The measurement debate continues. Niall Cook makes the case on the Hill & Knowlton Collective Conversation blog that Social media influence cannot be measured.
It all depends what you want to measure. Influence cannot be measured without direct conversations with your audience before and after a campaign to determine its attitudinal and emotional impact. Its expensive and is likely to dwarf your budget and is why such a rigorous approach is rarely undertaken to support a PR campaign.
The digital environment does enable us to identify audiences with relative ease and get close to a measure of influence by monitoring web traffic at points along a communication framework (brand) or buying cycle (sales). Crucially at low cost and in real time.
Niall calls this reach and reckons that it is not an accurate measure of influence. In absolute terms he is correct, but this metric in the form of readership or opportunities to see has been been a staple of the ad industry for decades.
We have the opportunity to dig deeper using analytics to monitor traffic within a network and a web site destination. By capturing IP addresses we can scrutinise reach to an incredibly granular level (location, company, time, frequency, and more). Better still if the audience is sufficiently motivated to respond to a campaign it will provide data that provides the start of an ongoing dialogue, or sales process.
Some PR agencies are starting to share examples of their work. Steve Loynes at Chameleon PR shared an example this week of how his campaign for Siemens generated a pre-qualified telesales database. Its a smart tactic that works in both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets.
I’ve previously blogged measurement examples using web analytics. Have a look at Speed launch stats: social networks trump online ads and Measuring the National Work from Home Day digital communications campaign.
Web analytics is one of the most potent tools at the disposal of the PR industry. Finally we can prove that a given input led to an output and it enables us to connect with the language and metrics of the marketing department.