by Katie Delahaye Paine
For additional coverage of The Conclave, see “The Social Media Measurement Standards Conclave: Photos and Attendees,” and “Setting Social Media Measurement Standards: The Conclave, The Coalition, and The Big Ask.” For a summary of the state of social media standards, see “The State of Setting Social Media Measurement Standards.”
Despite its uncompromising “Live Free or Die” motto, New Hampshire has long been known as a place where people can come to an agreement. In 1905, diplomats on both sides of the Russo-Japanese war came here for one of history’s great peace negotiations, and the result was the Treaty of Portsmouth. The Bretton Woods Conference of 1944 led to the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And, of course, anyone who has seen On Golden Pond (filmed at Squam Lake in Holderness, NH) will remember that, in the end, Ethel Thayer gets her wish: “...wouldn’t if be nice if we could all get along this time?”
It probably won’t go down in history, but the discussion about social media measurement standards that began last week at my home in Durham, New Hampshire, was a big achievement for our measurement industry. A dozen measurement experts representing almost as many professional organizations came together to eat lobsters and find some common ground. While we didn’t get to an official “Treaty of Durham,” we did discover remarkable unanimity around several important issues.
I attribute our success to a liberal application of flying lobster juice. There’s nothing that breaks down barriers faster than the messy tooth-and-claw negotiations required to get the meat out of a stubborn lobster.
The GAAP for Social Media Standards
The consensus we achieved was largely a result of the one common problem we all recognized we needed to solve. No matter what your arena — web analytics, word of mouth, social media strategy, public relations, business communications, or measurement — clients want consistency in the definition of terms and how they are used.
Procter & Gamble’s John Stieger summed this up nicely as “Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) for social media reporting.” And, when we really got down to it, we all needed definitions in the same five areas:
- Reach /Engagement
- Impact and Value
In addition, we all seemed to agreed on a number of general points:
Why we need standards.
John Lovett of WAA reminded us that (quoting Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, also attributed to others), “The good thing about standards are there are so many to choose from.”
Clearly there is mass confusion in the marketplace, and CEOs want to see order. Mark Chaves pointed out a fundamental issue: “Social media measurement is not a marketing problem, it’s a business problem. We have got to tie standards back to the balance sheet.” Which was seconded by Jen McClure: “To measure success, there is nothing better than to go back to the goals of your CEO.”
Frank Ovaitt had related thoughts: “We have only the power to recommend standards not inforce them. The customer will actually adopt and use the standards, so they are who will decide on them in the end. If we don't develop standards that matter in the marketplace, then we won't be successful.”
Transparency is key.
We may not get to universal agreement on what numbers we will use to define success, but if we are not open and transparent about how we get to those numbers, there is no credibility. As Brad Fay of WOMMA put it: “We need something like an FDA nutritional label requirement. For any project, what were its influence, engagement, sentiment and content sourcing ingredients?”
Professor Don Wright approached this in a different way: “There should be a way to ensure research quality by letting people know that whoever is doing social media measurement actually knows how to do it.”
Part of transparency is clearly defining the universe that you are measuring, whether you are measuring paid, owned, or earned media:
- Paid would include: Paid space, sponsored tweets, Google and YouTube ads, paid SEO, and LinkedIn ads.
- Owned would include: Online communities, brand sponsored LinkedIn groups, branded social channels, @branded tweets, branded Facebook pages, and branded YouTube channels.
- Earned is everything else.
Engagement is not conversion.
Conversion will be different for different organizations depending on their goals. What ultimately needs to be measured is the impact of social media on the business, whether it is in sales, share, cost savings, customer retention, or efficiency.
Klout scores are not measurement, and neither is sentiment by itself.
As Mark Chaves said, “Sentiment shouldn’t get you hired or fired. Sentiment alone as a business driver is questionable.” “Clients fixate on tools,” said Tim Marklein, “and mistake those for standards. We need to work at a higher level. We need to get beyond single vendors and simplicity.”
Frequency as a metric may not apply in social media.
While frequency is a standard metric in traditional media, things are very different in social media, where the power of frequency isn’t clear. Frequency doesn’t necessarily lead to a conversion/sale or outcome in social media and, in fact, may lead to lesser credibility.
Now that we can all get along, where we go from here?
Whether it was the lobsters, the company, or the combination of the two, we all agreed that there was much work to be done, and that this would not be our last Conclave. —KDP
Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine is a dynamic and experienced speaker on public relations and social media measurement. Click here for the schedule of Katie’s upcoming speaking engagements.