The first afternoon session at the Institute for Public Relations Measurement Summit is entitled: How to Measure the Impact of Blogs and Other Consumer-Generated Media. Panelists include Shel Israel, co-author of Naked Conversations, Kami Huyse from My PR Pro and Todd Parsons, BuzzLogic. Donald McLagan from Compete, Inc. is a late addition. His firm monitors (with permission) every click online for 2 million people. Katie Paine is moderating, and she’s something of a legend. This is the first time I’m getting to hear her or meet her, and I guess we’re going to dinner at her house tonight. It’s a really big house.
Shel says blogs and social media aren’t really about measurement, but instead are about conversations. They are “push” media, and the real value of what’s happening is their two-way nature and the ability to listen.
Should there be standards for measuring social media?
Todd sees standardization as a weapon that kills progress, and that with the speed of change with new products being introduced so rapidly any standard is always somewhat behind the times. For instance, Kami said she used to count her comments on her blog, but now she often gets comments through Twitter, so it’s difficult to get your arms around these fragmented data.
How can you get ROI for social media? Don says ROI can be complex and doesn’t just come from the web (e.g. Auto sites get lots of traffic but almost no one buys a car online.) Todd says it is hard to make the value of social media explicit, so he tries to find some simpler means. He works with a job site that he describes as a mash-up between Monster and eHarmony.com. People listening to people they trusted (through social media) were 45 percent more likely to sign up for the paid service. They went from spending money on Google Adwords to spending less on “influencer relations.”
Katie asked, “Is it easier to measure ROI for social media than it is for PR and advertising?” Kami says it seems so, and Todd agrees. There is just so much data available that you can’t get with counting eyeballs in advertising and PR. You can make connections that simply aren’t possible in traditional media.
A question was asked about people with seven tabs open in Firefox, each refreshing regularly via AJAX, which gives an overstated estimate of how engaged people are. Kami says she hasn’t seen time spent on site change much with adoption of Firefox.
Shel had some interesting anecdotes of what he has found through his blog:
- Having a big picture on a post increases time on site by 34 seconds
- A medium-sized picture is only worth an additional 14 seconds
- If he has two links in a row to a site he wants to feature, it’s much more likely someone will go there. Adding a third link in a row makes people tend to stay on Shel’s blog because it confuses them; they can’t decide which to click, so they don’t click any.
Shel changed his blog name from Naked Conversations to Global Neighbourhoods because people Googling the term “Naked” who were looking for something very different from social media. He also told the story of the guy who was on the Alaska Airlines flight who took a picture of the hole in the side of the plane, who had almost no traffic on his blog previously, but whose picture ended up on national TV. People who are not in the top 2 million blogs in Technorati today can suddenly be incredibly influential.
Shel says we haven’t been doing this long enough to have “best practices.” People need to get comfortable with experimentation, be responsible in what they do, avoid standardization. “We’re just at the ‘good ideas’ stage.”
He also told of how when hot movies open, what happens is that one kid goes in and sends a text message 15 minutes into the show to all of his friends, and if he says “sucks” it doesn’t matter how much the studio spent on promotion. It ripples through Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and the movie is toast.
As Shel says, “We are in a transformational time.” And for those who are concerned about getting into blogging from a corporate perspective, he says “It’s much better to be shouted at than shouted about.”