Social media measurement and evaluation

The Future of Digital Platforms

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An interesting report from ComScore about media fragmentation in today’s multi-platform environment: televisions, PCs,  smartphones, tablets, and gaming platforms. It provides insights into navigating through a seemingly ever-increasing number of new devices to find ways to position yourself for the future. “In order to do so, businesses must embrace the key trends affecting the consumer landscape, understand the opportunities, and overcome the challenges that stand in their path.”

Click here to download the full report: Brave New Digital World: A Manifesto for the Future of Digital Measurement & Analytics.

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Behavioural Tracking

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Have you ever worried about who is collecting your personal data when you use the web? Did you know that there are numerous sites secretly creating a shadow web of connections between sites you go to and trackers you probably never heard of. There is no regulation for this “lurking industry”.

Now you can use a programme called Collusion developed by Mozilla.  The programme graphs the spread of your data from sites to trackers, in real time, to expose and potentially break the hidden connections. You can watch a demo here. Originally only available for Firefox, you can now use it with Google Chrome, Safari and others.

Watch the TED talk with a demonstration.


3rd annual AMEC Summit feedback

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At the 3rd annual AMEC Summit in Lisbon some interesting thoughts were shared about measurement and evaluation in PR, particularly linked to social media. From establishing definitions for concepts such as engagement and influence to discussions about AVE’s the conference provided a wide spectrum of input from professionals in PR and beyond. A good summary has been provided by Professor Tom Watson of Bournmouth University. He also presented an interesting workshop on the fundamentals of measurement and evaluation. Read more on his Dummyspit blog in the post on social media metrics.

Another good summary can be found on the PR Media blog.

The presentations can be viewed here.

Foursquare social media strategies

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Increasingly, companies are using Foursquare to reach their audiences. Numerous promotions have been successful in attracting new customers and converting existing ones to new ambassadors for your brand, which is the basis of social media. It is increasingly important to interact with the customer and their audience. They are no longer passive bystanders as we know, both for communication and marketing. Today, almost everyone has some sort of smartphone, hence the rise of applications such as Foursquare, which allow you to check in anywhere, find points of interest around your checkin as well as current and potential or future contacts. This provides an excellent opportunity for people to become familiar with a product or to create resonance around it and attract attention, which is usually the objective on an advertising campaign.

The most common approach is to provide a discount to users who check in at one of the store’s branches. Many companies including Gap and Starbucks are renowned for this approach. Jimmy Choo, however, took it a step further by organising a type of treasure hunt in the city of London. Through their Twitter account @Catchachoo they posted specific locations around the city and the first person to check in at one of those locations via Foursquare would receive a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes of their choice for free.

McDonalds is another example of an original campaign. The aim was to increase foot traffic to their stores by 33% in one day by using Foursquare. 100 randomly awarded $5 and $10 giftcards were used as checkin bait to attract potential customers. The bait also worked to attract attention from the media and resulted in more than 50 articles talking about their so called Foursquare special. The problem with this campaign was the measurement. The blog provides an excellent summary of this.





A structured communication plan is the foundation of a sustainable social media strategy

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Recently I received several calls from organisations seeking advice about how to establish a presence on Facebook and other social media platforms. Most importantly they wanted to hear about the advantages of social media adoption. My first question to them is always: what is your communication objective? This is usually followed by a moment of silence. In fact, most of them do not have a communications strategy.  Yet jumping into social media without a proper communications strategy seems like building a house without a proper foundation.

Social media may produce immediate results but it also presents an opportunity for a long term communication management. You build relationships, gain knowledge, and participate in and shape conversations. But how do you combine the immediacy of posts, status updates, rss, etc. with longterm objectives and goals linked to a communications strategy? To answer that we should review the elements of a communications strategy. These include a proper stakeholder analyses, goals, objectives, and a proper method for evaluating results.

A stakeholder analysis is essential for any organisation. There are numerous methods that can be used which focus on the identification of stakeholders. The challenge is to decide which stakeholders should receive specific attention. One excellent model that can be used was developed by Brad L. Rawlins which prioritizes stakeholders through a four-step process: 1. Identifying all potential stakeholders according to their relationship to the organization; 2. Prioritizing stakeholders by attributes; 3. Prioritizing stakeholders by relationship to the situation; 4. Prioritizing the publics according to the communication strategy. This model helps an organisation decide how much attention each stakeholder group deserves or requires. If you know your publics you can select which platforms are most suited for your specific objectives more effectively. You might set shorter communications initiatives with some stakeholders while others would require a longterm investment. Social media could be used for both.

