E v a l u a t i o n a n d M e a s u r e m e n t o f S o c i a l M e d i a i n P R 1

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Evaluation and Measurement of Social Media and the Web used in Public Relations Efforts Jennifer Gruber

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Abstract

The Evaluation and Measurement of Social Media and the Web used in Public Relations Efforts is an analysis of the metrics used to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of social media and other online public relations efforts. Many professionals and organizations in the field of public relations use social media in various ways and having metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the social media efforts is very important. This paper will outline many topics surrounding the issue of social media metrics in order to help businesses and individuals use social media more effectively as a measurement tool in public relations effectiveness.

Leaders Discussing Measurement and Evaluation of Social Media

There are many leaders in the field that discuss social media measurement and evaluation. These leaders include, but are not limited to, Alex Bogusky, Katie Paine, Brian Solis, and Christine Moorman. Each of these professionals has a different way of evaluating and measuring social media success and what is important to look at while evaluating success.

Bogusky started his career in communications with Crispin and Porter Advertising and has worked through many campaigns with this advertising agency, including public relations campaigns using social media. In the article, Planning and Evaluating Digital Media Campaigns for the Public Sector, Bogusky evaluates the use of social media in a new way,

“You can’t buy attention anymore. Having a huge budget doesn’t mean anything in social media. The old paradigm was pay to play. Now you get back what you authentically put in. You’ve got to be willing to play to play” (Burke, 2011, p. 1). To Burke, this means that the playing field in social media use is even; small companies and organizations have the opportunity to compete with the larger organizations that normally

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dominate the public relations field. Nonprofit organizations that do not have a large operating budget can compete for attention with a for-profit company that has the means to pay for publicity to sell products and services.

Another professional speaking about social media measurement and evaluation is Katie Paine. Paine is the “Queen of Measurement;” she is the CEO of KDPaine & Partners which is a company that provides customized research that measures public relationships and brand image (Paine, 2003, p. 1). Paine states that there are ten social media measurement tips that all organizations should use when evaluating their social media efforts’ success. The first is take time to define your social media success; get everyone in the organization to agree on logistics such as audiences to target, goals, and the measures of success that will be used. Second, develop specific measurable goals and objectives. Goals should be SMART; specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Third, measure the engagement of your audience through comments, shares, or any measure related to the organization goals (Paine, 2013, p. 1).

As a fourth step, Paine (2013) stated start small with projects that are easy to manage on social media (p. 1). Fifth learn to measure results and not the activity. Sixth, learn to measure influence and not popularity. Seventh, use measurement to connect social media campaigns to the goals that the organization has set. Eighth, don’t use the term “return on investment” because ROI should be used strictly in the financial sense. Instead, relate the results back to the goals set. Ninth, use your metrics to learn and improve; don’t just let the opportunity to improve go by. Use the metrics to develop a plan to improve your business and future social media efforts. Lastly, use measurement to save time; learn how to not waste time on efforts that do not produce results (Paine, 2013, p. 1).

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This leads to the next professional, Brian Solis; a principal analyst at Altimeter group and award-winning author. In the book, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, Solis discusses how social media has changed the way public relations efforts are performed; specifically measurement tools, and defining and measuring success. According to Solis, there are two measurement tools for social media, web analytics and offsite analytics. Website analytics include the number of unique and repeat visitors and the total audience, where visitors were before visiting the site, the path traveled while on the site, time spent on the site, transaction completed or abandoned, and the number of registrants and subscribers (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009, p. 262). Offsite analytics are products that enable organizations to analyze “offsite” activity and competitive web traffic (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009, p. 263).

In this book, Solis also talks about defining and measuring success. This process of defining and measuring success is broken down into 5 steps, the first being identify the important information and share that with leaders and decision makers in the business. The second step is, based on that information, measure where the organization currently is and compare that to other organizations. This will help create a benchmark for the company. The third step is to define realistic goals for the new PR process to justify its existence and future budgeting needs. The fourth step is to reverse-engineer the actions, tools, and programs required to achieve the goals. The final step, step five, is very detailed. This step involves estimating the cost of the activity and comparing it against other branding activities. To determine the areas of highest impact, it is important to compare the cost of participation in means of objectives, actions, programs, tools, and measurement (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009, p. 265-267).

