This morning I received an email notifying me of the next Social Media Club event happening in Washington, DC. The topic being discussed is social media measurement. This topic is of great interest to me currently as it is part of my job. Over the past few days I have been spending a lot of time reading about PR measurement. I plan on continuing my research in PR measurement and as a result I have added it as a category to my blog. I will still continue to cover web 2.0 topics as well but am adding a little PR into the mix. In this entry I will discuss what PR measurement and social media measurement are and why they are important. I will also briefly touch on the problems that PR measurement professionals face.

What is PR Measurement?

Simply put, PR measurement is a method of measuring the impact of all of an organization’s public relations activities which includes but is not limited to public affairs, media relations, and social media activities.

What is Social Media Measurement?

Social media measurement is simply a subset of PR measurement. The goal of social media measurement is to monitor and measure the buzz surrounding any particular topic (most often a brand or specific product) within all forms of social media (blogs, forums, wikis, etc).

Recently I have been trying to come up with an effective system for monitoring social media sources that would enable a company representative to become active in conversations that they deem important. There are many companies that currently offer similar services such as Nielsen’s BuzzMetrics, Cymfony, and Motive Quest. All of these services enable companies to learn more about their customers. As I read more about these services, I also become increasingly skeptical of the actual value provided to the companies. Ultimately the real value is in being able to see what customers really think about your product or brand. In contrast to the past where you would fill out a survey or call a hotline to most likely voice a complaint, consumers are now voluntarily voicing both praise and criticism of their favorite brands and products online. Additionally, companies now have the ability to join the conversation and talk directly with the consumers. While PR measurement attempts to quantitatively describe the effects of all of a company’s PR activities, social media measurement sticks to those activities that are online. As a result of having digital records of people’s opinions, social media measurement generates better statistics than general PR measurement which doesn’t have direct access to the media viewers.

While this entry is simply my general assessment of the PR measurement industry, I would like to make one assertion. Effective social media measurement is attainable via effective filtering processes. Companies are currently experiencing an explosion in access to customer insight. As a result, they are attempting to monitor all the buzz taking place and appropriately respond to as many comments as possible. Ultimately, the process has begun to burn out both executives and the PR professionals who monitor social media. What needs to be developed is a system that allows companies to monitor the buzz while optimizing their time spent on the social media conversations. For large corporations, there is not enough resources to respond to every single customer’s concern that is voiced online, but there is an optimal balance between monitoring, conversation participation, and company action. Where that optimal point is differs for each company.