In communication we distinguish between goals and objectives, in that a goal is a statement rooted in the organization’s mission or vision and an objective is a statement emerging from the organization’s goals. For example, if your goal is to raise awareness about a certain issue or product, your objective might indicate how much awareness and it would specify a time frame. Once an organisation has set specific objectives and decided on which stakeholders to target, specific channels can be identified. These channels may include a more traditional approach such as print journalism or advertising or they may include social media. One advantage social media offers is that you are able to listen to your stakeholders. Effective communicators implement a two-way approach which requires longterm investment. Just posting a message blindly to reach a maximum number of people will not be effective in the long run.

The final step is then to decide on how to measure your results. Here again the most effective approach is a combined measurement, both on and offline. Some interesting references for measurement are Intelligent Measurement and the Metricsman. They talk extensively about the importance of evaluation and measurement but also about the combined approach implementing both online and offline techniques.

One reference which I think describes this point is from the film Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner’s character hears a voice which tells him to build a baseball stadium. He hears repeatedly “if you build it, they will come” referring to the spectators. And at the end of the film you see thousands of cars approaching the farmland on which he had built the field. But was he ready for all those people? We don’t know because the film ends. In social media it is comparable, you can build your profiles, start posting, commenting, linking and you might generate a great deal of traffic very quickly. But if you do not feed that traffic with quality material they will disappear and it will be counter productive in the long run. Therefore, think and plan ahead. Establish a proper communications strategy before building.

The Internet and human intelligence

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A report has been published by Pew Internet presenting some interesting perspectives about the future of the Internet. More specifically, the report explores how the Internet is affecting human intelligence and how information is being shared.

The report was written following a survey conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. It gathered opinions from 900 respondents including prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers.

Results provided perspectives on questions such as:

•Will the internet enhance or detract from reading, writing, and rendering of knowledge?

•Is the next wave of innovation in technology, gadgets, and applications pretty clear now, or will the most interesting developments between now and 2020 come “out of the blue”?

•Will the end-to-end principle of the internet still prevail in 10 years, or will there be more control of access to information?

•Will it be possible to be anonymous online or not by the end of the decade?

If you are interested in these topics, have a look at the full report The-Future-of-the-Internet-IV.

Social media ROI vs. evaluation and measurement

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An interesting discussion is emerging about social media return on investment verses evaluation and measurement.  Clearly every PR initiative requires quantification. But how do we quantify results in social media? There is a difference between ROI and actual evaluation and measurement. ROI looks at the monetary figure of a change while evaluation and measurement seeks to measure the degree of change.

Currently, there are numerous tools available that allow you to measure the number of hits on your platform, clicks on your links, the number of retweets on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, your level of popularity on Twitter, etc. But what does this really mean? These tools may indicate your level of popularity but they neglect to present any accurate insights into actual results. Just because someone is clicking on one of your links or retweeting one of your posts, doesn’t mean that the information is actually being absorbed, let alone provoking any change of thought or action. So how do we measure the actual impact of our social media tactics? It seems that before we think look at potential monetary benefits, we should identify effective tools for measurement and evaluation.

Of all the theories that are circulating in the blogosphere, I found the one developed by Don Bartholomew on his blog metricsman most plausible. He develops a three stage measurement process that combines online metrics (web analytics) with conversations and behaviour patterns. It is about combining online and offline behaviour and actions.

Mr. Bartholomew goes on to present an interesting graph depicting these three stages:

From the left, companies or brands control, own or manage websites – corporate sites, FaceBook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn pages and blogs by way of example – and create content that consumers may engage with. This zone is measured primarily by web analytics. In the middle are the actual social networks and conversations between individuals. In this zone we are interested in data sets that cannot be gathered solely using web analytics packages. How often is the brand being mentioned in conversation? What is the sentiment of the comments? How often is the brand being recommended and by whom? Content and behavior analysis, including tracking technologies, are the primary measurement tools in this zone. The third zone represents all the real-world, offline transactions that may be of interest. Did someone visit the store or attend or event? Did they buy a product? Did they recommend the brand or product to a friend over coffee? Primary audience research is necessary to address many of the questions, as well as scan or other purchase data in some cases.

He introduces a new model for measurement which considers exposure (the degree of exposure created to content), engagement (who, how and where are people interacting/engaging with content), influence (the degree to which exposure and engagement have influenced perceptions and attitudes), and  action (actions have been taken as a result of the PR/social media tactic).

I think this is an excellent example of a holistic approach to measuring the effects of your social media strategies. This is currently still a major challenge for organisations. As many are frantically trying to get onboard the “social media bandwagon”, they are missing the strategic element of social media. And every strategy must include effective evaluation and measurement.