Share This, a book about social media, created by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, celebrates the dynamic relationships that social media outlets can facilitate. However, the CIPR also focuses on what these complex relationships mean for public relations practitioners and the rapid development of online communications.
One section of this book looks specifically at social media monitoring and measuring.
With many of today’s new practitioners growing up digitally literate, we can assume that they use, or at least are familiar with, different social media. The same can be said for the public they are trying to reach.
The chapter ‘Real-Time Public Relations’ is centred on how media monitoring has changed from a ‘slow and reflective’ process into one that is fast-paced with an over abundance of information. Media monitoring went from scanning a few new clippings to being inundated with blog posts, Tweets, Facebook shares and likes, repins on Pinterest, photo uploads to Instagram and Flikr along with traditional media.
‘Conversations play out second by second, minute by minute on Twitter, blogs, forums, Facebook, Google+, Quora, on the talk pages of Wikipedia, on comment-enabled websites run by established news media… And this has…major ramifications, meaning that monitoring alone is insufficient: Your stakeholders’ expectations of your participation in the real-time conversation may well have changed.’
Because social media provides a means for two-way communication, stakeholders are going to expect companies to keep up their end of the communication. It is not enough to have the means for such communication and do nothing with them. Stakeholders want to interact and be heard. By taking what they have said and thinking about what it means for the organization, you can tailor experiences for your audience. The hard part, as noted in the book, is knowing what conversations to carry out.
‘Social Media Monitoring’ shows us that monitoring what happens on social media sites constantly creates a need for PR reformation based on the challenges that it creates. Most companies want monitoring practices to be ‘fast, quality, and cheap’ but it is impossible to get meaningful results if you use all three criteria.
Social media provides insights into your audience- valuable information at hand that once took lengthy surveys, focus groups and other methods to get. Having this information can be daunting as its mass quantity of information is left up to interpretation and companies have to think about what actions to take after receiving it.
Now there are computer programmes that can sift through the receive information and categorise it for companies. Some are more sophisticated than others such as sentient and contextual analysis that account for measuring people’s feelings and influences at a more accurate level. The problem with such computer programs is that they can’t account for linguistic aspects such as irony, slang, and sarcasm.
We learn that analysing content isn’t the only important part of measuring social media in the next chapter- you have to bring meaning to it. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to media monitoring. You have to know what goals and objectives you are trying to accomplish and how the media will affect the greater outcomes.