Don’t use old methods to measure new media

Don’t use old methods to measure new media

My blog traffic went up 30% in May. I’ve been writing it for a while now, so it’s not as though I went from 9 visits to 12 or anything, the increase was in thousands. At the same time my Twitter followers tripled.  That’s the only thing to which I can attribute the jump. Good enough analysis for me. Not good enough for some of my clients.

I’m finding that although many companies want to reap the benefits of PR 2.0 (which uses social media, bloggers, websites…) they want to measure it the old-fashioned way. One company was looking at traffic from each online mention and trying to directly measure conversions from traffic. The conclusion was that pitching bloggers doesn’t work, despite the fact they increased their member base by the tens of thousands in a few short months. Another client told me she was “disappointed by the lack of placements.” Even though interest in their new initiative was six times what they had expected.

The point is that if you’re going to use an organic method like word of mouth  to promote whatever it is you’re promoting, you’ve got to look at the end results. You can’t dissect each and every tweet to see if it turned into a visit to your blog and a subsequent affiliate commission from that Amazon book you recommended. (I know this, because I tried it.) I think that’s  hard for companies today in this belt-tightening economy. They’re so trained to understand reach and frequency – which never really made sense anyway – and to measure conversion rates (thanks direct/email marketers) that social media and online PR sometimes doesn’t make sense at a micro level. They can’t attribute ROI to each specific tactic.

But word of mouth has never been easy to measure. Just because it’s captured by technology like Facebook or blogs doesn’t mean you can measure it now. In 2005 an Adweek article (you can download it here – it’s still fantastically relevant) talked about our industry’s failure to measure word of mouth. In fact the author went so far as to say that we should all stop trying to measure word of mouth and focus on the message instead. I agree that we should stop trying to analyze which particular component of the word of mouth campaign triggered the response. Most of the time it’s impossible to really tell. Plus, that analysis will be used to try to manufacture  word of mouth or buzz in the future. And that rarely works.

If we’re going to embrace this next generation of the Web and its potential promotion benefits we have to stop using old tools to measure its success.  One of my clients  held a party recently to celebrate the new outdoor patio of their local restaurant. We contacted bloggers, used Facebook and Twitter to promote it, put it on all the online calendars and the restaurant promoted it internally as well. They had more than a thousand people show up – and this is a little restaurant. The owners’ reaction as to how it happened? They didn’t care. I told them social media would work and they’re thrilled. All they want is to do it again. Was it that one Facebook post that brought them in? Was it the popular restuarant blogger? We’ll never know – and it really doesn’t matter. Our client had a great message, we picked appropriate messaging channels and had a good result. Job done.

So listen traditional PR folks and marketing ‘mavens’. Stop trying to measure PR 2.0 the old fashioned way and PLEASE stop training your clients to do so.  Teach them to envision the end result, craft a strong message and pick the mixture of channels.  Don’t worry how new media gets you there. Just be glad that it does.

  • Ginger
    Posted at 13:05h, 09 June Reply

    Really interesting perspective, thanks for sharing! I agree that old measurement methods won’t hold up 100% in the world of new media.

    At the same time, it’s important to analyze results and figure out which elements are working and where a campaign could improve. To do this, it takes metrics, old and new.

    The benefit of analysis is to gauge what’s working, then adjust to capitalize on what works. Take your example of the restaurant opening: If the Facebook page was the most effective tool, then perhaps the client would benefit from doing more on Facebook – not just for its events but to drive its everyday business.

    No campaign is ever perfect; it can always get better. Metrics are important to make that happen. The danger in saying “don’t worry how new media gets you there” is that social media trends change quickly; if you don’t track them, the changes may pass you by.

    That said, new media metrics will never be able to gauge the full effect of a campaign. The “buzz” created is synergistic — the value of all the tools together is worth more than the sum of its components. And in that respect, I wholeheartedly agree that old school metrics cannot be used to measure the full effect of new media efforts.

  • waxmarketing
    Posted at 13:14h, 09 June Reply

    Well said Ginger and I think you’re right that trying to use more of what’s working is important. When people aren’t able to attribute direct ROI to a medium and toss it out as a result, that’s when I have a problem.

  • Pingback:Wax Blog » Blog Archive » Social Media: All About the Individual …?
    Posted at 05:44h, 15 June Reply

    […] on investment”; Bonnie makes this point very effectively in her post on this blog “Don’t use old methods to measure new media”, which is absolutely […]

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