— blending the mix

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 the”public” in “public relations” also meant message reaching online…but the problem was, online was always the domain of “techie types”, digital agencies who dealt in page views, bounce rates, click-through rates and the like – terminology which was (and i’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) – 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 – 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 – but I’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:

“the 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. ”

What I probably should have added, is that the objective also defines the metric – pick an objective then pick your metrics.

I don’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.

6 comments
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Geoff Livingston. Geoff Livingston said: RT @paulfabretti: Social Media needs a lesson in Analytics http://bit.ly/f3Rl20 <— some thoughts from me inspired by @geoffliving ' … […]

  2. Geoff Livingston says: January 6, 20114:54 am

    I definitely agree that more parties share the blame. I may have been too sensational in the post title, but it was definitely an observation about the type of metric mostly associated with the bubble, and you are dead on in your analysis of how it happened. Thanks for this thoughtful post, Paul.

  3. Anonymous says: January 6, 20119:09 am

    Hey Geoff, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I wouldn’t say you were sensationalist – I like the challenge that it will hopefully make a lot of people have to check what they do, or rather how they do it.

  4. Tom Cheesewright says: January 6, 20119:21 am

    My first boss in PR taught me that PR ‘is about knocking out every reason why the cheque signer won’t sign the cheque’. Implicit in that statement is a connection between the activities of the PR agency and the bottom line of the client. Sure it’s hard to measure the impact of PR in pounds and pence but the point is that we ought to get as close to that goal as possible. If the barrier to sales is lack of awareness, then maybe buzz/followers etc is not a bad metric, but it’s nigh-on impossible to make a causal link today between that and sales (a point I made at the THUPR event at the end of last year). I say ‘today’ because this is a problem that I have been looking at for a couple of years now, and its solution is one of the potential outputs of http://www.canddi.com/

  5. Anonymous says: January 6, 20119:34 am

    Greta point there Tom about the potential for limiting sales being the lack of awareness – whatever the objective, I think it is that constant awareness of the objective (and the path which you take to meet that objective) that will keep a degree of focus in interaction on social channels.

    As we all know, Facebook for example, can be used in a whole manner of ways, so you behave accordingly in line with your objective.

  6. […] is – it is down to planning, which goes back precisely to my post earlier in the week about why the social media industry needs a lesson in analytics, and why Geoff’s post is so timely too – so many social media campaigns are done by […]

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