Social Media Measurement: An Interview with EVP Marty Levine at Prosyna

As I was conducting research for my new book, Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional, I came across many interesting measurement tools and platforms. Prosyna was on my list and I learned quite a bit about the platform from Marty Levine, Executive Vice President, at the company.  Marty is a marketing and communications specialist and veteran of multiple digital media and technology startups in Silicon Valley, Seattle and Vancouver. He worked in New York publishing for more than 20 years as a reporter, editor and publisher before moving to digital media and technology where as an executive team member he built alliances and commercial relationships with leading companies in consumer electronics, motion pictures and cable television.

Here are a few of the questions I asked Marty, which related to Prosyna and social media measurement:

Q: What are the main reasons to capture social media intelligence for the CEO, CFO and marketing executives in an organization?  What do they expect to see with respect to metrics and measurement of their social media programs?

Each of those executives shares the common goal of helping the organization to succeed, but they each also need to maintain a particular focus. The CEO and CFO in particular are looking for transparency – is the organization’s overall investment in socials media of budget, time and people paying sufficient dividends? While you can say the same thing about the CMO that person has to get a bit more granular: what’s the ROI on a particular marketing campaign? How is the target audience responding to overall and specific messaging? And for many of them, how is social media performing against more traditional marketing channels?

With that in mind it’s a shame to waste social media on a series of one-to-one conversations – even if there’s a larger audience listening in on those conversations. What does that really tell you about what you’re trying to achieve? It misses the larger opportunity. If you’re going to use social media effectively you should be using it to convert your target audience into customers of whatever it is you’re selling. That means getting them to the websites and content that will influence them to sign up for a service, buy a product, participate in a promotion or event, read a third-party review that will materially influence purchase decisions – something that will have a bottom line impact.

If that becomes your social media strategy – as it should – you then need to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. Did you drive people to one of those transactions that connect to your overall and specific objectives? And it’s not just an aggregate number. If you’re going to measure you need comparative metrics that you can use to modify and improve on your social media execution. For example: If you’re an airline when should you tweet about a weekend seat sale? If you publish four Tweets with different wording and hashtags which one generates the best response?  I was at a recent panel discussion with marketing executives from Walmart, AT&T General Electric among others and they all stressed their reliance on data-driven marketing to understand customer behavior patterns. To be effective, social media has to fit that model.

Q: What is the best way to gauge whether or not the content you have created for a campaign is performing well through different channels?

It has to be apples to apples. If you Tweet a link and post it on your Facebook page you have to be able to capture the click-through response, with equivalent metrics, for each channel. And it’s not just overall numbers. You need to see if people respond through different channels at different times. If there are geographic factors that affect response. And you need to understand the impact of third-party influencers – both individuals and websites – that are helping to propagate your message. If something goes viral – and you probably want to repeat that type of success – then you need to understand whether it was what you published on Twitter, Facebook or some other channel that got you that mass response.

Q: What are some of the important metrics to track if you want to identify whether or not audiences are truly engaging with your brand?

Remember the truism: It’s not what people say, it’s what they do. Facebook Comments and Twitter Replies are a great way to get anecdotal evidence on audience reaction. But that type of activity represents an infinitesimal percentage of audience engagement. The same is really true about building up followers and fans. That tells you that you were able to get them to opt in on getting additional information – but it doesn’t say they will pay attention.

If people are truly engaged, they are following the links you publish to the online destinations you set: product and service pages, third-party reviews, news that supports your marketing message. If you are consistently getting a significant number of your target audience to engage with your brand that way – and I’d define “significant” as an ROI-based number compared to your other marketing activities – then you are doing your job.

Q: What advice would you give PR and communications professionals about gathering critical business intelligence?

It starts with having measurable objectives. This has always been a huge challenge for PR. The old metric used to be largely press clippings, though there have been efforts to link specific time-based PR activities to bottom line changes immediately following those events. So I can see the attraction of basing social media performance on easily obtainable data – the increase in followers/fans, number of comments, retweets, replies and such. But none of those numbers will tell you whether you are effectively executing on a specific objective. You have to go deeper and you need to use social media tools that can deliver relevant data. And I define “relevant” as “I can act on that information in a way that will get me closer to my objective.”

There are some good tools out there that provide different snapshots over target audience response. Of course, I very much believe in the comparative response analytics Prosyna delivers. But there are also sentiment analysis tools that, if used carefully, can also provide critical intelligence on how a large and diverse audience responds to a communications campaign. If I were running a PR agency or department, I’d be looking at all the tools that can deliver meaningful data that will make me more effective. We’re seeing a number of different business constituencies developing expertise with social media: Ad agencies, social media marketing specialists. If the public relations community is going to run social media campaigns on behalf of their clients and colleagues they are going to demonstrate bottom line, data-driven expertise that is natural to some of those other professions.