8 Challenges In Measuring Social Media (by the BBC)

The near impossible to achieve objective: Monitor and measure all social media mentions and interactions. It’s something i’ve um’d and ah’d about many a time; I wrote about it 4 years ago in 2009, and things aren’t any easier now. The more social platforms, the more complicated the monitoring and the insight!


It’s something that the BBC and other organisations large and small are obviously very keen to get a handle on. There are a great many monitoring tools but very few standards by which to compare, other than the comparison of year-on-year/month-on-month performance or competitor analysis. Software is available both for free and at a cost: Radian 6, Brandwatch, Sysmos, Meltwater, Cision, Social Bakers, Social Mention, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite plus many others are all good tools.

On the BBC blog today they posted 8 challenges that the BBC (and others) face when assessing social activity:

1. No official measurement source: TV has BARB and Radio has RAJAR – two well established bodies, with consensus on the most appropriate metrics to use. Within digital, there is the relatively new UKOM – while it offers a range of measures, it does not break down social media into specific accounts (such as @BBCSport on Twitter or BBC One on Facebook). Social networks may offer useful insight tools themselves, but only top-level information is made public. It can therefore be difficult to place performance in the context of the performance of other accounts or organisations.

2. Limited geographic restrictions: I work within the public sector side of the BBC, and so am principally interested in UK performance rather than global.  Again, insight tools can offer geographic splits but there isn’t much publicly available UK-specific data to compare to.

3. Aggregating across multiple accounts: It can be difficult to assess overall performance when multiple accounts are being used – for instance, if we wanted to measure combined performance across @BBCBreaking and @BBCNews on Twitter. Action-orientated metrics (such as measuring the number of ‘likes’ or views) can be added together, but others such as total audience cannot, since people that follow multiple accounts would be counted more than once unless data could be de-duplicated . The challenges of measuring your own organisation are magnified when trying to measure others.

4. Totalling activity across multiple services: The ideal would be to evaluate our performance across the entirety of social media, but different services with different functionalities with different ways of measuring make this impractical. For instance, is a Facebook share the equivalent of a Pinterest re-pin?

5. Distinguishing active from lifetime audience: Metrics such as followers or likes are based on lifetime activity – they take no account of recency and so could count activity from several years ago. Changes over time can be used to assess growth, but it doesn’t give an accurate reflection of the active audience – people that interacted with the site more recently (e.g. in the last week or last month). Again, some insight tools offer this function, but once again there is an inability to place performance in context.

6. Interpreting behaviour: Adding up the number of comments or mentions produces a measure of audience engagement, but it assumes all interactivity is good when in fact audiences could be using social media to protest against something or talk about how much they hate a particular programme. Sentiment analysis can provide some context. While tools continue to improve and innovate, ambiguities in tone and meaning mean that analysis is not yet fully accurate

7. Identifying relevant activity: Counting the volume of mentions for a programme across social media could be limited to searching by the programme name, or it could include a search for mentions of the on-air talent, topic or notable incidents. Furthermore, that on-air talent can appear across multiple programmes or formats. Agreeing on parameters can be hard to do. Some tools do automate this to provide a consistent view for all users, but without an industry standard it is still possible for other organisations to announce radically different figures due to different measurement criteria. 

8. Measuring impact: Metrics such as likes or retweets are not ends in themselves, but are signifiers of audience engagement. Social media objectives should be broader than stimulating this type of behaviour alone, and could have goals such as increasing the audience figures for a TV or Radio programme or raising positive opinion towards a programme, channel or service. This is something that is hard to measure in any medium, but the nature of social, where ease of interaction encourages high volume of messages – makes it harder than most to measure this type of impact.

These 8 challenges were written by Simon Kendrick, a Research Manager for Audiences at BBC Future Media.


Attempt at Social Media Tracking

Research company YouGov have just announced their intention to investigate the actual usage of social media networks. They propose to interview over 2000 users to discover the most used networks, how often these are used and test participant’s reactions to various adverts. See my article on Social Media Measurement.

