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September 27, 2010

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David Geddes

Katie -- You make a very important point in your comment "the only way you are going to confirm and quantify it in your specific case is if you ask people if they are aware of your brand, through a standard brand tracking study." These are the "outtakes" in a standard Outputs-Outtakes-outcomes" PR measurement model. Now if awareness is an outtake, everything that leads to awareness -- hits, retweets, etc. -- is necessarily more on the output side. It troubles me when these metrics that precede outtakes are considered as outcomes, which they are not.

Nan Dawkins

I couldn’t agree more that reach/exposure does not equal awareness. However, when I use the word “mentions” in the context of social media measurement, I am describing people who mention a brand or product in social channels. By that definition, someone who mentions is obviously someone who is aware and should be counted in the awareness pool.

Someone who is exposed to that mention is not necessarily aware; however, they should be counted as part of the “reach” pool .

Calculating the reach of someone who was exposed to a “mention” in a social channel certainly has its challenges. However, I don’t believe that some version of the reach metric cannot be calculated with an acceptable degree of accuracy. Media measurement has never been an exact science that is 100% accurate (survey research has its holes as well). If Nielsen’s measurement of gross rating points (a television reach metric) is accepted as “good enough” (and it is still the metric used by media buyers when making purchase decisions) then we can certainly come up with something acceptable for social media reach.

One way to calculate an extremely conservative estimate of reach is to count those who were likely to be exposed – Facebook fans, Blog subscribers, Twitter followers (although on Twitter the likelihood is lower even if they are a follower), etc. If these numbers are tracked over time and a service like Flowtown is used, a duplication calculation can be applied to the reach number to account for those who may follow, fan and subscribe. Secondary reach can also be calculated (followers of followers, the network of fans, etc.) for a broader picture. Obviously this is a very conservative way to calculate reach and does not attempt to take into account the reach of all mentions based on traffic to the page where the mention occurred.

Finally, I don't agree with the argument that perhaps reach isn’t a desirable metric given the world marketers currently live in. Reach is the first step toward awareness, which is the first step toward consideration, which is the first step toward conversion, which (with any luck) will eventually lead to advocacy, which will in turn increase the number of people exposed to the brand. Focusing too narrowly on any single set of metrics or data sources throughout that long buy cycle is dangerous. Reach adds another dimension to the data picture (and personally, I need the biggest picture I can construct to make good decisions). I want to look at reach as a metric for the same reason I want to see survey research on brand awareness.

Thanks for the thoughtful post. My staff at Serengeti has worked very hard this year on a new product (Social Snap) that we hope will be the next generation of social media analytics tool. Your thinking has inspired us and challenged us throughout this long process.

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