer.” I think it is great that she is at least trying to get a grasp on a method that has eluded social media and PR experts for years.

Exposure is the first category which measures the number of unique persons that you have attracted to your brand. One of the great things about Kelly’s approach is that she does not treat each social media site equally. The post gives different marching orders to track the number of visits for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blog, and email. For Twitter, she suggests to “look at the number of followers and the number of followers for those who retweeted your message.” For Facebook, one of her suggestions is to “track the total number of fans for your brand page.” While email and blogs are technically not considered social media, it is still helpful that she took these aspects of professional life into account.

Another helpful piece of advice that Nichole Kelly doles out in her post is the programs that she feels are the best if you don’t want to measure social media manually. While it is always good to keep an eye on your clients’ success on these sites, we are only human. Programs like SocialMention, TweetReach, Radian 6, and TweetEffect are some of the most effective at tracking exposure, engagement and influence.

I support this method of measuring social media and will actually have the opportunity to test this concept with my team in JMC 494 (PR Research). Until practitioners can determine a uniform way to measure it, social media will remain a useful tactic but with its effectiveness determined by whoever is doing the evaluating at a given time.

What are some of the benefits of a uniform method for the measurement of social media?

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8 Responses to SM Measurement: To Each Their Own Method

  1. dlkline says:

    I think it is interesting that all of these social media tracking companies have popped up over the last couple of years. While I think it is a good vehicle for tracking, my only concern is what about all of the “baby boomers” who are not on Twitter and Facebook? How are their numbers and influence being tracked? Baby boomers are a huge part of our demographic with strong buying power that may be getting overlooked.

    • smwillar says:

      While I can see your point, I think that the purpose of social media measurement is just to measure the activity and trends for the people who use it. Companies who use tracking software like SocialMention and Radian6 are typically only interested in what they can learn from those who use technology in their social lives. And actually, one of the largest demographics on Facebook is 40- 50ish year-old women! If the numbers and influence of Baby Boomers (i.e. those who aren’t on Twitter and/or Facebook) need to be tracked, a more traditional method of measurement might be a better bet.

  2. lkapetan says:

    I also agree with the fact that social media is one of the most powerful tools for communication in today’s digital age. But despite that fact, I still have a concern about real output and measurement of social media. For example, if some product has a certain number of “likes,” does that really mean that people will likely buy that product??

    Speaking about benefits, maybe they should set standards for parameter determination.

    • smwillar says:

      One of the main benefits of this particular form of social media measurement is that it does not rely on simply the number of “likes” to determine whether or not a product or trend is substantial. By measuring the four different categories (exposure, engagement, influence, and The Lead Generation Funnel) we step away from that narrow-mindedness that can easily be a trap and set our sights (and measurements) higher. For example, with exposure you are tracking the number of unique followers for your brand and taking note of the specific period of time in which they did so. When measuring engagement, one must consider how many times your link was clicked on, then shared, commented on, or retweeted. The great thing about this method is that it spans multiple platforms and attempts to take into account every possible angle.

  3. rsutherl says:

    Uniform measurement = relative analysis. If everyone uses the same method to measure social media impact, then we can all compare our successes and failures and begin to track trends and patterns. Even if the method isn’t perfect, if everyone uses it, then the playing field is level.

    PRSA is on board with the idea (, but with so many different platforms and strategies at work, I wonder if the “global community” will reach a consensus any time soon. Some folks might be comfortable drawing up their own pseudo-scientific analysis and taking more credit than they deserve.

    Whatever the solution, it will likely involve math and science — not the industry’s favorite subjects in school. Perhaps that’s why the PR community is struggling? Maybe a bored Google employee will produce an algorithm to solve the whole mess!

    • smwillar says:

      That’s definitely a compelling reason why someone (bored Google employee or really-motivated-overachiever-PR person) should settle on a uniform method of measurement once and for all.

      Great find with the PRSA article!

  4. caolson says:

    I believe that, while looking at follower and “like counts” can give some indication of a brand’s social media success, as this blog post suggests, I think it could be immensely more useful if a uniform measurement tool is developed that can measure how these numbers translate into a brand’s influence and reach. If this were the case, brands and organizations could be compared based on numbers that mean more than just how popular a brand is, which could be extremely useful for PR practitioners when explaining their client’s successes.

    • smwillar says:

      Agreed. There definitely has to be more measurement beyond tracking “likes.” Just because a brand is popular on social media does not mean that a company understands who their target audience is and how to reach them. This uniform social media measurement method would seek to reveal more than meets the eye to PR practitioners.

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