The aim it appears, is to learn how best to make money out of the unsuspecting public. How to make money in the short term with clickable ads ‘Google’ style, and in the long term through increasing brand engagement and two way communication. Clickable ads equals bad idea. Social network users are generally of a demographic that is educated (to some level) and not ignorant when it comes to being advertised at. Research may say that users don’t mind the ad’s, but there will be a limit before. David Lucas, head of media consulting for YouGov, said, “The next challenge for these websites is to find a way to take advantage of their audience and make money from their product. Appealing to advertisers is an obvious route, but finding the best way to engage with those using this channel needs further consideration.”take advantage of their audience…people don’t like to be taken advantage of I’m afraid chaps. Be careful.

If companies really want to benefit from brand engagement through social networking, they may want to think about other, more subtle ways of financing Facebook et al.

Read further at NMA

social media blog

New Radio 1 Homepage

The BBC (or at least the Radio1 section) is jumping forwards in leaps and bounds when it comes to digital and online content.

I found the Radio1 site quite engaging and intuitive BEFORE they changed it and now….well it’s even better. It looks good and is perfectly stylised with their target audience in mind (16-30).

Now I could dissect the site for hours but that’s not what this blog concerns. What we care about is social media isn’t it…Which brings me to the best part of the new site. This is what Radio one have coined ‘Visualising Radio’. What they intend to do is reflect back user interaction through dynamic visuals on the website. This is to be done through placing a filter in incoming SMS text which then feeds in to the visualisation.

For example, the Chris Moyle’s show has Chris Moyles, Dave, Dominic, Carrie, Aled and Rachel. There is a feature whereby each member of the team can choose a song to put on. Listeners can then text in their response as to whether they like or dislike the song. Radio1 then scan and filter the incoming text messages and display this information in a chart (see below).

This is great. It’s innovative and it looks good. Bravo to Radio1 and I’m glad my license fee is being spent on something other than paying the ‘stars’ of Strictly Come Dancing or whatever!

Read more on Ben Chapman of Radio 1’s blog

Or read NMA’s news story

social media blog

2009…The year of total digital integration?

Hmmmm not possible…such a convergence is not! Is what a Yoda type digital marketer would have written 4-5 years ago. Only two years ago do I remember reading with interest (and seeing the ‘tellyvision’ ads) from Virgin advertising their new Lobster 700 TV phone. It was the first handset in the UK to offer such a feature without users having to incur data costs.”(Pocket Lint).

Gosh, I thought, wouldn’t that be amazing? I can watch TV where ever I want, when ever I want on my mobile phone! It didn’t catch on though or take off and the likely, most contributory factor to this failure may be sited (well i’m siting it!) as… on demand internet TV. That and the fact that it weighed 140 grams and was named after a crustacian.

Now here we are 2009, the year of integration. All of the major television providers in the UK provide some form of ‘watch again’ or ‘on demand’ television service. BBC (i player), ITV (ITV player), Channel 4 (4OD) and Sky (Sky Player – subscibers only). I can sit here in my lunch break and watch Eastenders that I missed last night…should I wish to. If I have a 3G mobile such as an Apple i-Phone I can watch these digitally streamed programmes at my leisure. Obviously I can’t watch live TV only repeats but does this matter (although ITV does stream almost live TV)? Not to me it doesn’t. If I want to watch my favourite programme it doesn’t matter where on when I watch it, just so long as I can, in fact, watch it.

So where are we headed?

The final destination is centred around a single entertainment centre can can allow the user to view digital television, play music or even order their shopping. Myspace (an internet company) have just signalled their intention to launch ‘Widget TV‘. This will allow viewers to interact with their Myspce accounts through their television. One suspects that had they held back a year or so then the majority of televisions would be able to browse the internet anyway, thus doing away with the need for a seperate TV channel.

The second series/programme of Rude Tube was shown recently on Channel 4. This again flips it around and has the internet providing the content for a mainstream, terrestrial TV show. and just the other day I was walking around Tescos only to come across a TV with an integrated (there’s that word again!) ipod dock for playing music/tv shows/films straight from you ipod.

