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Social Media Measurement Standards: AMEC’s Big Ask Conference Reviewed

Last Thursday over 100 PR practitioners, media analysis and PR measurement experts met to discuss what each felt was imperative if we are to set workable social media measurement standards.  It was a process which began back in June in Lisbon at AMEC’s 3rd European summit.  The video below, shot then, sets out the objectives that we set ourselves.

Can’t see the video? Watch it here.

As part of this process, AMEC asked the PR industry to come together to answer a question.  The ‘Big Ask’ was to understand each stakeholders views regarding social media measurement standards. We set out to find out what it was that would benefit the communications industry the most as it comes to grips with how to measure social media.

The morning started by hearing from two client organisations.

Pete Devery of Microsoft kicked things off. He explained all about Microsoft’s own proprietary in-house media analysis scoring system ‘Prime’.  While they believe it gives them what they need for their global mainstream media analysis, the company is not keen to attempt to make it scale to cope with the massive volumes of content generated by social channels. Pete’s big ask was for help in understanding the ROI of social media, and he is also keen for there to be some consistency across the more than 200 companies that currently offer some form of social media monitoring or analysis services.

Next up was Nick Masters, PWC’s Head of Digital.  In a very candid talk Nick explained how he was unable to tell his budget holders what would be achieved with a social media campaign.  He knew that it would connect with the audiences he had identified, that the content would be sticky and accessible and that it was the perfect channel for an ideas B2B company like them.  But could he guarantee what it would achieve? No.  So Nick’s Big Ask talked to the planning side of measurement – helping him quantify the likely impact of his work.

We then heard from Rosanna Fiske, the Chair and CEO of America’s PRSA (Public Relations Society of America). Rosanna reminded everyone that there was plenty of high quality research already in existence undertaken by organisations like the IPR (America’s Institute of Public Relations).  Much of this great content is available for free download from their website. The research that already exists is as applicable to social media as any other channel.

Following Rosanna the conference heard from Stephen Waddington, representing the PRCA social media task force (and his own company Speed Communications) and Philip Sheldrake, representing the CIPR’s social media task force (and his agency ‘Meanwhile‘.)

Stephen Waddington issued a rousing wake-up call to the audience by insisting that many of the metrics that have served mainstream media content analysis so well are unable to be applied successfully to social media. Stephen summed up the problem as measurement of what is easy to count, rather than measurement of what matters. He was particularly scathing of the industry’s bogeyman, the dreaded AVE.

Wadds issues a wake up call on social media measurement for AMEC


Philip Sheldrake’s session focused on the importance of understanding influence correctly. Philip, author of “The Business of Influence“, explained why automated scores (eg Klout) were fallacies, basically measuring popularity rather than real influence. He went on to explain how all businesses need to put measuring the 6 types of influence flow at the heart of their organisation.

I had a chance to offer some closing thoughts.  I made the point that we all face a problem – analysis companies and in-house and agency based pr practitioners alike. Social media is no longer an option for organisations. However too many are finding it difficult to justify their budgetary needs and prove their value. This will continue for as long as social media measurement analyses the wrong data in many different proprietary ways.

The time is right for the industry to come together to set some common standards – but that this doesn’t have to mean that we all analyse exactly the same stuff in exactly the same way. There has never been a single number for measuring communications activity – there is no magic bullet in mainstream media analysis, and nor can there be with social media measurement either. Clearly, measurement needs to be tailored to reflect the objectives of each campaign.  I don’t expect this to be changing any time soon.

After the event I got the chance to talk with Tim Marklein who had chaired the event on what he had taken out of the day and what the next steps would be.  I will be working closely with Tim as art of the AMEC / IPR / CPRF coalition taskforce on establishing some social media measurement standards.

Can’t see the video? Watch it here.

Immediate next steps post the conference are for AMEC to continue to consult with the industry widely on what it believes needs to be looked considered.  We will close that process in January.  If you have thoughts and opinions on your frustrations in social media measurement then we would love to hear them here or alternatively, please let AMEC’s Barry Leggettter know.

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Written by Richard Bagnall

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Gorkana offers PR analysis & evaluation across traditional & social media.

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