Metrics old and new may soon slake the thirst for ROI in social media
I’ll never forget driving through the hills just north of L.A. after yet another fire had devastated the area. The last time I’d seen them they were charred and blackened and lifeless. Less than six months later they were covered with pale green fuzz — kind of like my hair after chemo; easily missed, but there nonetheless — full of signs of life, rebirth, new growth.
That’s the way I see our industry today after a series of bombshells dropped recently on the Kingdom of Accountability.
 
Bombshell #1: P&G pays for engagement
First Procter & Gamble announces that they no longer want to pay for eyeballs, "hits" or costs per mile (CPM). They only want to pay for "engagement." And that means, P&G said, those people who provide e-mail addresses, download something or subscribe to your newsletter.
 
Sound familiar?
I’ve been suggesting that this is the way the world should go for awhile, but even I was surprised by the P&G announcement. I’m a big believer in the "you’re never wrong, you’re just early" philosophy, and figured it would be years before anyone practiced what I was preaching. P&G’s announcement was met with howls, praises, and a loud gnashing of teeth around the world as publishers tried to figure out what it meant.
To me it means that the numbers get smaller, but the outcomes become more concrete. That ultimately ROI will be measured, and that advertisers will force publishers of all sizes to provide better analytics.
 
Years ago, Eric Petersen defined engagement for Web traffic. According to him, an engaged reader is someone who:
  • Comes back more than five times,
  • Spends more than five minutes on the site,
  • Goes directly to the site using the URL, not search,
  • Downloads something,
  • Provides an e-mail address, and ultimately
  • Buys something.
 
He determined these metrics by deconstructing the purchase process for his book, on his own Web site. That’s relatively easily done on your own site, but at the time it was unrealistic to think that you could get that information from anyone else’s site.
But imagine if you could. If there was a social media online crowd-sourced version of the eyeball bible SRDS where bloggers could post their statistics and advertisers could select where they wanted to place ads based on those statistics. My guess is that with P&G demanding those stats, it’s probably only a year or so down the road.
 
Bombshell #2: Nielsen surveys Facebookers
Facebook is providing Nielsen with real metrics—information on what Facebook users like and don’t like about advertising, and details on how Web content and online advertising affect consumer behavior. My favorite part of the announcement is that they are doing it not with some weird computer-driven algorithm or pseudo-scientific analysis of what people are saying, but the old-fashioned way. They’re going to ask them. Using a survey. What a concept!
 
For years I’ve listened to people ask for "a better tool" to determine whether they’ve increased awareness or preference or to measure trust or reputation. And I watch their faces fall when I say that the tool was invented well over a century ago: It’s called a survey. And though it’s a lot easier to do it online than on paper or by phone, it’s still the same process. So kudos to Facebook and Nielsen for taking a giant step backward and forward at the same time.
 
Bombshell #3: Organizations are not yet measuring social media
This may be more of an opportunity than a real bombshell. Mzinga and Babson Executive Education teamed up to provide us with answers to some of our most burning questions—such as  how many people are really using social media. The answers surprised me.
 
Almost nine out of 10 organizations—86 percent—are using some form of social media and the majority of them use it for marketing purposes. That’s a lot of Facebook pages. But what is amazing is that nearly as many, 84 percent, admit they have no way to measure their efforts.
 
I know, I know: Most marketers don’t measure ROI at all. But the thing about social media is that you need metrics more because you have so many different options.
Say you’re starting an online video campaign and you don’t define goals and measure them. Six months later, when the boss comes in and asks whether you should renew the budget, what will you say? It obviously means there’s a lot of opportunity for folks like myself, who are in the social media measurement business. It also means that there are an awful lot of budgets out there that probably won’t be renewed.
 
So what’s left in the rubble after these bombshells have dropped? Some wonderful signs of a new measurement world.
 
Sign #1: Organizations want to measure outcomes
We received an RFP recently that stated that the organization—a government agency no less—wanted a firm to measure not outputs nor activity—but specifically the outcome of the agency’s efforts.
 
Sign #2: PRSA recommends outcome metrics
PRSA released a set of recommended metrics and approaches for evaluating public relations’ influence on key business outcomes:
"Our fundamental goal is to change how the industry talks about what public relations accomplishes," says Michael G. Cherenson, APR, PRSA 2009 Chair and CEO. "Instead of meaningless catch phrases, such as ‘create buzz,’ our recommended approach focuses on identifying meaningful expressions of business performance, suggesting more appropriate measurement metrics and recommending proven tools for demonstrating how those metrics were impacted."
 
I’m proud to say I was part of the working group that crafted those recommendations. It’s not a "tool" but a philosophy (and accompanying Powerpoint presentation) that PR practitioners can and should take to the C-suite to explain exactly how PR can help the bottom line.

It’s also channel- and industry-neutral, intended to work whether you’re measuring social or traditional media, and equally applicable whether you’re working for a small nonprofit or a Fortune 500 corporation. Read more here.

 
Sign #3: The ROI buzz is up
Last time I checked there were dozens of ongoing conversations taking place on Twitter, Facebook and blogs on the subject of measuring ROI. Although half of them are just adding to the confusion, every day I find a few that are actually bringing clarity to the conversation. Social media is being used to improve the ROI of social media. What a concept!
Katie Paine is president of KDPaine & Partners.
 
SOURCE: Ragan.Com

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