Next they’ll be telling me I can make a phone call on a portable telephone?! Crazy.
social media blog

Why Can’t We Be Happy With What We’ve Got?

Why can’t we be happy with what we’ve got?

Everything I know tells me that this is not a good headline for a readership that is obviously at the forefront of technology. Let me play devils advocate for one moment though to discuss a trend that is causing me slight unease. as I remember being amazed at the fact that I could sit in a room, in front of a computer screen and talk to people I’d never met before in a chat room.

Then came ICQ, MSN and their cohorts allowing friends, strangers and strange people to connect to each other in a more direct fashion. 2003 saw the advent of the great Myspace. At last we could listen to our favourite bands instantly online, message each other and then, as times moved on watch videos and write blogs; but it wasn’t enough. There was a thirst for something more niche. A bit more exclusive. Cue mass uptake of Facebook, then Bebo (for the younger guys and gals), not to mention Linked in, Faceparty and all the others that quickly emerged (I would be interested to know the exact chronological order that they appeared.)

Still not enough though. We didn’t want to trawl through blogs for information. ‘Blogs are dead’, said Wired.com recently. We can’t be bothered to read more than the status report on our Facebook page and so came Twitter et al, as we apparently aren’t interested in reading anything longer than 140 characters.

Now the time has come when we can’t even wait to get to a computer, and have to have the latest application uploaded to our i-phone and other generic third generation smartphones. Don’t get me wrong, it is of course important to be aware of every new development but do we have to jump on every single bandwagon? Does Twitter actually benefit our day to day life or does it get in the way.

So I put it to you. Instead of signing up to the latest dotcom social networking next big thing. Why not spend that time investigating what utility can really be taken from your current big thing. Surely in our role as technological overseers we have a responsibility to not only talk up every new startup but to also fully appreciate and discuss what we have at our disposal right now. That said, never take your eye off the horizon digiteers, you never know what may be around the corner.

Measuring Social Media

Here I just thought I would share some ideas and observations on measuring social media

Social media helps us to communicate and share more easily.

The key is in not just analysing stats but behaviour as well. Measure peoples thoughts, ideas, opinions, suggestions, feedback. Social media is inherently measurable in that by being talked about in a written dialogue and recorded online, marketers can subsequently analyse what had been said (good, bad and neutral). Statistics such as Google analytics can tell us numbers and figures but not feelings.

In order to ensure consistent and non biased results, it is recommended that a third party is used for all measurement. This is the case in many other industries and adds integrity to the results of any social media campaign.

Planned measurement is most effective:

Before campaign is introduced those involved must ask the question…’What are we going to do?’

· Set clear and realistic KPI’s
· Measure these KPI’s against industry benchmarks or other similar campaigns
· Have KPI’s been reached?

Study online users by observing online conversations and being aware of who is in the conversation, where (website/blog address) it is taking place, and how many people are taking part. BE SPECIFIC about what you want to achieve from social media…if you don’t know what you want, how can you know when you’ve got it?!

More specific methods of tracking social media are:
· Google Alerts
· Use bookmarking sites URL history (who bookmarked you)
· Then contact the influential bloggers to start a conversation.
Referrals from influential bloggers and other social media users hold greater value and are trusted.

For example…Upon the release of a new model, Toyota identified ‘leading’ (daily page views/number of subscribers) bloggers. They then invited them to a pre launch show with freebies and test drives and made them feel special. These ‘influencers’ then went on to give warm reviews in their blogs thus creating positive brand and product empathy and creating a buzz online.

What to do with measurements?
Use measurements to feedback in to product design and customer service. Constantly changing and updating.

Online brand management reputational risk blah blah

Currently working on a project to create an application to monitor social media for positive and negative comments regarding a certain well known brand in the UK.

This has become more and more complicated we delve deeper and deeper in to the squelchy quagmire that is social media. A major problem is that many of the bookmarking sites have a strong bias towards American blogs/bookmarks/sites and so are less relevant to us Brits.

As a result of my research I found a great article which breaks down the differing types (and reasons for doing) online brand awareness. Read it here