Despite steps forward, social media measurement still a work in progress

On June 4, Sysomos, a company that has been quietly operating in Toronto since 2005, launched Sysomos Media Analysis Platform (MAP) and Sysomos Heartbeat.

On June 4, Sysomos, a company that has been quietly operating in Toronto since 2005, launched Sysomos Media Analysis Platform (MAP) and Sysomos Heartbeat. Three and a half years in the making, these are social media monitoring and measurement tools that offer users access to a database of social media conversations going back to 2006, as well as real-time access; the ability to identify key influencers; analyze sentiment; and learn details about social media participants, such as gender, geographic location, and profession.

“It's all about organizing the information that's being generated on a daily basis to help you engage and quantify the impact of these mentions to the brand and corporate strategy,” says cofounder and CEO Nick Koudas. “We have enough sophistication in tools to become very granular in our understanding of what's going on. What's not there is [the ability] to connect these insights with overall business strategy.”

Making progress
A March 2008 PRWeek article on social media monitoring and measurement noted the following: “The industry is at a trial-and-error stage, so every measurement success is a step toward greater knowledge and best practices.”

Fast-forward to summer 2009 and, still, the industry has not definitively identified the ways in which social and digital media measurement and monitoring should be done. However, progress has been made on two key fronts: End users have raised their level of understanding the issue and the capabilities of measurement and monitoring technology have gotten better.

“The more the tools become sophisticated, the more [users] look at the results, the more they get better questions, and we improve the tools and insights,” Koudas says. “Clearly there is better understanding today than
six months ago. I predict in the next six months there will be an even better understanding.”

Dan Gallagher, SVP of research and discovery at Waggener Edstrom, calls the digital PR process a “feedback loop,” where technology is used to discover who is influential on the front end as well as on the back end to determine if the effort has reached its goal. Approaching these social media initiatives as an ongoing process rather than a campaign has been a recent development for PR.

“If you treat [people] like a campaign, you'll see the metrics go up, and go away,” says Blake Cahill, SVP of marketing at Visible Technologies. “The technologies that vendors are supplying move in the direction of managing the community.”

Stronger software
In addition, the technology has raised the bar. Software can better filter spam and find meaningful mentions of a brand or company. And, in a world where Twitter is the next stop for monitoring and measurement, speed is critical.

We've gone “from monthly and weekly reporting snapshots to real-time reporting and analysis,” Cahill explains. “Over the past 12 months... the speed of new channels, such as Twitter, has sped up cycles for what we're offering.”

And rather than fixed analytics, social media measurement and monitoring has spawned a number of different tools and platforms that provide users with a variety of ways of slicing and dicing data.

PR Newswire's social media measurement and monitoring tool, Social Media Metrics, culls demographic and topical information in ways that traditional media analysis tool, like MediaSense, can't.

“The most important lesson we learned is trying to make social media fit into the mold of traditional media doesn't work,” explains Allison Murphy, product manager of monitoring and measurement services at PRN. “MediaSense [offers] overall analytics without drilling down. We were looking into doing this for social media, but we got feedback that it's important to see raw data.”

Despite the leap in capabilities, Twitter and other social media platforms are still waiting for analytics. And there's the elusive goal of showing business results. But there's optimism in the industry.

Koudas says: “Over the next little while, we'll see a tool that connects insights with ROI.”

Improvements in social media measurement

Using metrics such as link activity, measurement, and monitoring tools can determine key influencers for a brand or company

Many measurement and monitoring platforms can determine the age, gender, and location of participants

Less spam
Technology providers have worked to filter spam from raw data results

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