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How Social is the City?

Has ‘the City’, that bastion of British financial institutions, heard about social media yet? Well some parts certainly have. The Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the City of London Corporation itself have all embraced social media to at least some degree.

But what of the big companies listed on London’s Stock Exchange?

Anecdotal evidence is that participation is patchy so we thought we would carry out a comparative study of the FTSE-100, the largest UK-listed companies.

Many of these companies own famous and well-promoted consumer and B2B brands but we’re keen to focus on the City/corporate social media profiles (i.e. the owned social media) that serve the entity which is actually listed on the London Stock Exchange.

So, this week we’re contacting all the FTSE-100 companies we can (unfortunately some don’t list any contacts at all on their websites!) to help validate the online profiles we’ll be assessing as part of our biggest comparative analysis of social media performance yet (here are some of the others).

Then next week we’ll start our research and, by the end of November we hope, we’ll publish the results.

If you want to register now for the report, just send an email to [email protected].

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Objective social media metrics for agencies

An example PRINT™ Scorecard

Ever since we launched our PRINT™ methodology about eight months ago, we’ve had requests from agencies – PR, advertising and digital, amongst others – to license our algorithm to them so they could have an easy, low cost way to help plan their social media campaigns for clients – and an objective measure of their success. So today we’re announcing a new set of licensing options to address the specific needs of agencies.

Having made and been on the receiving end of many pitches whilst agency-side, we know some of the challenges only too well: a desire for independent validation; an approach that clients can trust; easy access and fast turnaround; and all at the lowest cost possible!

By licensing the PRINT™ methodology, agencies get access to a simple, comprehensive system to benchmark prospects’ and clients’ social media performance, providing the independent, objective evidence they need to:

  • Make the case for social media strategies and campaigns
  • Take informed decisions when directing limited client budgets
  • Demonstrate the value that their work has delivered

We’ve put together a trio of simple licensing levels – Gold, Silver and Bronze – each with different features and price points, that will allow any agency to start benefitting from the PRINT™ methodology quickly and cost-effectively.

There’s more information here. To enquire about trial access, email us at [email protected] and we’ll be in touch.

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5 reasons to measure social media

There’s so much hype around data and ROI in social, it’s easy to forget why measurement is actually necessary. Here are five reasons to measure social media.

1. To establish a starting point

Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.

Every organisation started out with social from nothing, but all at different times and at different speeds. So by now everyone is at different places. Measurement – and benchmarking in particular – can tell you where you are starting from in relation to your competitors.

2. To set direction

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if only you walk long enough.”

If you’re the marketing equivalent of Alice in social media Wonderland, not caring where you want to get to just as long as you get somewhere, then good measurement ensures you’re not walking aimlessly in no particular direction.

3. To track progress

If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

That C.S. Lewis bloke must have known a bit about social media. Measurement not only helps you understand if you’re getting closer to your goal, but also tells you when you might need to turn back and try another approach.

4. To demonstrate success

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”

Invariably with social activity, achievement is not a binary “we did it/we didn’t do it” state of affairs but rather has varying shades of grey. Measurement is therefore critical to understanding what has actually been achieved, and to putting that success in terms that demonstrate the value to others (who don’t always share the same levels of enthusiasm).

5. To justify further investment

This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

This is kind of how it often feels with social. Just when you think you’ve got to where you want to be, something changes and you’re off again, often requiring more resources and investment than before. By using measurement smartly throughout the planning cycle, you shouldn’t even need to ask.

(With apologies to Napoleon Hill, C.S. Lewis twice, Christopher Columbus and Winston Churchill)

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How to measure your social media agency

We spend a lot of time benchmarking the performance of brands to help inform social media strategy and the capability required to deliver it. Quite often, we’re brought in by the public relations or social media agency to provide an independent, objective and quantitative perspective from which a strategy can be developed. This approach has enabled one agency to deliver and demonstrate a three-fold improvement in competitive performance for its client.

Whilst we’re not strong believers of brands outsourcing social lock, stock and barrel to any agency (our mission is to help them build their own capability), we can understand why it sometimes happens. It strikes me therefore that these organisations more than any others should have a consistent way to evaluate the value they’re getting from their social media agency.

Here are some principles they might do well to follow:

  1. Never, repeat never, let an agency evaluate its own performance. This one shouldn’t need any explanation.
  2. If the agency is managing your social media presence for you, base your evaluation on facts and evidence, not opinion and hearsay
  3. Don’t accept measures of success that only mention the words “fans”, “followers” or “mentions”
  4. Link any evaluation to your original objectives (you did have some, right?), the audience you are trying to reach and the business metrics you are trying to impact
  5. The quality of the agency relationship is important (people buy from people, even when it’s a B2B purchase), but a good relationship is  not a proxy for delivering success

Do these principles resonate with you? How are you measuring your social media agency? And agencies, how do you want to be measured?

