One of the things many people who work in PR and social harp on is the lack of consistency when it comes to measurement. That trend, however, appears to be changing slightly – at least anecdotally.
There are some amazing people in the space who have made major headway in the past few years with companies large and small to ensure we're really on the up-and-up in the results bucket. One of the people who got me thinking hard about this is Don Bartholomew, Ketchum's SVP of digital and social media research – but you might know him as MetricsMan.
I had the pleasure of working with Don a few years back while we were both at MWW. One of the major tasks we shared a role in was evaluating a new measurement system for the agency and its clients. A second was developing some sort of “rating” system for social space influencers for a few significant client projects we were working on.
In both cases, I learned a lot. For one, I recognized there is no “secret sauce” that will automagically – yes, I know it's not a word – tell you the real “value” of having a client's story picked up on a blog or how much sway those tweets (though this was in the pre-Twitter-being-massive era) have on your business. There's some handiwork involved for sure.
That's not to say there aren't some great tools, services, and platforms for truly evaluating what's out there. It's more to point out that the proper blend of technological advancements in measurement plus good, old-fashioned manual review of posts, tweets, and other items are more valuable than ever. More importantly, companies are truly beginning to come to the table not only asking for, but expecting to see some smart social/digital metrics beyond the like, fan, follower, or view.
Those of us who work with retail businesses understand the value of having a customer come into a store (or visit online). We also have a grasp of the number of transactions they make, how much money they deposit in the bank, or whether they regularly return items to inventory. Along with those metrics and the amazing CRM systems we have built today, we're seeing more and more inclusion of social relevancy in how we evaluate our customers.
We're able to flag complaints and issues via Twitter, Facebook, or other channels. In many cases, when someone's name is available, we can connect that alias or avatar with a real person, helping us make informed decisions and turn our “downer”/negative mentions in social into positive resolutions. So now “problems solved via social” can be included in our monthly business results alongside in-store customer service issues metrics or telephone metrics.
That's just one KPI we can keep an eye on, however. We can measure how much customer response via social has influenced everything from call center hours to product features. Companies have been building “influencer teams” that get early peeks at products or services for years now and have spent enough time doing so that we can have legitimate business metrics that span years, not days, weeks, months, or – in the case of the typical social situation – hours.
With that, I want to send a warm shout out to people who have been big on ensuring that real, solid, smart business metrics are brought into the world of PR and social (within reason, of course – this isn't to discount likes, shares, etc.). You know who you are and keep up the good work.
Tom Biro is VP of Allison+Partners' Seattle office. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tombiro.