Social Media Monitoring and Measurement – A Customized Recipe.

December 1, 2009

A few weeks ago, Jennifer and I had the opportunity to participate in a master class with one of the PR industry’s most widely respected thought leaders, Brian Solis.

Among the plethora of smart ideas he presented, one topic was near and dear to my heart…social media monitoring.

Since I joined Kane Consulting, I’ve researched and experimented with the slew of tools that have been created to automatically monitor and measure conversations taking place across social media, and quite frankly, was coming up short.

I began creating my own systems – using one tool here, another there, going straight to the source here – hunting, pecking, uncovering, and analyzing gobs of data until it started to paint an accurate picture. And, generally after days of research for a particular client or project I’d be asking myself – is this worth it? Am I supposed to be putting this much time into all of this? Am I missing a better solution?

Well, my methods were validated as I sat in my seat listening to Brian Solis deliver his presentation.

Social media measurement is not standardized. It is customized.

Here’s where we come back to strategy. The how and what you monitor and measure must be in line with your strategic goals. And, one client’s goal or definition of success is not the same as another client’s.

We can run numbers and data on just about anything, but if it’s not in line with what you’re trying to achieve, so what and who cares?

The answer to “so what” and “who cares” is where the customization comes into play. It’s where the work begins. Where meaningful benchmarks are set; goals are established, and the distance between is measured and evaluated for progress and improvement.

Think about the end product, combine the right ingredients, taste, tweak, repeat.

This is the piece that no tool, no matter how sophisticated, can do for us.

Want it done right? Go to the source and do it yourself.

The online world is full of various social media search engines. As with any technology, some work better than others. They are quick, convenient, and can give us gobs of data.

Guess what, folks… these engines are no Google (and even Google is still working to perfect their own social search solution). The exact science behind social search is still being defined. Take a closer look, and you’ll see that each engine has its own algorithms, and will return results differently. If you want to use social search tools or software to click and create a report, be prepared to go through the results with a careful eye before passing it along (unless of course, you don’t anticipate anyone else reading it or using it to take any action, in which case, you better re-think your strategy).

Another tip I gathered from the PR master class with Brian Solis is that the most accurate data is found directly at the source. (This is no secret, right? If you want to know what time your friend’s party starts, do you ask the friend, or a search engine?)

Sure, it takes a little more time. And yes, you’ll need to dump the data into your own spreadsheet, weed out things that don’t apply and then run reports by hand. But, as far as I’m concerned, it’s worth the extra effort to have the most accurate data from which to measure progress and make strategic decisions.


Listening – the first key to unlocking the potential of social media.

May 26, 2009

In my last post, I asserted that traditional press reports have no place in social media – online public relations campaigns simply can’t be measured the same way.

In Jason Baer’s (@Jaybaer) May 21 Twitter interview with Radian6’s Amber Naslund (@AmberCadabra), he asked, What do you see as the PR/ad/digital agency’s role in listening and social media?

To which Amber replied, “Translating intelligence into strategy and action. Being a guidepost and putting execution in the hands of the company.”

Beautifully put, Amber. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The value in reporting on social media monitoring lies in how we as PR professionals steer our clients to appropriate action.

Whether clients are active in the social media space or not, we first advise them that at the very least, they need to start listening to the conversations happening about them, their brand, their competitors and their industry.

These conversations are taking place on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, nings and more.

First, figure out what you need to listen for, and start monitoring.

• Establish keywords. Other than your company name, what do you want to listen for? People talking about industry trends? About your competitor? Establish a lean set of keywords that will offer glimpses into relevant conversations that can shape future communications strategy.

• Find your audience. Pay attention to where your key demographic is. If your primary audience is business women over the age of 40, you probably don’t need to spend a lot of time listening to the conversations happening on My Space.

• Observe search engine ranking. Think of SEO is the new “earned” PR placement. Pay attention not only to the rank of your company name, but to how the name ranks with key search terms.

• Consider opinion polling. Recently, I heard someone say they were working to establish a budget to poll a target audience. Gasp! Welcome to social media, where seeking the opinion of your audience is free, as long as you listen.

After monitoring the social media space, (and, making constant adjustments as needed) it’s time to start doing what Amber referred to as, “translating the intelligence.”

What can we glean from this information, and how can it be used to guide communications strategy?

• What is the tone of the conversation? (positive, negative, neutral?)
• Who is having the conversation? And, who is listening to them?
• On what social networks are these conversations taking place?
• How often do these conversations occur?

