Clear measurement is vital

Standardised metrics must be established to gauge the quality of conversations.

As a long-standing customer of First Direct, it's great to read Amanda Brown confirming that customers are at the heart of everything it does.

The world has moved on from the days of top-down, one-way communication offered by traditional media, where the only way a customer had to express their views was to write a letter or discuss with acquaintances how the content made them feel about a brand. Potential praise and/or damage were very limited in likely escalation and companies could afford to ignore the response from the end audience.

The digitalisation of media content on the internet, a 'many-to-many' network for sharing content and ideas, has changed all of this. No longer can communication be a one-way process - it needs to be a proper conversation. Brands need to be relevant, open, fast, responsive and genuine in their communication. The conversation will happen with or without their blessing, and potentially in front of audiences the size of which previously were unimaginable.

One of the effects of this is that traditional marketing techniques are struggling to engage audiences. Advertising, particularly, is suffering. It has to use interruption to grab attention, and the audience doesn't like it.

The lines between marketing disciplines are blurring, with everyone wanting a slice of each other's pie. The PR industry must be able to either offer broader services - becoming more integrated in its thinking - or make sure that it offers true expertise in online comms, taking a leadership position in implementing and measuring communication.

The proliferation of content from online and social channels, coupled with the rise of software platforms offering instantaneous metrics, are causing confusion. These software-monitoring platforms measure what is easy to get hold of rather than what matters to an organisation. They do it in different ways and offer spurious indexes claiming to identify influence and assess sentiment.

Gorkana Group recently trialled many of the leading providers and was astonished by the lack of consistency across the findings. All of their sentiment scores varied wildly, as did the topics identified, the content by social media type and even the total volumes of content returned. Only 20 per cent of the total coverage returned by the leading four providers we assessed was found by each of them. The same type of results we found have also been recorded by other organisations conducting similar tests.

The PR industry is unclear on how best to measure social media. AMEC (the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) has responded by forming a measurement group to help drive industry standards and valid metrics, which I will be chairing.

We will be looking to set standards on some of the hottest topics in social media measurement, including influence, engagement, sentiment, volume, breadth, speed and reach. The cross-marketing effect of social media means that we need to reach out to other interested parties, too, so in October along with the USA's IPR and CPRF we met with representatives from the IABC, comScore, Nielsen, the Web Analytics Association and the Society for New Communications Research to look for areas of agreement.

On 17 November, AMEC will be hosting the Big Ask (, a half-day conference in London where we will ask PROs for input into establishing global social media standards.


Do you make a distinction between personal and professional use of social media?

Twitter is for business, connecting with industry peers, sharing information, exchanging views and learning. Facebook is for friends only. We use our blog,, to contribute to the conversation.

How would you deal with a Twitter account spoofing one of your clients?

I'd use our real-time monitoring service, Metrica Radar, to find it and alert them. We are media measurement experts and our clients trust us to find them the relevant content and measure its potential impact.

Richard Bagnall is managing director of Metrica and insights and analytics director, Gorkana Group.



From PRWeek's Digital thought leader supplement November 2011

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