Another professional who specialized in social media measurement is Christine Moorman; a marketing professional, Duke University Professor, and award winning author. In

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her article, Measuring Social Media ROI: Companies Emphasize Voice Metrics, Moorman states that Albert Hirschman urges customers to voice their opinions and beliefs on social media; when companies have a social media outlet for customers to have a voice, the company is creating an environment to build relationships which ultimately benefits the organization long-term. Thus, voice-based metrics are extremely important to use when evaluating the effectiveness of social media and the web in public relations efforts. This power for customers to discuss companies and the brands openly on social media allows for dispersing of knowledge about brands and the company for view by the company and other customers. Companies must use the information presented to evaluate customer relationships, as well as the effects communication has on the company as a whole (Moorman, 2013, p. 1).

Evaluating Social Media Success

There are many ways to evaluate the success of social media. Success varies depending on the person and company and thus the evaluation also varies. There are many forms of social media and thus there are very different ways to evaluate each different outlet.

The first types of evaluation are production and exposure. Production is the weakest measure used to evaluate social media success. Production is showing a client or employer the communication “product generated, such as copies of news releases, brochures, ad tear sheet and so forth. In social media, this means showing the number of status updates or tweets over a certain period of time” (Penning, 2013, p. 1). Exposure, also called “eyeballs reached”, is a measure that analyzes the number of people that see the post, tweet, etc. This can be measuring the number of followers or friends a page has. This is sometimes difficult to do because not every friend or follower is going to see every single post. Facebook has tried to rectify this by

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having a built-in “Insights” that show how many people have looked at a post (Penning, 2013, p. 1).

The next type of evaluation is return on investment, or ROI, which is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment. Social media allows organizations to build strong relationships in which the organization gains the trust of the consumer. This helps create an environment that the consumer feels comfortable in and when that consumer is ready to act, that organization will be fresh in their mind and will be viewed positively in the consumer’s eyes. Although the ROI is not immediate or necessarily monetary, there are definite benefits for an organization using the social media, and these benefits can be measured.

Return on engagement is another form of evaluation in which relationships and engagement are measured. This type of evaluation can be measured by evaluating the comments, mentions, and shares by followers or friends; measuring dialogue rather than marketing pitches is the key. There are measures that not only evaluate the relationships, but also the value or satisfaction involved with the relationships (Penning, 2013, p. 2).

The website, Planning and Evaluating Digital Media Campaigns for the Public Sector, states that there are three types of measurement: Reach, Insights, and Actions (Planning and Evaluating Digital Media Campaigns for the Public Sector, 2011, p. 2). Reach looks at how visible a campaign is through the measurements of impressions delivered, click-through-rate, views, length of time online, site traffic, assets placed, and buzz monitoring. Insight looks at what the viewers are learning through the campaign. This is measured through one-to-one messaging, polls, surveys, value of a fan, influence, comments, and crowd sourcing. Actions look at the actions that have occurred, by either the brand or the consumer, due to the campaign. This can be seen as comments, responses posted, requests for information, questions answered,

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face-to-face integrations, materials shipped and new opportunities (Planning and Evaluating Digital Media Campaigns for the Public Sector, 2011, p. 3).

The next form of evaluation is analytics and traffic. Many social media sites have their own analytics. By using these analytics, organizations will have insight into what customers are looking at on the site and what aspects of the social campaign are successful. Often, social media public relations tactics can be disappointing because they rely so heavily on long-term relationship building and brand awareness without visible immediate results, however, this can be used to promote long-term growth (Kushner, 2013, p. 1-2).

Brand reach and exposure “mentions” are another measurement tool used when evaluating social media success. This is not as easy as just tracking the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers. To accurately use these measurement tools, organizations should focus not on raw numbers, but on the percentage growth rate; compare like with like by measuring metrics over a defined period of time (Fuzz One Media, 2012, p. 1). In Twitter, this means comparing followers and the followers of those that retweet messages over the course of one-month and then comparing that number to the previous numbers. On Facebook, this means tracking the number of fans on pages, those that became fans during the month, those that commented on posts during month, and those that liked posts during the month. Once again, compare this number to the numbers from past months. On YouTube, measuring success means tracking channel views, subscriber numbers, and video bounce rates over the month and comparing that to past numbers. Finally on blogs, this means measuring the number of visitors to related posts over a month and comparing that to past months (Fuzz One Media, 2012, p. 1).

Influence is an organizations ability to inspire followers to take some kind of action. The metrics used to measure influence are the number of links to messages and content, and how

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often messages are liked/commented on/shared/retweeted. The influence of followers and those who engaged with the site should also be tracked (Fuzz One Media, 2012, p. 2-3).

