Social Media needs a lesson in Analytics
This post is in response to a “call to arms” post from Geoff Livingston, in which he suggests that PR agencies are, largely, responsible for the bubble that is currently social media. That is to some extent, totally true, but at the same time also needs some level of guilt lain at the door of seo agencies and digital agencies who build tools because their fixed costs dictate they need to.
Each comes to social media with a different understanding of what metrics matter to them, and by default, what metrics they think are relevant to their activity.
But, PR has, as Geoff rightly says, been an industry with quite fixed (and long-ingrained) ways to measure what it does. For years, nothing came along to replace it or even better it, until the dawn of online pr rose and pr people realised that theâ€publicâ€ in â€œpublic relationsâ€ also meant message reaching onlineâ€¦but the problem was, online was always the domain of â€œtechie typesâ€, digital agencies who dealt in page views, bounce rates, click-through rates and the like â€“ terminology which was (and iâ€™d argue remains) entirely alien to a pr agency.
With the weight of expectation that PR agencies need to take the lead on social media, they take whatever metrics *seem* to be the closest to what they know i.e. coverage = number of mentions = awareness.
Naturally, the downfall comes when the pr agency begins to carry out whatever it has sold to the client on the understanding that sheer numbers of followers or mentions is the end goal. Now, in some cases, it IS, but there are many other impact factors on social media activity that the ill-informed pr agency is aware of, or understand enough to weave into their interactions (things like special offers once they have earned their place in the community, freebies for signing -up example) â€“ as such, they think they have done their job in getting followers, but I always liken it to bringing up a child: the child will naturally grow larger (as would a community being promoted by a PR agency), but how that child grows up, what it believes in and its values are, are determined by the nurturing its parents provide it â€“ building branded communities is exactly the same thing.
Each set of community activities brings with it a different set of metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of it â€“ but Iâ€™m not convinced that many pr agencies understand what basic analytics tell them, and therefore do the online version of free-wheeling when they talk to customers.
As I said in my post about time management in community participation:
â€œthe objective defines the channel, the channel defines the type and quantity of content you create, the volume of comments defines the time you spend engaged with customers. â€
What I probably should have added, is that the objective also defines the metric â€“ pick an objective then pick your metrics.
I donâ€™t think we are far away from generating a reasonably universal standard of what we mean by engagement/influence etc., but i think that pr agencies DO need to spend much more of their time understanding what analytics mean and how website strategies adapt according to what comes back to them.