There’s lots of talk, particularly in and around conferences, about how these channels should be used and concern about analytic tools that could be used to justify the time that’s needed to use these social media tools and use them well. Similar conversations have been going on for years in the corporate communication space, even before social media was even imagined, about measuring the effectiveness of differing communication and PR techniques.
Occasionally people have been diverted by completely bogus measurement tools, notably AVEs or “advertising value equivalents”. Despite growing pressures and professional society resolutions to exterminate them forever, AVEs still linger. Similar nonsense exists around assigning values to media coverage, such as “positive, neutral or negative”, an assumption often being that changing those values is within the realms of influence of a communication professional. Often that isn’t the case, and I think that committing resources – generally monetary for an external agency to provide such a service – adds little real value to how an organisation or its communication team should go about its daily business.
Organisations are struggling with how they monitor social media chatter about them and their issues, particularly when there’s lots of it. They’re also struggling with how they should join in.
One of the drivers of this uncertainty is a lack of understanding, particularly by chief executives, of social media. While most may be aware of it, very few of them participate.
I recently noted how few CEOs have LinkedIn profiles – probably the “safest” social media space for them. I also noted that of the few who were there, most of those had nothing meaningful on their profiles, no photo, and only a handful of connections.
“So what? That’s their choice,” I hear some say. Well, yes it is, that’s true. But to me this reluctance or lack of interest signals a wider issue that communication and engagement professionals within organisations have to deal with, particularly when trying to advance the benefits of their organisation participating in social media. Their boss’s engagement with technology probably means they don’t even read their own email. Goodness knows what they use their smartphones for.
If nothing else, social media is where people talk about stuff. Newspaper letters to the editor are fast dying and losing currency. People who want to contribute their opinions and advice these days have blogs, sometimes with huge followings, or are active participants in online forums of like-minded folk. Ignoring this change in how opinions are shaped to me makes little sense, and my heart goes out to people in organisations who really do get social media but who have to battle against managers who just don’t.
So getting back to measuring the effectiveness of social media, how should that be done? What’s the best tool set?
I believe that measurement tools for any form of communication don’t fall off a shelf or come from a media monitoring company. I believe they come from successfully achieving the objectives that were set for a task or project. If more is achieved, that’s a bonus. If less is achieved, then how much of that is because of inadequate communication, and what can we do better next time? Blame cultures don’t like this way of looking at the communication world, but that’s another story.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Monitoring isn’t planning. I believe that the organisations who get that will always succeed, including how they embrace and use social media. Those who don’t, won’t. I think it’s that simple.