From this information, PR professionals can help clients to:

• Set benchmarks and establish goals.
• Determine and shape existing key messages.
• Make observations regarding timed release of information to coincide with when the conversations are taking place.
• Guide decisions on when and where to enter the conversation.
• Identify key influencers of your target audience.
• Recruit brand “evangelists.”
• Manage online reputation.
• Improve search engine ranking.
• Set benchmarks, goals and measure results.

So, are you ready to start listening?


RIP Press Reports.

April 27, 2009

For decades, PR professionals have demonstrated their performance and value by providing clients with regular press reports accompanied by press clips – quantifying every media mention of the client, and proving that time spent on press releases, news distribution, pitches and interviews was worthwhile.

Enter social media.rip-tombstonel

With the rising popularity of social media, PR pros monitoring every mention of their client (and oftentimes, client’s industry, competitor’s, etc.) are inundated. TweetBeep and Google alerts flood our inboxes with Internet chatter. Fellow PR people have asked me, “How do you report on all of this?”

My answer?

There is no place for social media in the traditional press report.

That’s right. I said it. PR people need to cut the chord from the coveted press report and take a step back and take a look at what we’re actually trying to achieve.

ROI vs. ROE – Investment vs. Engagement.

Before, we measured Return On Investment.

Traditionally, if a client was announcing a product launch, for instance, the PR pro would draft a press release, distribute it, pitch the appropriate editors/reporters, follow-up as necessary, and ideally, it would result in print coverage on the client and their new product.

This is earned placement, old-school style. That diligent PR pro would then summarize each of these mentions in a press report, along with quantitative information (often things like circulation, ad equivalency) to provide the client with a monetary ROI.

Now, we can measure Return On Engagement.

And, return on engagement can’t be quantified.

In today’s socially networked world, a PR pro may announce a client’s product launch with an SMR (social media release) and share via social networks.* By nature, these mechanisms are designed for sharing – the information spreads naturally between people and across networks.

This coverage does not belong in a traditional press report.

Why?

It’s not an accurate measurement of the conversation.

Conversations about your clients take place in countless places – dinner parties, parks and in phone conversations. Do these get included in press reports? Of course not. It’s just as ridiculous to think that social media coverage can be reported in this way.

Because we have the ability to monitor social media, however, (it’s much more difficult to monitor all those dinner party conversations), it is our job as PR professionals to listen, report and respond in a meaningful way.

We could try to attach a “hits viewed” or a Nielsen NetRating or Alexa rank to these online mentions, or make an attempt to arbitrarily calculate some sort of advertising equivalency for what the space would have cost had we purchased an ad on Facebook and on Google, but why? What would that tell us about the conversation, those who shared it and those who received the message?

A message spread through social networks is PR, but this engagement not a direct result of PR.

Take for instance, Kane Co’s efforts to promote our recent workshops. I created an SMR and shared it with our networks, which include media and bloggers. Suddenly, we had “coverage” in places we didn’t know existed. My favorite example – a long-time friend of Jen’s got wind of the event via our Facebook Group. He shared the information on his blog. A friend of his then shared the event with her Google group. Within the Google group, another friend of Kane Co sparked a conversation on the speakers and the relevance of social media.

In this strain, there were at least four mentions of Kane Co and our event. And not a single one of them was earned as a direct result of our PR effort. Rather, because of the equity we have in a network that we nurture, ambassadors told the story for us. Reporting them as separate mentions wouldn’t do justice to the value behind the conversation and how it spread.

The success lies in the return on engagement. In this instance, Kane Co learned that:

1) We’ve got some excellent, fertile soil in our online networks

2) We’re planting our seeds in the right places

3) These seeds will sprout and grow, on their own, into beautiful flowers

4) We need to nurture the garden so flowers continue to grow

(What can I say…we like metaphors).

The fourth point, above, is where, as a PR person, I find my place. What’s the next story we tell? With whom do we share it? With which of these “flowers” can I cultivate a more personal relationship?

Brand equity is built over time. In the same way, the extent of social media “results” will continue to surface over time. Because results are ongoing and dynamic, it’s nearly impossible to accurately measure them at any given time.

The most immediate, quantitative results from ROE might be increased sales (our in our case, registrations). The more valuable results, however, are qualitative, and occur long term. It’s not possible to quantify the value of a brand ambassador, who is essentially doing your PR for you. One exchange could plant the seed that eventually grows into a lead, a new client, or a partner.

