Measuring success in social media

How have performance indicators in the world of PR changed? PR & Social Manager Charles Cameron discusses measuring success when it comes to social media.

A ruler, calculator, column inches and advertising rates. When I started in public relations seven years ago – this is how the industry measured the return on investment for PR campaigns. With newspaper ink smudged all over my hands and face – it was always interesting to see what press coverage you’d achieved, and how it compared to advertising costs for the same space. However, it was difficult to articulate exactly how successful a campaign had actually been and what those ROI numbers meant.

As time has moved on so has the PR industry, and although media relations still has its place, social media is now a vital cog in the bigger, and integrated, PR wheel. And it is absolutely measurable – there are no excuses.

Clients need to know that their PR and social investment is paying dividends – so how should we measure success in this connected world?

Let’s start with PR, and it’s all about setting key performance indicators. Put the foundations in place and think about what a successful campaign would look like. What’s your USP? What news should be shared? How could it help improve business? How should it be perceived? Which media outlets will get your key messages in front of relevant audiences? By considering all of this, there is suddenly a structure for reporting in an effective manner – rather than just thinking about it in a purely financial sense.

This will also put the foundations in place for a PR campaign which will add value to the business as a whole. Of course, we can still attribute a financial worth against PR – but, for me, it should always be about reporting on the KPIs and goals set out pre-campaign. This is what will help a business succeed.

And the same rules apply for a social media campaign but with one major difference. We can and should offer a financial ROI. Nowadays, thanks to the array of social reporting tools available we are now able to delve so much deeper and learn from the work we are doing for clients on an almost daily basis.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn have all evolved in recent years and their respective insights sections have become extremely sophisticated. From interaction rates, to click through patterns, to audience demographics and locations – there’s a wealth of information available to learn from. So whether your aims are to raise brand awareness, sell a product or offer a service via social channels, there is real value in interpreting statistics regularly and adjusting targets accordingly. You’ll notice sequences – whether positive or negative – almost immediately about how your content is performing.

I’ve always enjoyed the analytical side of social – comparing the impact of video and image-based content, cost per acquisition, the impact of paid promotions, the timing of posts, follower demographics… I could go on and on. The important lesson here, though, is that all of this data can be evaluated and should impact any social and PR strategy.

When you have this sort of information at your disposal it’s simply not good enough to report for a client that Facebook page likes and impressions have increased – or that the best strategy moving forward is to post 10 times a week. Incredibly, I regularly hear of companies being given this as feedback.

So, moving forward? Think about if a senior manager, MD or CEO asked for proof that PR and social was working – what would you say? If you have robust KPIs in place for an integrated campaign – for example, to reach a particular audience, certain demographics, to achieve more website visits and raise awareness of a service – it can all be reported on. So get your ducks in a row, do your research, prepare properly and understand what you would like to achieve and how you are going to get there. Everything else will fall into place…

By Charles Cameron, PR & Social Manager