I took an informal poll of my Firefly colleagues by asking for some 2011 PR predictions. Always an interesting question to posit this time of year, so here’s a quick roundup of the top responses:
Measure, measure, measure: this could be a make-or-break year for some measurement and evaluation providers, covering both traditional and social media. Expect more consolidation as well as standardisation across the industry, which will necessitate even closer collaboration between third party measurement vendors and PRs . For some sound industry points of view, check out these principles (and “hoorah!” for principle 5, in particular).
Back-to-basics: this year, if they haven’t already, PRs should turn their attention to analytics. This means both the raw data served up by your measurement/evaluation tool of choice, as well as probing those figures like good, old-fashioned data sleuths. It’s not enough to drop pretty graphs into PowerPoint presentations: be prepared to answer why.
Great copy: at the risk of sounding old-fashioned, we’re also big believers in the “return of great copy”. Whilst we’re still happy tweeting, poking and digg.ing, great copy is still great copy, and has its place in the world of PR and communications. Just ask Copyblogger.
Where are they now? Last year, we saw more friends leap onto new, social media platforms like Posterous, Quora and Gowalla. Admittedly, it’s getting harder to keep up with their sheer numbers (the platforms, not our friends), as well as gauge whether there’s a substantial enough following on each. Although the social media graveyard is growing, we predict it will be easier to resurrect some fundamentally great ideas, because of the low barrier to entry in the first instance. And when that happens – complete with the necessary tweaks to make these platforms truly great – then we can talk about the real, game-changing Web.
Over the last couple of years, I have seen a plethora of bold new social media monitoring solutions promising to cut through the unstructured chaos of online conversations.
Are we ever going to see a consolidation? Only yesterday I came across a wiki, providing me with a list of 130 solutions, I just wonder how many will still be running in 6 months…?
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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