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You need the big picture to get the big insights across traditional and social media

The immediacy that came with social media changed the whole news cycle of traditional mediums forever. To lead the pack and ratings many news brands were under pressure to be the first with breaking news. We have all seen many of these stories ending up being riddled with errors and factual inaccuracies or just being wrong completely.

This race for immediacy has also seen brands wanting real-time, immediate data and information with many tools and technologies being created to address this need. Many features with some amazing bells and whistles give communication professionals a variety of metrics and features which can be very useful.

Light bulb moment

Speaking at the AMEC 2019 Summit in Prague, Facebook Marketing Science Expert, Daniel Stauber, said many modern platforms can introduce an analytical bias. For instance, because it measures “likes” this then becomes the metric of choice for the observer. Because of this inherent bias Stauber believes it becomes even more critical for communicators to be very aware of the specific objectives of their campaigns.

As William Bruce Cameron said: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

When launching the Barcelona Principles of communication measurement in 2010, AMEC (The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) already recognised the importance of measuring social media by stating in their 6th Principle that “Social Media can and should be measured.”

In 2015, Barcelona Principles 2.0 made some subtle but, in some cases, fundamental changes to the original principles. Principle 6 was now updated to “Social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels.”

So instead of just measuring social in its own space it now needed to be considered in the broader messaging context.

I recently did some research on a South African brand’s media coverage for a month. I noticed two particular spikes in the volume of coverage – one in the middle of the month and a second one towards the end. These spikes involved traditional media such as radio and newspapers with the majority of volumes coming from online news sites.

The first spike showed a very successful Corporate Social Responsibility programme by the brand – donating millions of rand to a not-for-profit organisation. The media responded well to this and provided lots of positive messaging around this good deed. The second spike was mainly incidental and passing mentions of the brand and focused on an unusual event which occurred at one of their outlets – a feel-good story which actually went viral with over 100 000 views on social media, which the news channels then subsequently reported on.

The PR and communication team, advertising and digital agencies are all operating in their own little siloes without clear alignment to achieve a brand’s communication objectives.

We usually just analyse social media for this particular brand so I decided to compare my traditional media research to the usual social media report we do for them. As expected, Twitter conversations spiked at the exact same periods as the traditional – a perfect correlation. Until you dig a little deeper.

Though the month-end spike correlated – the brand only being mentioned incidentally – the first spike was very interesting.

Despite the very positive traditional reporting on the generous CSR donation, the Twitter spike during this exact period had very little discussions around this topic. The majority of conversations were about a competition they just launched – naturally with the obligatory hashtag!

Traditional media and Twitter conversation analysis

Traditional media and Twitter conversation analysis

Now I am not privy to the brand’s marketing and communications planning but I do think that launching a totally unrelated competition on social media at the same time as doing a big CSR initiative was maybe not the wisest move.

The competition drowned out almost all Twitter conversations around the CSR project that the company was doing. Timing and context would have made all the difference where launching the competition a week before or after the CSR initiative would have given the brand more positive visibility over a longer period of time. The second spike also showed no participation by the brand. They may have only been mentioned in passing but a great opportunity was missed to build engagement on the feel-good viral story.

But this is a good example of how a siloed approach to a brand’s marketing and communication activities can dilute messages. The PR and communication team, advertising and digital agencies are all operating in their own little siloes without clear alignment to achieve a brand’s communication objectives.

The wonderful thing about measurement and evaluation best practices is not to necessarily show how great your campaign was. But rather to learn from the successes and failures.

Writing for WARC, Paul Smith says in an article on integrated marketing communications (IMC) that “IMC makes the range of messages more consistent and, in turn, more credible.  This reduces risk in the mind of the buyer which then shortens the search process and helps to dictate the outcome of brand comparisons. Unintegrated, on the other hand, send disjointed messages which dilute message impact.”

The same goes for measuring and evaluating your campaigns. Had I only looked at the normal media coverage or social media in isolation, both would have looked great. By combining these I could find the anomaly and easily identify how to improve future campaigns. Many communicators chase big numbers – more “likes”, more impressions, more reach – the bigger the number the more they believe they show the success and the value of their activities. The wonderful thing about measurement and evaluation best practices is not to necessarily show how great your campaign was. But rather to learn from the successes and failures. To do it much better next time.

This article was featured in the  2020 edition of the SA Social Media Landscape which has more social media research and insights.

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Francois van Dyk

Francois van Dyk, heads up Operations at Ornico, the Brand Intelligence research company. He is part of the management team that has seen Ornico expand across Africa, currently with data resources in 14 countries and employing more than 100 media enthusiasts. He studied and lectured public relations before entering the world of media research.

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