Social Media Measurement Standards

Ay AMEC’s 4th European Summit on Measurement Tim Marklein and Katie Paine presented the results of the ongoing social media standards-setting effort. (Download slidedeck SMMStandards_MarkleinPaine_Jun15’12)

This presentation detailed the first concrete results and recommendations of a standards-setting process.  There are six topics:

  1. Content Sourcing & Methods
  2. Reach & Impressions
  3. Engagement
  4. Influence & Relevance
  5. Opinion & Advocacy
  6. Impact & Value

Progress has been made on the first of the topics, Content. A standard content sourcing and methodology table has been defined that details what goes into a measurement program.

For each of the other five topics, preliminary guidance and actions for the next year were reported:

Reach & Impressions

  • Accurate impressions data is hard to source, especially globally
  • Be transparent about sources used and clearly/correctly label charts
  • Definitional confusion across media types and disciplines
  • Impressions; opportunities to see; circulation; reach; frequency; total vs. targeted reach; visits; visitors; followers; fans; views
  • Multipliers should not be used – in fact, dividers are more appropriate
  • Few of your followers “read” every tweet; only 8-12% see Facebook posts
  • NEXT ACTION: Work with IAB and Media Ratings Council to find common ground. Publish discussion document in Sept/Oct (PRSA, AMEC, IPR and Conclave events).


  • Engagement is an action that happens after reach, beyond consumption
  • Engagement could be but is not necessarily an outcome
  • Engagement manifests differently by channel, but typically measurable at three levels – Low, Medium and High – based on effort required, inclusion of opinion and how shared with others
  • Low examples = Facebook “likes” and Twitter “follows”
  • Medium examples = blog/video comments and Twitter “retweets”
  • High examples = Facebook shares and original content/video posts
  • Clients prioritize differently, but engagement “levels” are consistent
  • NEXT ACTION: Publish discussion document in Sept/Oct (PRSA, AMEC, IPR and Conclave events).

 Influence & Relevance

  • Influence is something that takes place beyond engagement
  • “You have been influenced when you have thought something that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought or done something that you otherwise wouldn’t have done.” – Philip Sheldrake, “The Business of Influence”
  • Influence is multi-level and multi-dimensional, online and offline
  • Not popularity; not a single score
  • Domain & subject specific – relevance is critical
  • Influencers should be identified and rated using custom criteria via desk research, not purely on automated algorithms
  • NEXT ACTION: Publish discussion document in Nov/Dec (SNCR and WOMMA events).

Opinion & Advocacy

  • Sentiment is over-rated and over-used
  • Not the end-all, be-all qualitative measure – other factors to consider
  • Sentiment reliability varies by vendor and approach – be transparent
  • Opinions, recommendations and other qualitative measures are typically more valuable than raw sentiment and increasingly measurable:
  • Opinions (“it’s a good product”)
  • Recommendations (“try it” or “avoid it”)
  • Feeling/Emotions (“That product makes me feel happy”)
  • Intended action (“I’m going to buy that product tomorrow”)
  • Coding definitions, consistency and transparency are critical
  • NEXT ACTION: Publish discussion document in Nov/Dec (SNCR and WOMMA events).

Impact & Value

  • Impact and value will always be dependent on client objectives
  • Need to define outcomes in advance – will likely span multiple business goals, especially for social (crosses disciplines)
  • “ROI” should be strictly limited to measurable financial impact; “total value” can be used for financial and non-financial impact combination
  • Value can be calculated in positive returns (sales, reputation, etc.) or avoided negative returns (risk mitigated, costs avoided)
  • Key performance indicators and balanced scorecards are helpful to connect social media impact to business results/language
  • NEXT ACTION: Publish discussion document in early 2013.