*Please, don’t get your panties in a bunch – online efforts aren’t always a replacement to traditional media relations campaigns. They can, and often should, co-exist.


Are PR Agencies a Dying Breed? Riding the wave of change to stay alive.

March 20, 2009

While at SXSW interactive last week, I sat in on, “Are PR Agencies a Dying Breed?” with panelists, Erin Portman, Brian Solis, and Peter Shankman and moderated by Karly Hand.

What ensued was a great discussion on the evolution of PR strategy, and the changing role of the PR professional in the face of the new competition from advertisers, interactive marketers, web content strategists, and my pet peeve, “social media experts,” who also are active in the online space.

PR professionals are in a real make-it or break-it time. The online world continues to change the way we interact and provides us with new ways to connect with individuals.

[Side note: individuals can be media, customers, consumers, other businesses – “It’s not B2B or B2C, it’s C2C social media” as stated by Jared Roy of Risdall Marketing Group in a social media presentation at the Minnesota Business Marketing Association’s event last week.]

To stay alive, or, shall I say, to stay relevant, cutting edge, and effective, we need to adapt and apply new tactics as part of our time-tested strategy:

Listening to target audiences:

Before social networks, focus groups were among the best tactics for gathering thoughts and opinions of our target audiences. Now, by monitoring social networks like Twitter and Facebook, the information is available in real time, and for a fraction of the cost.

In addition to great crowd sourcing, taken a step further, listening can provide direction on where your client needs to become involved in the social media space.

Writing and distributing press releases:

If anything is truly dying in the PR industry, it just may be the press release itself. The SXSW panel discussed this, and it’s further evidenced by Oracle’s PR staff, which changed the face of its press releases as discussed yesterday in this Regan media post.

The “old school” press release, if used, is a mere formality and takes a back seat to online press releases and targeted pitches.

It’s imperative to capitalize on social media releases and online pressrooms for the coveted “Google Juice.” People – editors, bloggers and consumers – are searching for information online. PR pros can’t ignore the opportunity to capitalize on this and drive traffic to press releases, and ultimately back to the client’s Web site.

Communicating with the media:

Distributing a press release (via the wire, fax or email blast) and then following-up with a journalist with “Did you get it?” is still such a common formula for PR pros and, quite frankly, it’s giving us a bad reputation.

New media tools and social networks provide the opportunity to clearly research the journalist and provide a place were we can build the relationship, before slamming them with news.

Additionally, we’re able to identify countless others in the online space who may have an interest in our news. “Media” should now include online editors and bloggers, who may be just as influential and receptive, if not more, than traditional journalists.

Having the opportunity to develop a relationship with the media online opens the door to sharing information that’s far more customized and meaningful to the reporter, (or blogger) therefore increasing the likelihood of receiving coverage.

Communicating directly with the intended audience:

This is a new one for PR pros. The traditional approach is to communicate with media gatekeepers who would then share the information with their audiences. The online world allows us to put the “public” back into public relations and bypass the gatekeepers, providing that it fits the overall strategy.

PR pros need to at least consider this tactic as part of their overall strategy, define the space where they will have a presence, and at best, begin to communicate directly with unique conversations (as Solis remarked, “Every conversation deserves a unique response…don’t cut and paste the same crap.”) PR pros need to help the clients develop an online personality and voice, and teach them to participate in the conversation.

Reporting the results:

It’s still widely accepted that the success of public relations efforts are measured by press coverage received. In today’s online world, this is incredibly shortsighted. Social media strategies need to be taken into the mix, and we need to be looking at analytics, click-through rates and return on participation (ROP).

To sum up, attending this panel reminded me once again that I’m riding the wave of the changing PR industry and will continue to roll with it.

Are PR agencies a dying breed? Well, some of the old tactics are dying, while new ones are taking shape. The agencies wiling to embrace and explore them will remain strong.

I believe that PR pros are needed at the table now, more than ever. PR has become an inter-disciplinary profession. The tools and tactics are changing, but the strategies and goals remain the same. To survive, we need to understand the most effective way to bridge the gap.

What about you? What are you doing to keep up?


PR Pros Need to Grasp SEO

March 11, 2009

While participating in a webinar a few months ago titled “New Media PR,” the featured speaker was asked about “search engine optimization” and replied that (and I’m paraphrasing) it’s very important; there are tools available to help you do it; and PR people really should check with their IT department for information on how to do it.

