The Measurement Final Four: Barcelona

Architecting Better Data-driven Digital Experiences

The Measurement Final Four: Barcelona

The fourth Barcelona principle is a topic that has a great deal of good thought dedicated to it already; there’s nothing I could add to the principle that “social media can and should be measured” that Brian Solis doesn’t have well covered in his books and on his blog (here’s a recent example). Anyone who still wonders whether social media can or should be measured is simply perpetuating their own disadvantage. The question in 2010 is no longer whether social media should be measured, but how it is best measured.

It is this question that leads me to group the final four Barcelona Principles together for analysis; they all revolve around the same intent.

In social media, the number of blogs, tweets or updates posted are media results. Measuring these are the equivalent of clip counting in traditional media measurement. Media results are a number, but they have no clearly established direct link to actual impact in establishing your perspective with the people you want to engage. At best, the social recirculation of your content (via shared links, retweets, “Likes”, “Diggs”, “Amps” etc) is an outcome indicating interest, but interest is fleeting, and should not be misconstrued as impact.

Measuring “followers”, “friends”, “fans” or subscribers are also media results, essentially equivalent to “impressions”, though somewhat less accurate than these given the certainty that some proportion of these numbers are made up of bots or inactive users. And for those numbers that do reflect real people, just because someone may have received your social media update, this certainly doesn’t indicate impact taken on its own.

Put simply, a successful outcome would mean that the intent of our sharing a message was achieved. As mentioned, this means we have to start whatever it is we’re going to measure with a clear intent. Why am I writing this? Because I want people to consider this perspective, and to engage me in discussing how it could be applied to their own activity. Thus, a successful outcome here would be the commencement of new measurement work with new people. If I measure anything other than that, I’m simply measuring exposure.

Now, in the long-term view, exposure can lead to engagement, so developing exposure is not a bad thing. But in measuring for business, exposure is not an end in itself, it is rather a means to an end. That end, as indicated by principle 6, is a business result (e.g. increased sales, market share, profitability, investment/financing) attributable to our activity.

Now to quickly slay a demon; please forget about ROI right now. ROI is not a measurement of communication effectiveness or value, or even directly of business outcomes. As such, it does not pertain to what should matter to communicators and community managers. Don Bartholomew wrote what I think is the last word on this topic, so I’ll say no more, and encourage you to read this post for Relief from your Social Media ROI Angst.

The last principle really needs little explanation. Measurement without transparency will almost always be perceived with a sense of “lies, damn lies, and statistics”. Transparency is required for credibility, and credibility is required for influence. And measurements without influence are measurements without purpose. As for establishing replicable metrics; this is common sense since progress (which we certainly want to show through our measurement) is a measure of positive change, and change can only be perceived over time.

One Response

  1. KDPaine says:

    Great post — couldn't have said it better myself. Now if we can just get more exposure for it so we get some engagement and maybe even change people's minds!

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