Jen McClure, SNCR Symposium 2011
Jen McClure, SNCR Founder & President

Voce Communications is proud to have been a supporter of the Society for New Communications Research since its inception, and I personally have been attending events since 2006, the latest being the 6th annual SNCR Research Symposium, held in Cambridge, Massachusetts this past week.

There was much substantive research presented over the two days, but the one recurring topic that grabbed my attention continually was measurement.

Aside from the anecdotal “When Justin Bieber retweets your cause, Tweetdeck rolls like a slot machine” (from Paull Young at charity:water), there were more practical applications of measurement.

First, in the annual UMass study on social media adoption presented by Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes (referenced in a previous post by Chris Thilk), the research showed that, while there were varying adoption metrics among the categories of Fortune 500, Inc 500, major non-profits and educational institutions, a connecting thread was a lack of measurment for the programs.

Why is this?

I suspect there is a combination of reasons at work here. One, the biggest problem of any measurement, is that the ultimate goals of the program are not defined in terms of social media– are they trying to increase awareness (perhaps number of mentions or share of voice vs competitors?) Are they selling products, services or memberships through social media? We may be in a stage where many organizations know that they need to do social media, and just do it without thinking about the accountability- which may explain why metrics proving value may not be in demand as much as one would think.

In any case, this presents an opportunity to anyone– in-house or agency- who owns social programs to take the lead in measurement. There is still a lot of land to grab here.

Katie Paine presented the other big measurement topic when she reported on a recent measurement conclave attended by WOMMA, PRSA, IABC, Cision, Thomson Reuters and several other organizations and companies. First I will note that the group has not finalized any standards, but rest assured that it will not rely on over-simplified single metrics of influence, ad-value equivalencies or simple follower counts, but will rest on something more complex.

The problem? We find that every program is different- while we start from the same place, what metrics we emphasize or ignore is largely driven by individual program needs. This was underlined by an exchange I had with the Boston Celtics’ Peter Stringer over an article he wrote for the Social Media Club Boston blog pooh-pooh-ing the practice of trying to assign dollar values to Facebook fans. My main argument? While I haven’t necessarily seen the need in my travels either, it is certainly a valuable metric to the right organization (let’s leave out for the moment that NBA teams, should the labor standoff continue, may fid themselves in the process of looking very hard at programs that are not creating measurable revenue).

Standards? I welcome them. But more fun will be figuring out what rules our peers will establish, and then breaking them.