Monthly Archives: January 2009

The measure of my laziness

It’s Sunday. I haven’t an original thought in mind.  So here’s a link to a compendium of The Measurement Standard’s coverage of social media, social media measurement and social media ROI.

Measuring your Facebook make-up

You can’t deny the appeal of MySpace and Facebook if you’re trying to organize thought and action around an issue or project – unless you’re a corporate IT manager (but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

Social sites command large audiences whose members potentially can become your advocates. And by listening to their conversations, you can get ideas and feedback on how to improve your outreach and advocacy.

But how do you know that you’re making a real impact with Facebook, et al?  And how do you get the numbers and analysis that enables you to report back results that are meaningful and understandable to other, perhaps less Web 2.0-savvy members of your organizations.

At least some answers to those questions can be found in this article from The Measurement Standard.  It provides some simple benchmarks, as well as a framework for how to go about measuring your social site presence.

It also underscores implicitly a key point about social media’s impact on most organizations and their communicators.  

Most issues, most groups, aren’t going to move the needle on an issue by sheer numbers.  The real value comes from the insights and analysis gained from relatively unfiltered access to people who’ve just proven they care enough, or are interested enough, to act. And action is the most important attribute you want from potential allies or coalition members when pressing for change.

My life on the D-List

One thing unites all bloggers – the obsessive search for stats and feedback that, at a minimum, prove they aren’t the equivalent of some loon haranguing an empty sidewalk in Hyde Park.

So here are some easy online stats generators that you can use either for self-aggrandizement or for measuring and fine-tuning your professional or organizational blog or online presence:

  1. Conduct a weekly Facebook search on your, your organization and your competition (ditto for whatever social utility you use).
  2. Go to and see how your URLs rate.
  3. Visit and see how you stack up against the competition.
  4. Go to to rank your “bloglebrity status.”

In case you’re counting: eight more social media metrics

If I’m a little OCD-ish these days about measuring social media effectiveness, I’ve got a reason.

The decision makers I often work with are skeptical of Web 2.0.  They have at least a vague sense that it is a field of endeavor on which they need a substantial presence.  However, they often are of a generation for whom social media is not broadly familiar or attractive. Additionally, they often work on initiatives or in organizations where caution is a desirable and appropriate thing.

Besides their social media skepticism, they share another trait.  They’re almost universally driven as decision makers by cold, hard numbersparticularly if those numbers can be contextualized with how they represent progress towards organizational goals.

So measurement rationale, strategies and methodologies are always on my reading list – at least until a short upcoming combo business/pleasure trip to Berkeley brings fiction back into my life for five days.

And that’s why here are eight more social media metrics rather than a review of the newest Great American Novel:

  1. Unique visitors — human log-ons minus duplications indicates reach.
  2. Duration — length of stay demonstrates reach and intensity of engagement.
  3. Inbound links — a high “link to” count demonstrates credibility and influence. 
  4. Downloads — video views, document downloads, etc.  are measures of engagement.
  5. User ratings — user-generated rankings such as star ratings and favorites show credibility, influence, reach and engagement.
  6. Conversation — chat, comments and conversation indicate engagement and impact.
  7. Return visits — frequency of return visits displays credibility, influence and “stickiness.”
  8. Next clicks — where visitors go next can indicate credibility and satisfaction (satisfied – may go to unrelated topic site; dissastisfied – may go to related, perhaps oppositional, site).

One third of Americans use social network sites

The Pew Internet and American Life project has released a report on Adults and Social Networking Services. It said, “The share of adult Internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years — from eight percent in 2005 to 35 percent now.”

I? 70.

Public involvement and coalition-building professionals rightly spend a lot of time making sure that their public meetings and other engagement activities productively use stakeholders’ time within the context of the project.

But should we really be concerned about productively using stakeholders’ time within the context of their lives?

The average community volunteer has 70 minutes of unscheduled time in a week, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

In other words, if we ask the average person to participate in a substantive way, we’re really asking them to invest all of their unscheduled time each week – and more – in meetings, staying informed, thinking about alternatives, representing special interest groups, etc.

At the same time, it’s the very rare public participation process that recognizes this and tries to compensate by providing ancillary services and support to make taking part easier.  

And what would such a process look like if we acknowledged the sacrifice participants make up front and set as a goal compensating them financially or in other ways that account for their lost time?

For example, we might:

  • Pay nominal amounts (like juror fees) to help defray related costs (babysitters, gas, etc.)
  • Offer technical support (webcams and chat services) so that distance participation is possible at least part of the time
  • Provide value-added activities (voter registration, community group info, etc.) at public meetings and events

These are just thought starters and, as such, open to expansion and criticism.  But they serve to illustrate how our interaction with stakeholders might radically change if they and their lives were the starting point for our planning.

Communication ROI matters as much – or more – for public involvement

Budget constraints often restrict public involvement professionals from conducting the kind of marketing effectiveness analysis common in commercial enterprises.

That’s why bits of research like the following online marketing comparison from Marketing Sherpa are so helpful.  They suggest possible courses of action, whether or not you agree that marketing and public involvement are completely analagous.

(Discussion topic for the next five minutes: yes they are, only the return policies differ.  Compare and contrast. Please show your work.)

As Marketing Sherpa notes:

“Consumer marketers rank house email, SEO and paid search the highest for return on investment. Many marketers plan on boosting budgets for these online tactics this year, with display ads taking the biggest hit.

B2C Marketing Tactics that Rank Highest for ROI
View Chart Online
Click here to see larger, printable version of this chart

For years, we’ve asked consumer marketers to rank the ROI of various online marketing tactics. Here are their rankings for Q4 2008. The size of the bubbles represents their relative share of online budgets. 

House email, SEO and paid search continue to enjoy the best ROI. The biggest share of marketers plan on boosting their budgets in these areas. Many predictions peg the growth in search budgets as below previous levels with some companies (especially retailers) pulling away from expensive brand terms. Search may end up faring well through the recession, however, within a larger overall shift from brand tactics toward the more dependable and measurable direct online tactics.

Display advertising appears to be the big loser in 2009. It gets low ROI reviews from marketers at a time when brand in general is under-valued. This may give advertisers some leverage in negotiating for a higher share of premium ad space in hybrid deals – as well as an inexpensive opportunity to test some of the higher-performing tactics, such as contextual and behavioral targeting.”

One implication of the bubble chart, it seems to me, is that the ongoing struggle to clearly communicate in the public involvement field will continue to intensify. 

To fully exploit paid search, SEO or house email requires full commitment to understanding how our audiences think and talk about transportation, infrastrucuture and public policy – and then using their vocabulary first rather than that of engineers or other specifialized technical professionals.