Copyright Photo PI – Text James Glazebrook – Follow us on twitter @PickanewsUK
2011 is set to be a year of consolidation for social media monitoring, but one remaining grey area is influence analysis.
It is generally accepted that peer-to-peer recommendation holds more sway than media (as, in turn, editorial trumps advertising), but no one has identified a robust method for evaluating this effect. Existing metrics measure the reach of the web platform being posted on, its performance in search engine results, or an individual user’s friends/followers/fans… but none of this equates to influence.
The writers of Connected, about the power of social networks, decided to test the influence of popular Twitter users by asking them to tweet about the book. As reported by Nieman Journalism Lab , coverage from Tweeps with both reach and relevance had the perhaps surprising result of failing to shift any extra copies. As one of the book’s authors concluded, “the ability of Twitter to disseminate information is different than its ability to influence behavior”.
In this sense, social networks like Twitter aren’t so different to established media outlets. Our analysts can supply you with the circulation of the Daily Mail, but they’ll also tell you that this isn’t the only facet to its influence – which also involves the demographic make-up of its readership, the advertising rates it commands and intangibles like its editorial policy and reputation. But to fully understand the newspaper’s ability to influence behaviour, we’d need access to the sales results of brands that have received favourable coverage in its pages.
Time and investment will yield an adequate measurement of influence, one that adjusts for privacy standards and the difficulty of matching up online and “real world” activity. Until then, all any brand can do is make sure that trained analysts are monitoring their social media coverage, augmenting existing metrics with qualitative evaluation – and keeping their eyes open for potential threats and opportunities.