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The dawn of a new era in social media measurement

I’m excited to be writing this post from  Portsmouth. Not Portsmouth in England, but Portsmouth in New Hampshire, USA. New Hampshire is world-renown for its beauty during Fall when the leaves of the great forests all turn a million shades of reds and brown. So what brings me to such a glorious part of the world in its prime season?  Well, potentially nothing short of a brave new dawn in the era of social media measurement. Read on and I shall explain.

Dawn of social media measurement standards

Sun rises at Dawn in New Hampshire, October 24th 2011

As many of you will know, Metrica has been helping our clients manage and measure social media since the mid 2000s – 2005 specifically when we were working with Dell during the infamous Jeff Jarvis / Dell Hell crisis.  We have watched as social media has changed from being an oft-derided form of content, commonly slated as just the ramblings of people with no friends publicising their diaries online, through to a communication channel that is revolutionising the media and marketing industries.  Indeed, revolutionising business itself.

During this time many new companies have come to the market offering social media monitoring, social media planning, and social media measurement services.  Most of these companies are basically software houses building platforms based on a one sized fits all approach that attempt to be all things to all people.  They try to capture all social media conversations and bring meaning to them with basic analytics.  These companies have been attempting to reinvent the measurement wheel and trying to come up with indices and scoring systems to interpret engagement, tone and influence for example. They all lack tailored measurement built around client organisations ‘ actual objectives of course. So it’s no wonder that so many clients are confused by social media, scared of entering the arena, bewildered by how to monitor it, and bamboozled by how to measure it.

Avoiding social media measurement confusion

Earlier this year, I was asked by AMEC, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, to chair a group to look into how we could help the PR industry see through the confusion and establish some social media measurement standards.

I formed a group of some of the world’s best and most experienced experts in the sector and have agreed with them all some of the areas that we need to address.  These include standards on measuring influence, sentiment, and engagement. Additionally, we want clients to have transparency into what monitoring and content they are getting from their suppliers, and for their suppliers to be consistent with such simple things as what is a unit of content, and the definitions of terms used in social media.

AMEC recognises that it doesn’t have all of the answers itself so we are broadening out the quest by hosting a half day summit in London on Thursday 17th November entitled ‘The Big Ask.’ At the event we will be asking client organisations (speakers from which include PWC and Microsoft) to tell us what are the areas that they are finding most challenging. We want to broaden this out further too however.

Beyond the Barcelona Principles – moving towards the PR Measurement Agenda 2020

AMEC knows it can’t set standards alone.  We have a proud record of working collaboratively with other parties including establishing the 7  Barcelona Principles – one of which famously denounced the dreaded AVE as a non-valid metric.   AMEC’s social media measurement group has decided to take this approach again. We have formed a coalition with the IPR and the CPRF to work on new standards together.

Social media is not just about public relations

Social media has blurred the lines between many marketing disciplines and what has become clear is that there are a number of bodies working on setting social media standards in different silos.  So that is what brings us to New Hampshire. I’m here at the invitation of  Katie Paine to meet with many of these interested parties at the Social Media Measurement Standards Conclave.  The group meeting tomorrow includes:

  • AMEC (The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) Rep: Richard Bagnall
  • WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) Rep: Brad Fay
  • WAA (Web Analytics Association) Rep: John Lovett
  • SNCR (Society for New Communications Research) Rep: Jennifer McClure
  • IPR (The Institute for Public Relations) Rep: Frank Ovaitt 
  • CPRF (Council for Public Relations Firms) Rep: Tim Marklein
  • IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) Rep: Paige Wesley
  • PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) Rep:  Professor Don Wright
  • CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) Rep: Phillip Sheldrake

as well as representatives from Proctor & Gamble and Dell.
Our goals will be to:

  1. eliminate confusion in the market place about social media measurement standards
  2. gain consensus arounda definition for social media measurement standards
  3. document all efforts that are underway to establish standards for social media measurement
  4. reduce duplicative & redundant efforts around setting social media measurement standards

Tomorrow’s event, the social media measurement standards conclave, has its own twitter hashtag #smmsc which will allow you to follow along.  We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on what areas of social media monitoring and measurement you find most confusing and would benefit from clear standards being in place.
Finally, if you can make it to London, it’s not too late to book a place at the ‘Big Ask’ conference.  Details are all available online. We hope to see you there!

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Written by Richard Bagnall

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  • http://twitter.com/totsprams @totsprams.com

    I enjoyed reading your article.
    It is amazing that in the past five years business has changed so much.  Social media used to be something that we would use to interact with our friends and have fun, now it is something that we use to do business.
    My friend works for a leading UK retailer and yes they use social media extremely well as a marketing tool. They also use it as a recruitment tool. Not content with the interview, team building exercise and presentation processes they view the candidate’s social media profiles prior to making their final decision. They have said since using this indicator both their labour turnover and absence stats have dramatically improved.


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