Measuring consumer-generated media

Katie Delahaye Paine led off the afternon with a presentation on New Rulers for a new century: How to measure consumer-generated media.

Why bother? Christian Science Monitor found that information distributed to bloggers generated 3.4 times more traffic than ABC News. Bloggers fit the profile of “influentials.” Blogs have eyeballs.

How to measure blogs? The methodology is similar to traditional media. Measure traffic. Examine content. Analyse.

Another indicators to look at with blogs: The ratio of postings to comments. If you post regularly but generate few comments, you might conclude that your content is not really having impact.

Measure three things:

  1. Outputs: What did you send out?
  2. Outtakes: What did your audience hear and remember?
  3. Outcomes: What did you change? Attitudes? Behaviour?

Steps to perfect measurement:

  1. Define your mission and goals. You have to know what you want to do to know if you did it.
  2. Prioritize your audiences and your needs. Social media is not “one audience.” It’s a variety of groups and individuals with a special interest or perspective on you.
  3. What’s the measure of success? Decide what you want to quantify as an expression of your goals. Sales? Complaints? Reputation? Something else?
  4. Pick a tool and undertake research. Traffic to Web site?  Sales? Increase in the conversation index? Share of positioning on key issues? Share of recommendations?
  5. Determine what you are benchmarking against. Previous performance? Competitors?
  6. Analyse results and figure out what it means.
  7. Pick a tool. There are good free tools: Google News/Google blogs. Technorati. Sphere. There are good for-pay tools: Cyberalert. CustomScoop. e-Watch. RSS feeds. Use automated tools to handle the gross aspects of measurement. Monitoring and searching. Use human judgment to interpret.
  8. Analyse the content. The data without analysis has no value. Focus your analysis on issues that will be meaningful or have a direct bearing on the decisions your management must take or the questions they want answered.
  9. Take action

And how about ROI? With blogging, why bother? If it costs you $14.99 to do something  – and blogs can be done for virtually no cost – why spend thousands to measure it.

But if you are spending a lot on a social media program, be prepared to spend a lot measuring it’s results.

As I listened to Katie – who is one of THE experts on measurement – I realized just how much work is still to be done in developing broadly accepted measurement indices for social media. It’s still early days. But right now, we seem to be attempting to stretch ill fitting traditional measures to match the new shape of social media. It may look like it’s working. But anyone who’s involved in it knows it’s not comfortable.