Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Measuring Social Media Impact

From Katie Noonan – This week’s issue of PR News has some good insight for PR practitioners looking to measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns for clients.

According to a recent PR News and Burrelles/Luce Media Measurement and Analysis Survey, public relations pros have yet to break through the social media measurement barrier citing a “general lack of knowledge,” and absence of standard metrics for measurement as the chief reasons.

But Curtis Hougland, CEO of Attention PR, doesn’t know what all the confusion is about. According to Hougland, challenges cited by PR practitioners seem more like excuses, because “they don’t take into account the wealth of measurable elements that are intrinsic to these channels.” Some of the tangible benefits Hougland mentions are, “key message pick-up, conversion and traffic to Web sites.”

At Furia Rubel, we certainly advocate for the inclusion of Web 2.0 strategies in the communications mix. However, we also understand the measurement challenge.

The PR News article touches on the benefits of social media, such as traffic via natural search, blog links and conversations, brand advocacy, message and reputation management, word-of-mouth, and social media’s ability to connect with new audiencess to name a few.

While you can accurately measure traffic to a Web site and even message pick-up, it becomes much more difficult to track the effectiveness of word-of-mouth on the Web, and I would argue even more of a challenge to manage your message or reputation with social media. With more and more people blogging today, keeping track of what everyone is saying needs to be part of your “listening” strategy. Managing your message and reputation is time-consuming but necessary. Even Hougland says, “they are conversing about your company with or without you,” which is precisely the challenge of social media.

In a down economy however, measuring social media effectively should be a priority for public relations and marketing pros and businesses alike. If companies are paying for your public relations services you can bet they’ll want to see a return on their investment, and if you’re using social media it’s important to measure ROI as accurately as possible.

Some handy resources to help address social media measurement challenges include:

Public relations practitioners faced similar challenges when the Internet first came into the mainstream. My feeling is that it’s only a matter of time before we conquer the social media measurement barrier, too.

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