Media content analysis is one of the most common and valuable tools in social media measurement and public relations measurement. It's the process of reading and quantifying what is being said in the media about a company or organization or person. You typically want to learn what key messages are getting out, and whether or not people are reading or saying favorable things.
Those of you in the media analysis business will enjoy an article about forensic linguistics in the July 23rd issue of The New Yorker by Jack Hitt entitled "Words On Trial." It's about the work of language experts who try to Sherlock the hidden meanings out of ransom notes, crime scene graffiti, and other language-based crime clues. Call it "CSI Language."
Analyzing social media is a little trickier than print media, because people often use social media in a less formal fashion, with slang, sarcasm, and abbreviations. Here's a passage from the article in which you social media analysts will recognize the difficulty of your work:
"..words serve as catalysts, setting off sparks of potential meaning that the listener organizes into more specific meaning by observing facial expression, body language, and other redundant clues... [including] prior experience... To every exchange we bring unconscious scripts; as any given sentence unspools, we readjust the schema to make better sense of what we are hearing.
Social media is notoriously difficult for automated (computer) analysis to make sense of (estimates are as low as 60% accuracy) and usually requires time-intensive human coding to parse. Forensic linguists are trying to use computer analysis, too, with mixed results:
" 'One thing we have learned about language is that is is a very human form of communication. You have to have human intelligence, human powers of inference, and human encyclopedic knowledge of the world" to make sense of it... Computers can crunch reams of words, but only people can decide what the words mean."
Go read the whole article now. -- Bill Paarlberg, editor
--Bill Paarlberg is editor of The Measurement Standard blog and newsletter, and of Katie Paine's book “Measure What Matters.” He is also editor of the book “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine, which will be published this year by Wiley.
Follow Bill Paarlberg on Twitter.
The Measurement Standard is a publication of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners, will be glad to talk with you about measurement for your organization.