Bons mots

Slips of my tongue

Can social media be measured?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is a bit more complicated. The question was the focus of this week’s Third Tuesday Toronto (which actually took place on a Tuesday!). A panel of experts in social media measurement and web analytics assembled to tackle this contentious issue: how do you measure something that is so fluid and, as yet, undefined?

The experts were: Katie Paine, president of KD Paine and Partners, a company that helps its clients measure the success of their communications campaigns; Marshall Sponder, a senior web analyst at, member of the Board of Directors of the Web Analytics Association (WAA) for Social Media and The Analytics Guru; and Marcel Lebrun, President of Radian6, a company that provides monitoring and analysis tools for social media to PR professionals.

This is what I took out of the discussion:

  • Before social media can be measured, you have to decide on your business goal. Does it involve improving customer service? If so, focus on the number of comments on your company’s website, perhaps, or what is being said about you in the blogosphere. If your goal is to increase sales, find out how many people are flogging your product or service; you could try to correlate that with your advertising or marketing campaigns.
  • There is no standard, no “magic bullet.” Social media is in its early state and remains undefined. Sponder identifies a need for standards among social media measurement to enact best practices and benchmarks. (This is similar to the MRP standard for traditional media monitoring.)
  • Traditional measurement criteria, such as tone, circulation and prominence, are difficult to apply to social media; different parameters are needed. If PR is about building relationships with audiences, and social media facilitates this, then it follows that we should measure the conversations that are happening. Are they positive?
  • In Paine’s experience, boards of directors are driving the demand for social media measurement. They are losing control of their brands to their customers and want to prevent DellHell-like incidents from happening at their organizations. The most important way to measure is to listen – to your customers, your competitors, the industry. Learn from being engaged.

The basic premise is to measure social media for the relationships, not the numbers. Find out if your audience is talking about you, what they are saying and how many people are joining in the conversation.


May 26, 2008 - Posted by | Learning | ,


  1. […] Can social media be measured? […]

    Pingback by Top 10 Social Media Tips And Articles | Content 123 | May 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. Interesting views, measuring relationships and consumer’s patterns with social media should be the measurement to use. I did an entry on ROI of social media, you might wanna take a look.

    Comment by oldskoolmark | May 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Skyjacking.

    Comment by Skyjacking | June 19, 2008 | Reply

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