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Is measurement the key to unlocking value from social media?

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s head of insights, Thomas Brown, invited us to the launch of the latest wave of their Social Media Benchmark yesterday. We attempted to provide as much commentary as we could on our Twitter feed, and now we’ve had chance to think on some of the findings (see infographic below), we think there are some interesting take outs.

Marketers see the potential and are investing, but aren’t getting impact or value

According to the study, B2C and B2B companies alike are investing in social media in order to support their marketing campaigns, and plan to significantly increase their activity in 2012. That said, whilst half of the marketers surveyed say they see the potential of social to help their businesses grow, only a third say their senior management understand why they’re using it and only 9% say they’re getting as much value from social as they can.

In-house competency and capability falls short

Only 2% of marketers surveyed consider their in-house skills and competencies to leverage and manage social media effectively to be “optimal”, whilst 11% consider themselves “ill-equipped”. Only a small minority said they had significant strengths in key areas of digital capability, with digital leadership and measurement capability the biggest areas of weakness. To address this ‘capability gap’, marketers look set to invest in education and training rather than recruiting in digital capability or outsourcing to specialist social media agencies.

Blissful unawareness of legislation

As we have already seen in practice, marketers seem unaware of some of the new (and even old) legislation affecting their use of social media. The CIM study found that of the half of businesses that collect data from social media, less than a third are sure their doing so complies with regulation. Aside from the Data Protection Act 1998, there is a very low understanding of other regulations. A staggering 42% of marketers say they have a very low understanding of the CAP Code 2010. Perhaps the Advertising Standards Authority ruling this week will change that. If not, the ASA still has a lot of work to do.

If only we had the time and money…

Ask marketers about the barriers to doing anything and give them the options of not enough time and not enough money and guess what they’ll choose? So no real surprise that respondents to the CIM survey cite lack of budget and pressures on management time as the biggest roadblocks to improving in-house capability, using social media monitoring and measurement, and getting more value from social media. But are these excuses rather than barriers?

Measurement matters

The findings around monitoring and measurement are quite revealing, especially when you consider that 50% of marketers strongly agreed that social media poses a significant reputation risk if left unmonitored and unmanaged:

  • Less than a fifth rate their in-house analytical and measurement capabilities as a significant strength;
  • Only 4% are extensively using some kind of sentiment analysis tools;
  • Almost half lack the time or budget to purchase any tools;
  • Luckily only 8% don’t see the value in monitoring/measurement.

There’s a problem though.

Beyond the time and money issues, around a quarter of marketers say that their inability to measure is a significant barrier to getting more value from social media over the next year.

I guess that’s either low or high depending on your viewpoint. As one delegate put it:

In summary

It seems to us that, yet again, the crux of the issue is measurement. One has to wonder if, by using measurement as part of the planning process to determine the best strategy, track progress consistently and demonstrate business value, marketers might just be able to justify the investment and resource needed to overcome the time and money barriers.

Infographic below. Keep an eye on the CIM Social Media Benchmark website for the detailed results.

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Why there’ll never be a ‘standardized’ social media ROI metric

It’s the marketer’s equivalent of the quest for the holy grail: a common, standardized metric than can measure the return on investment in social media. And preferably free.

Like the grail, belief in this mythical metric and interest in its potential whereabouts never seems to cease. The latest quest comes in the form of a survey of 329 senior executives in North America by PulsePoint Group and the Economist Intelligence Unit, as reported by eMarketer. Amongst its findings:

  • The vast majority of companies who had invested in social media saw a positive shift in their bottom line as a result.
  • 84% of executives polled said that social media campaigns had increased the effectiveness of marketing and sales efforts, while 81% said a social media presence had helped their companies increase market share.
  • Almost seven in 10 respondents said they had seen a spike in their sales by letting customers talk about their brands on social media platforms, even if some of that dialogue was negative.

All good stuff so far, once you put the question of cause or effect aside. But watch out, here comes that elusive grail again:

  • Almost half of executives said that the major impediment to social media campaigns was the lack of a standardized metric that can measure a return on investment.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to flippantly dismiss the need for some kind of social media ROI measure. I truly believe that marketers need something more than fans and follower metrics to make social media investment decisions (and their CEOs and CFOs certainly do). But I don’t necessarily buy the ‘standard metric’ argument.

Why? Because we already have one. It’s called Return on Investment, it’s standardized, and as I’ve said before, it’s easy to measure:

(Return minus Investment) divided by Investment

So when these executives say they lack a standardized metric to measure return on investment, what they actually mean is that they don’t know how to (or don’t want to pay to) quantify the return they are getting. And this is a big problem, because it means they don’t know where to direct their limited resources to best effect, what different strategies they are considering might deliver, or how to justify further investment in social media at board level.

