Education Public Relation

PRSA 2009: Measuring the Influence of Social Media

By November 24, 2009October 17th, 2017No Comments

How have public relations metrics changed with the advent of social media?  Katie Paine of KDPaine & Partners addressed this question during a professional development workshop at the 2009 PRSA International Conference.

Paine began her presentation with some statistics:

  • 91 percent of Inc. 500 companies are using social media – however, 38 percent are not monitoring their brand in social media.
  • 48 percent of companies are moving money from advertising to social media – only 18 percent are taking money away from public relations.
  • 78 percent of people trust recommendations – only 14 percent trust advertising.

According to Paine, social media renders obsolete everything we know about public relations measurement.  The definitions of “timely,” “reach” and “success” – three elements of public relations – have changed.  Online coverage appears instantly and, if unfavorable, requires an immediate response.  Online impressions are impossible to count, and irrelevant as a measure of social media exposure.  Rather than focusing on impressions, or the number of people reached, we need to look at how many people responded or interacted.  A campaign’s effectiveness is measured by engagement with a particular audience, not the number of eyeballs.

Here’s an overview of how public relations measurement has changed over time:


Social media also has changed consumer behavior.  In the dark ages before social media, the consumer decision-making process consisted of awareness, consideration, preference, trial, and purchase.  Now, consumers use social media as a top resource for information on brands or products, which impacts their behavior.  The new consumer decision-making process comprises find, observe/lurk, participate, engagement, and purchase/act/link/word-of-mouth.

Paine referred to this as The Engagement Decision Tree:


The change in consumer behavior is important for companies to keep in mind, especially when planning social media campaigns, and related sales and marketing efforts.

CB&A is developing similar functionality to track and analyze the influence of social media, which we hope to deploy in January 2010.  Stay tuned.