The last evaluation method to be discussed is conversions. This includes tracking social media traffic to websites in its own category by using segments in Google Analytics, advertising a coupon or deal on social media to properly assign conversions to campaigns, and measuring the time spent on a particular page (Fuzz One Media, 2012, p. 3).

Differences in Evaluation for Nonprofit and For-Profit Successes

There are many differences in nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Some of these differences are directly connected to public relations efforts and the desired outcomes of the efforts. When using evaluating social media success, the businesses have different objectives and goals that need to be considered.

For-profit organizations focus primarily on the return on investment. The return on investment can be an increase in sales, an increase in customer base, or an increase in the customer loyalty which is a measureable amount and direct link to actual results. For-profit organizations are interested in making the most money without having to spend a lot. Social media is essentially free to use and because the social media sites are so popular, they provide an amazing outlet for businesses to promote their products and services while allowing customers to interact with one another.

Nonprofit organizations have a different focus. Nonprofit organizations are looking for relationships with people; people that are able to be volunteers or donors. The primary focus for this organization is to promote change, not to make profits. The work that nonprofits put into social media efforts is to promote events that are sponsored by the organization, drive visitors to

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online donation sites, gain followers for a cause or the organization, and to empower passionate influential supporters to promote the organization and the cause they are promoting (Going Social: Tapping into Social Media for Nonprofit Success, 2010, p. 7).

When measuring the success, for-profit businesses are going to measure the amount of sales that have occurred since the implementation of the social media campaign compared to the amount of sales prior to the campaign. These businesses will also evaluate the amount of positive feedback shared about the business and the products being sold. The outcomes being evaluated are called the return on investment. To evaluate this, for-profit businesses have an advantage because the businesses are able to purchase more expensive and high tech tools to evaluate the success of social media. In nonprofit organizations, evaluation will include evaluating donor sign-ups, volunteer efforts, and event participation numbers before and after the social media campaign. The non-profits will also look at the amount of people involved in the organization or that support the cause regularly by sharing the information present on the organizations website. Nonprofits do not have a lot of money to spend on publicity and campaigns, thus the use of social media helps even the “playing field” for their campaign efforts. To evaluate the success of their social media use, nonprofits must use free tools such as Microsoft Excel, Hootsuite, or other online tools. These tools are effective, but may not have as many outlets for evaluation making it more difficult to evaluate all aspects of social media.

Similar Measures of Success in Nonprofit and For-Profit Businesses

Although for-profit and nonprofit businesses are very different, both do share some evaluation characteristics when referring to social media success. Both types of businesses will evaluate the amount of followers or friends that have started to follow their site per month. This

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allows the businesses to evaluate the number of people involved, whether it is for product awareness and sales or for volunteers and donors. Both organizations will use the free online evaluation tools and techniques available, as well as Microsoft excel.

Nonprofits and for-profit businesses have to evaluate the social media campaigns on a regular, scheduled basis to remain consistent and have accurate results. Thus, organizations need to create a specific, scheduled time each month to update the results of the month’s campaign and compare that data to the previous months’ efforts (Going Social: Tapping into Social Media for Nonprofit Success, 2010, p. 24).

Tools and Techniques Used to Evaluate Social Media Programs

There are many tools and techniques used to measure social media programs. Many online social media sites have their own measurement tools. There are also free measurement tools available and tools that may be purchased. Each social media site should be evaluated separately and only compared to past performance on the same site. Every social media site is a little different and therefore cannot be directly compared. For example, Facebook has a specific step-by-step measurement process. The first step is defining objectives in measurement. Next, defining and tracking the funnel of information. Following this, organizations need to describe the tactical variations for testing. After, the measurement variable need to be determines and the tools for measurement need to be set-up. Finally, there are actionable decisions that need to be made (Kanter, 2010, p. 2-3).

As discussed throughout the paper, there are many tools available to use to help evaluate social media success. The first is using Microsoft Excel; creating a spreadsheet of the data being measured is done by the business, is free to use, and is on most computers. Facebook Insights is

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a free program that provides information about how many people are reading and interacting with each post on the organizations page. Google Analytics allows the tracking of blog readership, or how many people are coming to the website from sites like Facebook or Twitter and where visitors are going on the site. Bit.ly allows users to shorten and then easily track how many people click on a particular link. It also helps to create track-able links for different social media channels (Berry, 2011, p. 1).

There are also many other free social media monitoring tools that are very easy to use and can be found on Google; for example Hootsuite, TweetReach, and Klout. Hootsuite is a very popular measurement tool that is a web-based dashboard. It allows users to monitor multiple social networks in one location while collaborating with fellow employees, schedule messages, and assign tasks to team. This tool is great for managing multiple accounts on the same platform (Berecovitz, 2012, p. 1).