So the good news is that we already have a standardized way to calculate social media ROI and it’s free.

The bad news, however, is that calculating the Return part of the equation is specific to your objectives, communities and measures of business success.

So there will never be a standard. But I have no doubt that the quest for the holy grail of social media will go on.

Bonus link: The numbers that really matter to your business – Debra Ellis on why everything is relative.

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Klout, Kred or PeerIndex? It doesn’t matter

While conducting an analysis recently around a bunch of organisations in the same sector, we looked at their respective Klout, Kred and PeerIndex scores. Regular readers of this blog will know that we’re not huge fans of these fairly simplistic measures of ‘influence’ – we obviously prefer our own multi-channel, multi-attribute methodology. However, as long as they are viewed for what they are – just three examples of a much wider cosmos of indicators of social media performance, meaningless on their own but potentially insightful as part of a broader analysis – they can help motivate and focus attention.

Armed with the data, we thought it would be interesting to see if there was any kind of correlation between these competing influence measures.

What we found is that there isn’t really anything to choose between them. Of course, they’re all measuring the same thing so I guess one would expect to see strong correlations. So it doesn’t really matter which one you use. Here’s the data:

Correlation between Klout, Kred and PeerIndex

First up, we looked at PeerIndex. Taking the scores of our sample of 39 organisations, we found a Pearson r value of 0.573 between PeerIndex and Kred, and a slightly higher r value of 0.595 between PeerIndex and Klout.

Based on our sample, both exceed the critical values for r at the 0.01 confidence level, demonstrating a statistically significant relationship between both PeerIndex and Kred scores and PeerIndex and Klout scores.

Then we looked at the relationship between Klout and Kred. When the r value came out at 0.846, we couldn’t quite believe it. On the basis of this, we could confidently state that 99.9 times out of a hundred the relationship between the two scores is not a result of chance.

Conclusions

Whilst Klout, Kred and PeerIndex correlated strongly with each other, whether they’re measuring the right thing is a different matter. There’s no relationship with brand value, for example, unlike our PRINT™ system. When applying the PRINT Index™ to the 50 most valuable global brands, there was a statistically significant correlation between social media performance and brand value. But there was no such correlation for the PeerIndex and Klout scores for the same brands. Kred wasn’t launched then but given the correlations above we can safely say the same would have applied.

So there you have it: three measures of social media influence that are going to produce similar results regardless of which you use, but none of which – on their own – mean anything.

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New year, new guidelines, new metrics?

The Law Society’s new social media guidelines for professionals have prompted some interesting comment – not least that the Society is trying to play catch up in an area about which it has previously been thought less than expert… One of the most thoughtful commentators is Jon Bloor writing on his PeninsuLawyer blog. He addresses a range of important questions and highlights two key issues which emerge:

  • is there a measurable benefit to law firms from social media?
  • how to separate/manage the personal and professional?

Taking the personal/professional question first. This is not unique to the UK legal profession. Most of the issues have been addressed by other professional services organisations.

Marketing is one obvious area. In my former life as a CMO, I decided guidance was job number one: letting people know what was advisable and what was not… and explaining that common sense (and company employment contracts) applied on Twitter and Facebook as much as in any public forum, even the bar or pub.

Issues to do with client confidentiality and ‘poaching’ apply to most professional services firms. UK solicitors may be bound by additional professional restrictions but this is a matter of degree. And the same red herrings apply regarding whether an employee can be simultaneously an ‘individual’ and, separately, a ‘lawyer’.

But this is, in the end, merely tinkering – the real question is how to maintain professional secrecy in a world of pervasive, instant transparency. Legal firms are caught up in the same dilemma facing us all – in a world where everything must be assumed to be open – however unfair, inconvenient or damaging – what kind of business privacy is legitimate?

Of course, a lot depends on whether you approach the topic as an opportunity or somewhat fearfully. The Law Society’s practice note, perhaps like the profession itself, seems uncertain on this – even contradictory in places.

As a CMO for a marketing firm, I was naturally very positive about social media. When we produced our guidelines in 2005, it was still relatively early days and we wanted to ensure that we walked before we ran – and that when we stumbled, we learned. But we also wanted to ensure that they worked for us, not just the industry. By the same token, although The Law Society’s guidance is a good start, individual law firms will still need to create their own specific principles and guidelines that take best practice from the profession (and elsewhere) but fit with what their own organisation is trying to achieve.

New metrics?

But guidelines aside, as ‘social marketing’ becomes much more mainstream partners in many firms will still be asking if it really matters for them as opposed to their clients. For example, the Law Society report says, in effect that there are no metrics to show that social media is beneficial to law firms in attracting business.

