Understanding methods & collaborating with others to solve the mystery surrounding Social Media ROI in Public Relations
One of the primary lessons and points I have communicated and shared with both my students at the University of Tennessee and in the IMC Graduate Program at WVU is the fact that research is definitely important before implementing a public relations campaign. Understanding our publics based on their demographic information, psychographics, attitudes, behaviors, self-interest, and motivation is absolutely key. In order to create a strategic public relations campaign with effective messages and strategies – research has to be done beforehand. This applies to both public relations campaigns done in real life, and online as well.
Of course, with implementing research and setting clear and concise objectives – we have to determine how we are going to evaluate whether or not we accomplished what we set off in the first place. The biggest struggle particularly in social media is to determine the ROI, or Return on Investment. However, some have categorized this more as Return on Influence.
So, is it more important to look at how many followers we have on Twitter, the value of a fan on Facebook, or how many hits we are getting on our website, or is it more important to look at the quality of the conversations emerging from this ongoing and dynamic dialogue? We have many services online available for us to do look at the first part of the last sentence, but what about looking at the themes and meaning arising from the dialogue emerging? What is meaningful and what is just noise?
This is the million dollar question – for the researcher and practitioner in PR who can determine what the value of an relationship is virtually as well as determine whether or not this impacts real-life business and PR transactions – this still remains to be explored further. What is key is understanding the need to be able to do the following three things in regards to evaluation: implement and evaluate qualitative methods in social media research, quantitative research methods, and be able to calculate and report ROI metrics.
In summary, public relations professionals need to have this ongoing discussion both in the academic world as well as in practice to determine what are the best ways in measuring social media and evaluating these methods to determine whether or not they were successful for our clients and campaigns. This also is a call for more collaboration between other disciplines in this line of research with PR, such as in Marketing, Advertising, Psychology, Systems Engineering, and others. We need to all be working and discussing this together – this is the wave of the future to become more transdisciplinary in both our profession and as a discipline.
Hope you all are having a great day!