REALLY? Not quite the answer I was looking for. It made me think of my husband, who is an IT guy. Not that I don’t think he’s a smart dude, but he’s just about the last person I want messing with my press releases.

Optimized “content.” CONTENT. It’s as much a part of a press release (or social media release) as the header or the dateline. And, that’s my job, not the IT person’s.

Why do I care so much? Consider the following:

According to the “2008 Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices”:

• Nearly half of journalists report visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once a week, while nearly 87% visit at least once a month.

• More than 75% of journalists say they use social media to research stories.

• Nearly 75% follow at least one blog regularly.

Are they finding you and your clients?

If your press releases, press room, blog and web content aren’t optimized for search engines, it’s almost as though you don’t exist. Even worse, when journalists search for facts or experts, they may just stumble upon your client’s biggest competitor.

Kane Consulting is sharing the SEO love. Join us, and the search specialists from Nina Hale Consulting on March 27, 2009 for an intensive, one-day seminar that will cover the basics – how it works, why it works, and how to start dong it. For details or to register, visit http://www.kaneconsulting.biz/kane_registration.html


Building a social media list starts with using the right tools

February 20, 2009

For years, PR professionals have relied on a variety of helpful tools to build media lists for clients. The coveted list, then, consists of traditional print editors and reporters, to whom the diligent PR pro will send press releases and pitches, hoping the process will result in great coverage for the client.

Enter online publications, eZines, eNewsletters and blogs. The content is changing, and so must the “media list.” It’s time to expand the toolbox.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to think about stocking your toolbox with these basic tools:

RSS feeds of online publications and blogs.

The vast majority of print publications are publishing some sort of online content. Take a look at how online versions differs from print, and see who is responsible for the content. If they have a blog, subscribe to the RSS feed and read it often.

Media coverage alerts.

PR pros are notorious for tracking down every last bit of media coverage that mentions their client, but how actively are you monitoring mentions of your clients’ competition or the industry as a whole? There are so many free tools that make this process very simple – there’s really no good reason not to use them. For starters, set up keywords in Google Alerts and TweetBeep. If you’re looking for more options, subscription-based services like Radian 6, or if you’re a customer of Vocus, Cision or PRNewswire, check out options for adding online keywords to your current monitoring subscriptions.

Twitter.

If you got an invitation to join hundreds of reporters and editors at a big dinner party, with the promise that you could have some one-on-one face time with whomever you choose, would you accept? If so, tell me you’re on Twitter, right? Now, I’m not saying to use Twitter as a delivery mechanism for your press releases or pitches (maybe I’ll cover that in a future post) but Twitter can be very valuable tool for getting to know the reporters you may want to pitch. You’ll soon find that you’re saying to yourself things like, “Wow, Joe’s getting on a plane for China this week; probably not a good time to give him a call.” Or, “I didn’t know Jane also blogged about knitting! I should see if she’d be interested in talking with my client who is launching a Web site with pattern downloads.” Heck, like at a dinner party, you may find yourself in conversation with a reporter about family, industry trends, or personal pet peeves – it’s all about building the relationship. And, the next time Jane is writing about your client’s gadgets, she’s going to remember you.

How do you find these folks on Twitter, you ask? First, take a look at existing compilations. Whether you want to admit it or not, social media has been around for a while, and some generous pros like Sara Evans (@PRsarahevans) have started the work for us. Check out her MediaOnTwitter wikki.

Social media networks.

Profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn also may lend helpful glimpses into an editor or reporter’s interests and preferences, and if they have open security settings, go ahead and take a look, but I don’t suggest “friending” or “linking” unless you’ve really built a strong relationship.

After immersing yourself in all of this online content for a while, narrow down the key players. Attempting to reach everyone online could very well drive you insane. Identify the blogs that generate fresh content, have a dedicated readership or that spark insightful comments (these posts often become story leads for traditional journalists). Make a note of the Web sites that accept submissions, guest blog posts or bylined articles. Keep track or your interactions on Twitter and the bloggers/reporters who seem most approachable and interested in your subject matter.

Now, you’ll want to add some names to your media list. Check to make sure your database is ready for new media contacts. For instance, is your intern still tracking down mailing addresses and fax numbers? When’s the last time you mailed or faxed anything? Consider updating your fields to contain things like twitter ID, blog URL, LinkedIn Profile, Faceook URL, etc.

So – open up the toolbox, toss out anything that’s broken, adjust those that need a tweek, and start stocking up on some of these tools!