Why does measuring social media in a recovering economy matter?

Posted on November 13, 2009. Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , |

Corporations hobbled by dwindling budgets in an economic downdraft should consider disregarding ROI on their social media measurement programs (at least for now), and instead think of it as another cost of doing business. Most corporations are still slow to molt or modify their “time-tested” PR programs to evaluate their performance in traditional media, much less the Wild West of social media.

What is perhaps more critical at this juncture is to start understanding some of the rudimentary rules of the road while it’s in its infancy, especially with respect to guard rails and hazard signs. Indeed, as the rules and tools of old school PR shift as social media continues to eclipse traditional media outlets in terms of sheer volume, engagement in the era of Web 2.0 will be more important than standard PR metrics, such as messaging and impressions, which is a suspect metric by many even for traditional press outlets.       

There are many more questions than answers at this nascent stage of measuring the ROI of social media  — and there’s no time to wait for PR wonks to hold scores of social media summits to build consensus, but one thing is clear: the new medium poses risks … and opportunities. Achieving ROI results isn’t worth waiting for when the value proposition for measuring social media is instantaneous awareness.

It’s perhaps more imperative now than ever to monitor discussions on blogs and message boards about products/services, reputations and brands, as corporations in nearly every sector have dialed back their spending on their traditional marketing and PR/corporate communications mix, and are now devoting more time and resources leveraging social media to convey their messages and to promote campaigns.

And, yes naysayers, when it comes to social media, you can manage what you cannot measure. Companies that are savvy about understanding how they are being positioned against their competitors in a down economy are more likely to (1) have a handle on increasingly heavy traffic on social media sites (2) quickly react to the likelihood of unfavorable attention when companies across all industries are under pressure (3) manage the greater potential for unfavorable coverage as the tendency toward negativity in social media intensifies in a cratering economy (4) tap into a comparatively low cost highly accessible way to drive messages by stakeholders who are no longer first adopters.

Brian Panton is a quality assurance specialist and report writer in Washington, DC.

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