When we discuss online PR with clients, we’re often asked about return on investment (ROI) and how we are measuring success.
Online tools have made it easier than ever to measure reach, clicks, and other metrics. Tools like Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Facebook Insights, Topsy, and Bitly provide data that companies can use to evaluate the success of their blogging or social media efforts. And with Twitter expected to introduce its own analytics tool this year, online PR measurement is really just getting started.
Focusing too much on numbers may not be always prudent, however. Although it is tempting to use the number of followers as a heuristic to determine the online success of a brand, social media is not a popularity contest.
This obsession with numbers is why some brands, politicians, and celebrities have resorted to buying Twitter followers. One recent study found that up to 46% of company Twitter followers are bots, automated accounts that are not managed by real people.
Growing your followers through shady practices may backfire because of at least three reasons:
Authenticity – To get the most out of social media, you need to connect with authentic people. Having fake followers is akin to broadcasting to an empty room.
Transparency – Buying followers means your online community appears bigger than its actual size. This is neither transparent nor ethical.
Return on investment – A community made up of fake accounts is not really a community. These accounts cannot help you amplify a message or make a sale.
I suspect that some brands are not even aware that their social media or PR agency bought their followers. Dramatic spikes and followers having vague bios (with zero tweets) are some warning signs that some of your followers are fake.
If you’re working with an agency, what are some of the things to keep in mind when talking about online PR measurement? Here are some tips to consider:
Measure the right things. Go beyond the number of followers. Measure engagement and interaction, but also referrals to your website, blog or to a landing page.
Ask for context. What caused the spikes in your number of followers? (Is it an online ad? A promotion with a blogger? A re-tweet by an influential person?) Who are your followers and what type of conversations have you been seeing?
Demand transparency. From the beginning, be committed to growing your online community organically. Let your agency know that you’d rather have an authentic, robust community than a bought one.
Examine quality in addition to quantity. Dig deeper and evaluate what type of content people are engaging with. What type of information do they find most useful? What content of yours do they share with their networks?
Measuring PR has never been a perfect science (it’s more of an art, really) — but by working closely with your agency — and by looking at more than the numbers —companies can take advantage of the opportunities that social media and other online tools provide.
Photo: Flickr | Jerk with a camera