Social media measurement in PR Week

Social media measurement comes under the microscope in the latest issue of PR Week. The article doesn’t do itself any favours by starting off talking about AVE (advertising value equivalent), even if it does acknowledge they are ‘contentious’.

No, AVEs aren’t contentious they simply idiotic. AVEs were already discredited 20 years ago when I came into public relations, today they are simply the refuge of the:

  • ignorant: those who use AVEs with the best of intentions, because they’ve never been educated as to why they are so worthless.
  • cowardly: those who are too scared to stand up to their boss/client and explain why AVEs don’t work.
  • inexperienced / ill-qualified: those who lack the years of experience or professional PR training to be be able to credibly argue against AVEs.
  • bottom of the food chain: the only times I’ve ever used AVEs is when I’ve been in a client relationship that is too far removed from the top/centre. You send a report somewhere, which some idiot thinks is meaningful. Meanwhile you and your real client contact get on with doing real work with real measurement and evaluation.
  • dishonest: those who know AVEs are a scam, but perpetuate the myth. Even worse are the scoundrels that pedal the notion of ‘PR value’ where they artificially inflate the value of coverage because it’s editorial so has more credibility.

The fact that you can’t calculate AVEs for social media is great, because it saves us the trouble of having to educate ill-informed clients why they don’t work.

And next we have the deluded souls who think they can ‘measure financial return’ or ROI. It’s the new AVE curse. The social media evangelists who’ll rave about how you can track, measure and analyse to prove social media ROI. Poppy cock. Yes, you can track lots, you can measure lots, you can analyse lots, but most of it isn’t about real ROI. Even for pure play e-commerce sites all the action doesn’t take place online, how dull would that be? All the online measurement and evaluation in the world is only ever going to give you a partial picture.

Social media measurement and evaluation is essential to the future success of social media and social networking as an integral part of corporate communications strategy, but it’s still in its infancy and there is a long way to go before we start to make real sense of it. The PR industry has been trying to crack public relations measurement and evaluation for 100 years and still haven’t managed it. We’re not going to crack social media any easier.

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu that’s probably because I’ve ranted about this once or twice before:

Brilliant rant about social media ROI

So what if 84% of social media programmes don’t measure ROI?

Measuring social media is easy, evaluating it is difficult

How do we even start to talk about measuring social media?

Will PR ever be free of the curse of AVEs?

Top ten ways not to choose a social media consultant

p.s. If you want to have a meaningful conversation about real social media measurement and evaluation then give me a call. We’ve got some very talented chaps and chappesses at Wolfstar who can actually give you some real insight and help you understand the business value of public relations and social media.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://www.sysomos.com/ Mark Evans

    You're right, it is early days for social media monitoring and measurement but the technology and people are using it is maturing at a rapid rate. For PR firms, the ability to monitor, measure and then provide clients with intelligence, perspective and tactical recommendations will be more important as social media becomes an integral part of corporate communications, marketing and sales.

    cheers, Mark

    Mark Evans
    Director of Communications
    Sysomos Inc.
    @sysomos

  • http://www.paulseaman.eu/ Paul Seaman

    I love to criticize social media “gurus” but you are a challenge – great fun well-aimed post.

  • http://www.sherrilynnestarkie.com Sherrilynne Starkie

    I’ve nothing to add. I agree with every word you say about AVEs. I’ve been complaining about this since the early 90s. I think it’s incredible that we’re still discussing this crude tactic in 2010.

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