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 dÃ©jÃ vu that’s probably because I’ve ranted about this once or twice before:
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.