Organizations often wonder who is reading tweets sent, how the tweets are being shares and what the measured impact of the messages being sent it. TweetReach is a social analytics tool that helps capture all of this valuable information (Berecovitz, 2012, p. 1). This allows companies to take a deeper analysis of their efforts on Twitter, as well as the audience that is seeing and using the information presented.

Although there are many more tools that are available for use, the last to discuss is Klout. Klout provides an influencer score to business that is based on social media activity. The influencer score is determined using over 400 variables. Klout also allows users to look at influences and who is influenced to regularly share content that is of high quality from trusted sources (Berecovitz, 2012, p. 1).

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Ways in Which Companies and Organizations Evaluate Social Media

Every company and organization that uses social media has to have a way to evaluate the success of the programs implemented; however, it is very difficult to find a detailed example of the tactics and tools used. The first company to discuss with a detailed evaluation system is The Walt Disney Company social media strategy. Disney is a family-oriented organization and thus there are many different levels of audience to reach: children, adolescents, and adults (The Walt Disney Company Social Media Strategy, 2011, p. 1). The first objective found is to increase the number of children fans using the DisneyWebkinz.com. To evaluate this, the organization has to compute the number of subscribers to DisneyWebkinz.com. The second objective is to increase the number of children and adolescents that subscribe to YouTube. To evaluate this, the company needs to compute the increase in YouTube subscribers following the campaign and also calculate how many were taken to the site via the social media campaign. The third and final objective is to create and maintain a World of Disney blog targeting adolescents and receive 2,000 unique hits on it. To evaluate this, the organization will measure the number of hits in the “Site Stats” section of Wordpress.com and calculate the amount of activity by looking at the comments on Twitter and Facebook (The Walt Disney Company Social Media Strategy, 2011, p. 2-3).

Although the Walt Disney Company has very specific measurable metrics, other companies such as McDonald’s are less specific about the way in which success in social media is evaluated. As stated by Wion, (Brandau, 2013, p. 1) “For a new item, we want to drive awareness, get people excited and get them to buy it. We look at reach metrics – likes, share, retweets – and we’ll track tone and sentiment to see what people like to talk about.”

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For ABC’s Good Morning America, success in social media is based on number of fans, followers or friends, and the engagement created. Success for this organization is seeing the number of fans engaging in the news by either tweeting questions to reporters about stories they are covering, or by posting and sharing information about the information presented during the early morning news show. Network journalists are on social networking sites giving people direct access to the reporters and the stories they are covering (Tenore, 2012, p. 1).

Challenges Associated with Social Media Evaluation and Metrics

As Richards (2012) states in the article from PR Week, “A lack of decent metrics is holding back the development of social media as a marketing channel” (p. 1). There are six distinct barriers that organizations face when trying to evaluate social media metrics. The first barrier is definitions. Defining conditions is the need to understand what social means to specific businesses and how long each interaction will impact those businesses. Defining the terms is necessary for discussions to continue and move on.

The second barrier is data and training. This involves processing information and data, as well as making sense of the large amounts of information presented. By looking at the numbers present, such as people engaging, businesses should be able to understand what engagement look like (Richards, 2012, p. 2). The third barrier is dangers of micrometrics. This is the hardest barrier to overcome. When looking at social media, such as Facebook, different metrics can mean different things depending on the viewer. A “like” for one person may mean they are engaged in the post, however, for someone else it may not mean the same. Thus, measuring the engagement of viewers is very difficult when people are so different.

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The fourth barrier is the understanding the journey barrier, followed by responsibility. Responsibility for engagement of viewers is split between PR and marketing teams. As Richards (2012) states, “there are no interactions with consumers that don’t impact on perception. And long-term, perception impacts on sales” (p. 3). Thus the responsibility for measuring impact on customers is not completely impacted by just a PR team, there are many other variables. The sixth and final barrier is the “good enough metrics?’ barrier in which social media is thought to have lower standards for impact than other forms of media channels. This means that campaigns need to be planned with a confidence that is similar to that of other campaigns in other media channels (Richards, 2012, p. 3-4).

Conclusion

Social Media is ever changing and thus the evaluation and measurement of the success of public relations campaigns must continue to be accessed and analyzed. As time continues, public relations professionals will have enough tools to understand the impact of social media and how to better run a campaign. For now, it is important to use the available tools and continue to listen to the feedback from customers and others in the field.

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