Measurement- 2.0

The Social Media group at the CIPR have produced new Social Media Measurement Guidance, six months after the main exercise to give the Barcelona Principles shape. Was the extra time warranted? Was extra caution warranted before applying the “valid metrics matrix” to social media when other PR measurement was covered in October?

 Reading the document makes me wonder whether the wait was worth it, given that so much that they urge seems equally applicable to traditional PR, as well as that conducted in the social media environment.  The Guidance assumes that there is a difference, given that “social web participants produce, share, curate and publish as well as consume.”  Well, I would argue that good “old fashioned” PR creates engagement. Face-to-face and intermediated mechanisms have existed for decades; social media just makes it easier, quicker, cheaper. It’s a matter of degree, rather than uniqueness.

The sixth of the Barcelona Principles is that “Social media can and should be measured.” Well, duh, as my American friends would say.

I have been sceptical for at least a decade of PR that counts clicks, just as much as I deride AVEs and “opportunities to see”. It’s what people DO that counts, not what they read- on or off line. It is a case of the blindingly obvious that the most important purpose of PR is not awareness or perception, but rather action So, I concur with the new Guidance’s emphasis on the “metrics of engagement not just consumption, awareness or reach”- but that applies equally to PR using traditional media as well as social media.

I do think that the task group was a little simplistic in their criticism of the matrix when they worried that “too many of the example metrics in one cell were repeated in other cells”. That seems to my eye to be their poor understanding of what they should be measuring- and I quarrel with most of what they have populated the cells with. Why, for example, should they simply repeat across all of the matrix for PR Activity the number of outputs, as if implying that quantity was the important issue? I’ve always argued that it isn’t the number, it’s who and what is being said. More than a name check, this needs careful analysis of content and context, and that applies to social media as much as traditional PR.

I do applaud their desire to debunk the myth that “the more followers/friends the better.”  I have always argued that unless you are CocaCola or Macdonalds, PR is almost never a mass market numbers game. What matters is influencing the right stakeholder at the right time. That needs pinpoint targeting- and social media rarely delivers more than a very few stakeholder groups. “Fans and friends”, even if they are customers, are only one type of stakeholder group. As my students are wont to hear from me, customers are usually the least important stakeholder group. So, if you fill your PR reports to clients with the sort of charts like those above, whilst explaining that you are deploying a communication strategy that delivers “two way symmetric communication” just because it uses social media and gets some comments and feedback that way- well, this is just plain wrong. This conclusion may make me unpopular with the Facebook generation, but I argue that for most organisations the most important stakeholders are not online or engaging with social media.

So, I endorse the Working Party’s conclusion that “one metric never suffices. You will need a balanced portfolio of metrics.” Once again, duh…


About catherinesweet
Academic, professional, communicator, stakeholder in a dozen different disguises

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