As my colleague Niall Cook has set out, this has to start with the business itself and how it measures operational and marketing success. In our PRINT™ methodology, we have tried to provide a framework for marketers to use to measure how social media is supporting the achievement of their goals. But without these goals, no metrics are useful. So is the problem here social media metrics, or the traditionally indifferent attitude of law firms towards marketing?

Time will tell if the new SRA guidelines for alternative business structures (ABSs) – the so-called ‘Tesco Law’ introduced a month or two ago without a squeak, let alone a fanfare – will change this. The new Law Society guidelines themselves are unlikely to do so.

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Political Brands Need Social KPIs Too

The analysis below described Iowa as the first truly ‘social’ primary in this year’s Presidential race. But – along with other studies – indications about voting intention based on analysis of the candidates’ social media performance proved premature. Click here for an infographic comparing each candidate’s share of the vote and some of the key social media metrics published in the weeks leading up to 3 January.

A very Happy New Year to all – and what better time to launch another study?

As I am sure you know, 2012 is US Presidential Election year and the fun starts with the Republican party primary elections, state by state, to decide who should challenge President Obama in November. First up is the Iowa primary tomorrow so we decided to apply PRINT™ to analyse the candidates’ social media performance. Here are the results:

  Rank PRINT Index™ Popularity Receptiveness Interaction Network Trust
Ron Paul 1 145 87 50 279 164 145
Newt Gingrich 2 109 92 195 46 107 106
Michele Bachmann 3 84 76 108 66 67 102
Mitt Romney 4 79 86 38 69 98 105
Rick Perry 5 78 170 94 -21 148 -2
Rick Santorum 6 70 66 102 70 37 75
Jon Huntsman 7 64 64 78 17 80 82

The full results are probably mainly of interest to followers of the US political scene but what we found most interesting is the amazing correlation between our survey results and actual voting intention.

Comparing our study data with polling data from respected independent US political polling firm Public Policy Polling, we discovered a strong, positive correlation between social media performance and voting intention in the Iowa caucus.

We also found an equally positive correlation between an effective Facebook page, as measured using PRINT, and national voting intentions.

Both were at a statistically high 95% level of confidence.

For the statisticians among you, here are the details:

  1. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were computed to assess the relationship between the social media performance of each candidate (using the PRINT Index™) and their polling results in Iowa (using data from Public Policy Polling). There was a positive correlation between the two variables, r=0.825, n=7, p=0.05.
  2. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were also computed to assess the relationship between social media performance of each candidate’s Facebook page (using the PRINT methodology) and their national polling results (using data from Public Policy Polling). There was a positive correlation between the two variables, r=0.818, n=7, p=0.05.

We are not, of course, suggesting a predictive quality for PRINT – our study was 21 December anyway and a lot can change in days during primaries. But these results suggest that the connection between social media performance and voting intention cannot be ignored and that it is not just commercial brands but politicians too who need real social KPIs.

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How social are the global PR agencies?

The big PR agencies know how to talk a good talk when it comes to social media (we know – we were there) but, in reality, global does not always mean social.

In partnership with The Holmes Report – the leading analyst of the PR industry which just launched its 2011 Global Agency Rankings website – we’re now able to answer exactly this question, using our PRINT™ social media performance measurement methodology.

The PRINT Index™ measures five attributes of social media performance (popularity, receptiveness, interaction, network reach and trust) across multiple social channels like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It correlates directly with brand value and offers a KPI for marketers, as well as providing insight into the key drivers of social media performance and indicators to help determine priorities for action.

You can see the full ranking on The Holmes Report website, but here are the highlights:

  • Edelman ranks as the clear overall leader with a PRINT Index™ of 215, due in large part to its strong showing on the PRINT network reach and trust attribute scales.
  • Ketchum, Ogilvy PR, Cohn & Wolfe and GolinHarris are honourable runners-up
  • The bottom five social performing agencies are: Brunswick, FTI Consulting, Kreab Gavin Anderson, Bite and Ruder Finn.
  • Ogilvy PR is the only agency in the rankings, other than Edelman, to score above the group average on all the PRINT attribute scales.
  • The Hoffman Agency has the highest popularity score, Cohn & Wolfe has the highest receptiveness score, Ketchum has the highest interaction score, and Edelman has the highest network reach and trust scores.
  • Edelman demonstrates the most effective use of its website and Twitter accounts across all the PRINT attributes, whilst Ketchum is using Facebook to best effect and Hill+Knowlton tops the YouTube charts.
  • No surprise that the agencies with the lowest scores, Brunswick and FTI Consulting, are those trying least to make use of social media.
  • But Bite and Ruder Finn probably have the most cause for concern, with official presences on all the social networks analysed yet still appearing in the bottom five.
  • Few agencies can rest on their laurels, however, as over half have a below average overall PRINT Index™ score.

Lots of factors contribute to the PRINT methodology and each agency ranks differently on our five attribute and four channel scales. For the full data, contact us to find out more.

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