helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

, Senior Planner, TMW
One of the biggest ‘hot potatoes’ right now is how to measure social media activity and whether it’s possible to apportion ROI. It seems every man, woman and dog has an opinion on the matter!
And for good reason.

The days of whimsical experimentation have long gone. Nowadays, marketers have to justify every  budget line with robust KPIs, solid business cases or definitive break-even/ ROI analysis.  Not so easy when it comes to evaluating that ‘fluffy social media stuff’ but if we genuinely want this to be taken seriously it’s imperative we start making it much more accountable.

More accountability, more standardisation

But for this to happen there really needs to be a degree of standardisation across the industry so that we’re all talking the same language (or at  least singing from the same ‘karaoke machine’!) But the truth is there’s currently too much inconsistency in the industry to draw any salient or meaningful conclusions. As it stands, it’s almost impossible to benchmark our respective activity as everyone is measuring performance differently. This is compounded by the fact that social media is so versatile, diverse, complex and multi-faceted, spanning many disparate objectives and many different platforms - no wonder we’ve struggled to find a common methodology which works across everything.

A step in the right direction

What I’m about to share with you may not address all these challenges but will hopefully move us in the right direction. TMW have been working in close consultation with the IAB Social Media Council to develop a new measurement framework to help practitioners evaluate their social media activity more effectively and consistently.  It’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s a very simple framework, designed to be flexible enough to be applied across a broad spectrum of social media platforms, whilst at the same time giving practitioners the freedom to use their own experience and expertise to choose the most appropriate KPIs.

Rather serendipitously, the measurement framework we’re proposing shares the same acronym as the Internet Advertising Bureau, so at least it’s dead easy to remember!

IAB Framework for measuring social media

You can view the full presentation of this approach below.

The presentation talks through each step of the process from establishing up front your intent, assigning the most pertinent KPIs according to the 4 As – Awareness, Apprecitation, Action and Advocacy – and consulting other benchmarks in order to draw meaningful comparisons.
There’s an array of KPIs which one can assign to each of these 4 As. As a starter for ten we’ve provided a selection to choose from but this list is not exhaustive by any means.  Which KPIs you choose to apply will fundamentally vary according to the intent you define, the platform you’re using, the tracking you have in place and the internal expectations of various stakeholders and whether they demand hard financials as well as soft metrics.
Defining some hard financials
Ultimately, I believe we all need to be working towards some hard financials which over time will become established as industry standards. I’ve deliberately steered away from ROI per se – that’s a debate for another day – but instead would favour the four financial KPIs in line with the 4 As (see table below).  How we calculate these KPIs is still to be defined but the principle of having one or more of this hard financials to evaluate or benchmark our activity could be extremely beneficial in my view.

financial kpis

Feedback welcome

The Council plans to officially promote this framework to the wider industry in a couple of weeks, but it would be great to get some feedback to ensure this is a collaborative effort.  What we’ve outlined may not suit everybody but we believe it’s a step in the right direction and would encourage as many practitioners as possible to adopt it where they can.  The more aligned the industry becomes, the more accountable social media will become and the easier it will be for all of us to digest the complexities of social media measurement.

Surely that’s something worth striving for?


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May 26, 2010

Great model Richard. Its a swiss army knife of a measurement model that has uses across the broad universe of social media.

I think my main issue is with regard to its focus on the individiual and that individual’s journey rather than in the community and how it has changed. For me one of the paradigm shifts with social is how it allows us to recognise we are a herd animal and that many of our decisions are based on herd instinct. Can this model be used to describe how a whole community has changed direction?


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Richard Pentin
June 3, 2010

It’s a fair point Tony. It’s essential any measurement framework allows us to measure changes in community behaviour for the reasons you explain. I actually feel this framework achieves this very well.

The framework isn’t based on measuring individual behaviour but rather the collective behaviour on any given platform. In other words you’re looking at aggregated data for the community engaged with your social media platforms.

So if your intent is specifically to influence or change the behaviour of a particular herd, tribe or commmunity, then this framework encourages you to pick the most pertinent KPIs in line with that objective. So for example, it’s important that you measure how many members of this ‘herd’ get to see your planned social media activity or platform (awareness); how many are actively engaged with it (appreciation); and how many proactively share experiences, views and opinions as a direct result (advocacy).

It would be up to you to define which KPIs fall into those categories depending on the platforms you are using. For example, sentiment analysis may be a important metric to determine whether they are postitively engaged as a result of your activity (appreciation).

