The Paine of Measurement
About six months ago in these pages I wrote a piece about the state of measurement standards called “It’s a Bridge, It’s a Bridge!” I made an analogy with the long-anticipated bridge being built across the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, NH, and Kittery, ME.
I’m thrilled to now be able to tell you that, in terms of social media measurement, we now have the equivalent of a shiny new bridge. (And, as it happens, the actual bridge over the Piscataqua is almost finished.)
It was quite the week for progress in measurement
On June 6th the Conclave released its standards for social media measurement, providing the industry long-awaited standard terminology and best practices for social media measurement. (Read them at smmstandards.org, and please comment. Public comments are open until July.) It was a herculean effort by a number of very smart and dedicated people. The industry owes them a tremendous round of applause. At the same time Rob Flaherty, CEO of Ketchum, pledged that his agency would adhere to the new Coalition and Conclave standards, and that he would urge his peers in other major agencies to do the same.
Also, at the recent AMEC Madrid Summit, AMEC debuted its PR Professional's Definitive Guide to Measurement, and Don Bartholomew and Richard Bagnall presented their new Framework for Social Media Metrics and Measurement.The goal for all of these efforts is to improve the quality and value of measurement programs, to help people and organizations “do measurement right.” We are long past the time for debating whether people should or should not meaure their results. Unfortunately, in the rush to measure something -- anything -- a lot of really bad metrics and measurement programs were created. Many of the people who leapt onto bandwagons like KLOUT, AVE, and HITS (How Idiots Track Success) found that, sooner or later, the wagon’s wheels fell off. Generally in the board room.
So they’ve been seeking better solutions. The efforts in Madrid and elsewhere earlier this month are those solutions.
So what if we have standards?
Of course, once the applause dies down people will ask, “So What?” And since I tell my clients and audiences to ask that question at least three times when looking at any report, it’s appropriate to preempt the skeptics and answer them here.
The most immediate So What? is that a great many people can spend a lot less time debating the proper definitions of terms and appropriate techniques for measuring social media. The standards specifically address frequently debated issues like ROI, influence scores, engagement metrics, etc. These tricky terms will now be much more consistent from project to project and vendor to vendor.
But the bigger So What? will be that clients can now make better and faster decisions. The new standards mean that the process of collecting the right data will become more -- yes -- standardized; less of a stumbling block and more of a commodity. We can now spend our brain power on analyzing the data and using it to make decisions. After all, the real purpose of measurement is to improve programs, and the new standards will get us to those improvements faster.
The next hurdle: Adoption
Of course, these benefits will depend a lot on how broadly and quickly our industry adopts the standards. Now it's time for clients, industry associations, and academia to step up to the plate. If you're responsible for award programs in PR and communications, I urge you to require that all entries adhere to the standards. If you’re a client, make adherence to standards a requirement of any RFP. And academics, let's stop teaching all the silly stuff and make sure that your graduates understand the existing standards. With luck, they’ll be able to advance them in the future.
Wishing you large measures of success,
Katie Delahaye Paine is Chairman, KDPaine & Partners, (a Salience Insight company), and Chief Marketing Officer of News Group International. KDP&P 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. Katie and Beth Kanter are authors of the book “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” published last year by Wiley.
The Measurement Standard is a publication of News Group International.
(Thanks to She Talks With God for the image.)