There is also a need for standards in social media measurement: a common language that is transparent, meaningful and able to drive strategy across organizations. These standards should also be applicable across disciplines and communities whether they are advertising and public relations agencies and their clients, academic researchers trying to decipher the inner workings of social networks, or program planners who need to decide if, when and how to allocate their resources to social media platforms. Common standards for social measurement should also increase the reliability of the methods that are used and the data that are presented to support the use and effectiveness of social media.
These were some of the arguments for setting standards for social media measurement at the 4th European Summit on Measurement by Tim Marklein and Katie Paine in their presentation of the work of the #SMMStandards Coalition. This group has identified six priorities for standardization:
- Content sourcing and methods
- Reach and impressions
- Influence and relevance
- Opinion and advocacy
- Impact and value
Here are some excerpts from their presentation:
- Organizations need clearly defined goals and outcomes for social media.
- Media content analysis should be supplemented by web and search analytics, sales and CRM data, survey data and other methods.
- Evaluating quality and quantity is critical, just as it is with conventional media.
- Measurement must focus on conversations and communities, not just 'coverage.'
- Not all content venues, aggregators and analysts are created equal. Social media measurement success stands or falls on the quality, scope and methodology of content analyzed, as well as analyst experience.
- Multipliers should not be used to calculate social media reach; in fact, dividers are more appropriate. Few of your followers “read” every tweet; only 8-12% see Facebook posts.
- Engagement could be but is not necessarily an outcome and is manifested differently by channel.
- Influence is multi-level and multi-dimensional, online and offline; it is not popularity or a single score.
- Sentiment is over-rated and over-used; its reliability varies by vendor and approach.
- Key performance indicators and balanced scorecards are helpful to connect social media impact to business results/language.
They also presented the first interim standard for content sourcing and methods used by vendors: "All social media measurement reports should include a standard "content sourcing and methodology" table that helps clients know "what's inside" the product for full transparency and easy comparison (like a food nutrition label)."
The #SMMStandards Committee is hard at work on the next steps including the publication of discussion documents on several of the priority topics. In the meanwhile, you can check for updates at #SMMStandards and start talking with your researchers and vendors about filling out a transparency table for their social media measurement sources and methods (see pdf example). Perhaps that will start moving us from black boxes and faith to data-driven decision-making.