Thursday, April 15, 2010

Online Media Measurement Hysteria

This is a post on the Media Monitors Blog.

Social media has shaken our communications methodologies to the core.
Proliferation across all channels has created marketing hysteria and tracking complications.
No longer simple, no longer controlled. The mass of content out there is overwhelming.

Online seems to be the current focus and the key to analyse the right content lies in the ability to filter the noise. But you know, any Jo Shmo can use searchtastic and activate Google Alerts to catch any mention of any search string. I question:

  • How does that really help you when you’re getting hundreds of content items a day?
  • How does that help you when the ability to filter out words with duplicate meanings is non-negotiable?
  • What about other media? Does it compare? Does it shift from one to the next? Where is the starting point? No one really lives in a digital vacuum.
  • And do you really need to react to every single mention that’s relevant to you? If someone with a nonexistent virtual social life makes a mention is it worthwhile to respond to? Usually the life of these comments lives and dies with the next topic stream, sometimes even an inhalation is enough.

What am I getting at?

Yes, we can listen to any type of noise out there. For example, if I want I can indeed track all mentions of an Apple, whether it’s Steve Job’s baby, Gwyneth Paltrow’s or a piece of fruit. But if I want to track those important apple mentions relevant to me AND get the most traction with a sizable audience- i.e. I should definitely be aware of them so I can react accordingly- I want to know about them as soon as they happen. I don’t want to sift through hundreds of mentions of Apple Pie before I know that Apple, Gwyneth’s baby, is as cute as pie.

In actuality, looking at absolutely every single mention is not that important. That’s what interns are for. They can listen to the noise and the random mentions. They can deal with those small time issues. But the decision makers of an organisation need to be aware of the mentions which have legitimate audiences requiring PR expertise and a strategic response effort. This could be those blogs with the most readers or the news sites which are employing comments and interaction. Social media spread across consumer generated channels is just as important as the social media uptake on professional offerings.

As a strategist with a focus on new media, I have developed an outlook which incorporates a balanced approach to communications. I value that I can discern between the bogus and the bonza. I know that a lot of tools out there don’t actually offer me any value because:

  • I can’t segment audience by region, and even if I can, it doesn’t appear to be legit.
  • I may be able to filter by the source region, but the internet is global and readers live far and wide.
  • I’m limited by more sources to predominantly ugc sites, but so many corporate sites now offer social media capability. Those conversations are just as important.
  • Online and print coverage varies. If you don’t believe me, look at this white paper entitled “Comparison of print and online content in Australia’s metropolitan media”

We aren’t all digital, we aren’t all tech heavy and we all like to know what’s going on with the world without getting spammed. The problem is that 2-bit marketers often flash bells and whistles about great analytics, the volume of mentions and the strength of a search term. But, when you really think about it, the value of that volume is minimal. A search term can have double or even triple meanings and if measurement isn’t consistent across channels, it doesn’t mean much.

All this new media is still new. It’s no surprise. The good news is that we’re learning how to navigate it and digest it. But when we make leeway like this which helps to make our understanding of it more intelligent, it’s worth taking that kind of learning on board. Something I’m proud to say, is being done here. It is possible to filter the validated and legitimate mentions as well as analyse the overall impact. I am actually genuinely excited to know that this can be done. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a really great post and then learned it came from some guy living in a cave in Siberia with an audience of 3.

Being realistic about analytics, we can no longer look at diluted content streams in entirety and consider them valid . We need to be smart about how we approach our internet tracking.
There’s value in minimising our work load to have exactly what we need, when we need it.
There’s value is knowing what your local audiences are exposed to.
There’s value in the ability to identify duplicates with the originating source.
There’s value in integrating online reporting and analytics with broadcast and print.
And there’s value in the ability to validate legitimate sources.

Simply put - content in context. The cherry on the cake. 

See, there is a song called "F-ing Boyfriend" and it's great.
Dedicated to all the ladies out there with a similar issue.