Understanding The Industry’s New Social Media Measurement Guidelines

Social Media Week

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Anthony Martinez’s responsibility, as the Director of Connection Planning at The Coca-Cola Company, is to help the company’s brands figure out where and how to invest their next marketing dollar most effectively. The Social Media Measurement Guidelines, recently established by the Media Rating Council (MRC), will help him do just that.

“From a brand marketer’s point of view, the transparency of the data is very important to understanding what we’re buying and how we can take one program and look at it across a number of different brands,” Martinez said.

The Media Rating Council was originally created to regulate television metrics, but the organization now maintains guidelines around valid and reliable media measurement across the industry. Standards are hugely important to preventing reliance on “custom criteria” that may be different across platforms, an essential characteristic for accurately comparing metrics across media.

Building the Social Media Measurement Guidelines was an iterative process supported by over 80 participating organizations, including 4A’s, IAB, and WOMMA.

The guidelines intend to provide a common reality point for setting expectations and evaluating results and will be critical in how agencies communicate their effectiveness with clients.

“Our more sophisticated modeling tools around reach and ROI depend on the cleanliness of the data to understand what’s working and what’s not,” Martinez noted.

Another important application will be in measuring the effectiveness of consumer-to-consumer interactions. Peter Storck, Senior Vice President of Research & Analytics at Crowdtap, expressed frustration with the way data is often presented in this realm.

“It’s impossible right now to get anything better than an estimate when it comes to impressions for consumer-to-consumer media,” he noted.

The guidelines can help differentiate between sponsored user-generated content (UGC) and authentic UGC, which makes a big difference to that user’s audiences and to the brand’s strategy.

“If Coke activates users to share their love of Coke on social networks, it’s very powerful consumer-to-consumer content, but it’s not native,” Storck explained.

“The hope,” said Ron Pinelli, Vice President of Digital Research & Standards at the MRC, “is that vendors will voluntarily submit to the MRC process and that, in the social media conversation moving forward, the guidelines are referenced and asked about, and vendors are held accountable to them.”

Who wins? Most likely, people who rely on this data will be better off across the board—and those vendors that are the most transparent will get more support from brands as a result. Others will be forced to improve.

In Storck’s opinion, “There will be some losers here, and there should be.”

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Kate Canfield

MBA Student, Columbia Business School


Kate is an MBA student at Columbia Business School focused on technology, entrepreneurship and international business. Before grad school, she directed business development for a New York City startup and managed a team of consultants on revenue-driving strategies for new ventures. She has supervised product-development across multiple projects as a nonfiction editor at St. Martin’s Press and has reported on events and conferences on a range of topics in NYC since 2011. She holds a B.A. cum Laude in economics from Amherst College.

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