PR industry developing social media measurement standards

The industry has been working to establish measurement standards, and it’s definitely making progress. Here’s what you need to know.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been starved for standardization in social media measurement and analysis for ages.

With hundreds of service providers who offer secret sauces and black-box solutions, how can a PR pro know if his results approximate reality? How does he compare reports from one vendor to the next?

There is good news. Thanks to a cross-industry collaboration of PR trade bodies—social media analytics, advertising and word-of-mouth associations, and a handful of blue-chip client companies—the industry is definitely making progress.

Tim Marklein of W2O Group and Katie Paine of KDPaine & Partners—who are both leading the charge—gave an update at the 4th Annual AMEC European Measurement Summit a few weeks ago. (See

The work follows the AMEC Barcelona Principles in 2010 and the AMEC Valid Metrics Framework in 2011, both of which established preliminary methods to measure social media.

The next steps are to create standards in six priority areas, which are below. The first is complete, and the subsequent five are slated for updates this fall after additional cross-industry collaboration meetings.

1. Content sourcing and methods: Not all content venues, aggregators and analysts are created equal. Because of that, all social media measurement reports should include a standard content sourcing and methodology table that shows clients “what’s on the inside.” A new source and methods transparency table is now ready for use.

2. Reach and impressions: Accurate impressions data is hard to get, and you need source transparency with clear labeling and clarification across media types. You should never use multipliers; in fact, dividers are more appropriate.

3. Engagement: Engagement occurs after reach, and could even be a business outcome. It manifests differently by channel, but you should typically be able to measure it as follows, based on the effort required, opinion, and how people share it:

  • Low engagement: likes and follows
  • Medium engagement: blog/video comments and retweets
  • High engagement: Facebook shares and original content/video posts

4. Influence and relevance: Influence is something that takes place beyond engagement. It is multi-level and multi-dimensional, online and offline. It is not popularity, nor a single score. It is relevant by domain and subject level. You should rate influence and relevance via human research, not algorithms.

5. Opinion and advocacy: Sentiment is overrated, overused and varies by vendor and approach. Opinions, recommendations and other qualitative measures are better, but coding definitions, consistency and transparency are critical:

  • Opinions: “It’s a good product.”
  • Recommendations: “Try it or avoid it.”
  • Feeling/emotions: “That product makes me happy.”
  • Intended action: “I’m going to buy that product tomorrow.”

6. Impact and value: These terms are not interchangeable, and depend on client objectives and outcomes. Return on investment should be strictly limited to measuring financial impact, but you can use “total value” for financial and non-financial combinations. You can calculate value in positive results (sales, reputation, etc.) or avoided negative results (risk mitigated, costs avoided).

Would you like to get involved as the industry develops standards? Follow the #SMMStandards hashtag on Twitter and provide your feedback.

Angela Jeffrey is the founder of A version of this article originally appeared on PR at Sunrise.


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