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January 12, 2011
On Social Media: Don't Count Followers, Cultivate Them

Here's a short course in social media metrics. Social media metrics? What's that, and why should we care? Because social media is a hot new PR tool, and its impact needs to be weighed differently than catching eyeballs. How's that? This is exactly why you need Don Bartholomew's tips on social media measurement. Don is VP of Digital Research at Fleishman Hillard.

Take, for example, the weighty question of whether you or your buddy have more Twitter followers. Social media used for professional PR purposes is about influence, and raw numbers of Twitter followers say little about actual influence. Better to be solidly engaged, that is, highly regarded, by fewer followers who value knowing about you.

Bartholomew thinks like a Metrics Man, the title of his blog. And he writes that "the public relations industry has historically measured and reported success through the lens of quantity not quality. The most common PR metric today is Impressions. While it is a somewhat dubious metric for traditional media, it really loses meaning in social media where engagement not eyeballs is what we seek."

After Impressions, he goes on to talk about Things to Forget in 2011: Vanity Metrics—Fans and Followers, Standardization, Ad or Media Equivalency and Return on Engagement/Influence/etc. Under Things to Learn in 2011, Don adds Measurable Objectives, Impact versus ROI, Hypothetical ROI Models, Integrated Digital Measurement—Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned and Attribution. By now, we should be talking about Don as Professor Bartholomew. 

Yes, there's a lot more to social media for professional PR purposes than boasting about followers. But now's the time to learn it.

"It has been said," Bartholomew opens his blog post, "that social media came of age in 2010. Not so for social media measurement. But the mainstreaming of social media marketing brings with it a heightened call for accountability. The need to prove the value of social media initiatives has never been greater. So, perhaps 2011 will be the year that social media measurement matures and comes of age."

Dig in and get your Twitter degree. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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