Proof and measurement of online engagement is critical, especially if we as PRs are to get our clients as enthused in social media activities as we would like. While we must measure engagement, reputation and sentiment, being naturally pre-occupied with outcome-based results businesses also need tangible proof, such as number of downloads, comments, click-throughs, enquiries etc to provide that halfway stage between campaigns and direct sales.

There are hundreds of tools available that can prove sentiment and engagement, some free and some paid for – some are rubbish and some are pretty good. Radian6 is expensive, but provides the most comprehensive measurement reports in a really simple format. eCairn is arguably the best, but is fairly raw in format and the reporting function is not as ‘glossy’ and easily digestible as Radian6.

Then you have the free tools. Most do the same job as the paid-for tools, but you just need to spend more time digesting the information and putting it into digestable and meaningful format. We find a combination of Google Analytics (including blog and site search), Technorati and Omgili is sufficient much of the time.

Social media measurement tools do come with a health warning – not one tool is really able to provide a truly accurate view of positive or negative sentiment (although several sites claim to do this), so you really must have human intervention. The sentiment reporting function should really be used as a good initial guide for any red flags, but you then need humans to research buzz properly to verify positive/negative sentiment.

Of course, while proving sentiment and maintaining reputation is a start, converting it to direct output is quite another.

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