In its most simplistic form, if you can measure a shift in sentiment as a result of your activity, as well as an uplift in key advocacy metrics compared to say some historical data then you’re in a good position to say that you’ve met your original objectives successfully.

Jack Wallington
June 12, 2010

This is really quite amazing, and a fantastic structure – loving the ‘iab’. Simple is always the best starting point for something like this and you’ve certainly made it easy to understand and put into practice. If I can understand it, anyone can! My only thought about this, is how it’s used in reality, e.g. is it time consuming, does it make sense to ‘the boss’ – which you may have more of an idea of Richard if you’re already using it? One suggestion on top of asking for feedback here is perhaps to ask a few agencies and advertisers to try it in practice for a campaign or two before the full launch to iron out any issues, or to obtain supportive comments. It would definitely be a big step forward for social media if everyone used this framework as standard to help make sense of it all. I can imagine heads/directors becoming familiar with the KPI tables for their various campaigns.

Richard Pentin
June 13, 2010

Jack, many thanks for the positive feedback.

I’m hoping that once one becomes familiar with the simple framework it’s relatively easy to apply and not that time consuming. To be honest, most of us are tracking a lot of these KPIs anyway – all this framework does is ensure we’re focusing on the most pertinent KPIs and aggregating them in such a way that tells a bigger and more compelling story for the ‘boss’ to understand.

I think your suggestion to road test this with a few agencies is an excellent one. This is something I’m exploring with other agencies within the Creston Group but I’d definitely welcome other members of the Council or the wider industry putting this framework to the test to help validate this approach or make suggestions on how to make it better.

Ed Beard
June 14, 2010

Hi Richard – Thanks for this: it’s a great model and starting point for us all. We only have one thought to add to that which has already been said. In practice we feel that what’s currently termed ‘advocacy’ could often be categorised as appreciation or action given that both of these typically (but not always) lead to some form of public advocacy in the social media space. Ed

Richard Pentin
June 22, 2010

Thanks Ed. I take your point that advocacy could easily be considered an action and is arguably a sign of appreciation too, but for the purposes of this framework I was keen to keep them distinctly separate as WOM is such a key facet of social media.

It’s probably not that clear in the presentation without the VO but on slide 10 I define ACTION as only those KPIs which demonstrate a direct impact on purchase behaviour in some way, e.g. what impact has this activity or platform had on website traffic, call centre enquiries/complaints, handraiser registrations, quotation requests, brochure downloads, sales, purchase frequency or sales value. Likewise, what is the cost per action/quotation/brochure request/sale etc.

These particular actions and metrics are deliberately very specific to the purchase process whereas advocacy in my view is more about how to measure the viral effect of the activity and the degree in which it influences other people’s attitudes and purchase behaviour.

It’s a subtle difference but for that reason I’m inclined to keep them distinctly separate.

Ed Beard
June 22, 2010

Hi Richard, Thanks for that – I see you’re where you’re coming from and how they are separate when Action more directly involves behaviour indicative of purchase. Will be a good analytics challenge to attribute it!


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Simon Myall
August 23, 2010

This is an excellent development. It is refreshing to see how Intent (or objectives just to break from your acronym!) is leading the selection of the most relevant KPIs in this framework.

I felt that ‘appreciation’ of the A’s is the most challenging to define. The way you have defined it here is very much based around the immediate response from your social media activities and could miss out on some of the more complex and nuanced conversations that can result from it.

These are the conversations that you might typically track through sentiment monitoring and need KPIs based around brand topics and sub topics to understand. Would this be beyond the intended scope of your framework or would this could through your benchmark component?

Richard Pentin
August 24, 2010


It’s funny you should mention sentiment analysis as I was initially unsure how to incorporate this into the framework. I ended up making it a discreet component within ‘Appreciation’ as sentiment analysis is effectively a metric for measuring how positive or negative the audience feels towards a given topic. ie it’s a barometer for engagement or appreciation to some degree.
However I admit this does feel a bit of an afterthought and probably doesn’t give it the prominence it deserves!

It’s worth mentioning though that this framework was only designed to measure the efficacy of social media activity. Listening or measuring nuanced conversations feels to me to be a slightly different aspect of measurement. The likes of Nielson’s BuzzMetrics, Radian6, Cymfony or Attentio will have their own frameworks and methodologies to meet certain listening objectives so it probably makes sense to keep these quite separate. The only time when we need to incorporate listening KPIs into this IAB framework is when they help to prove the efficacy of your activity in some way, such as sentiment analysis as mentioned above.

Does that seem a sensible approach to you?

stuart culpepper
September 13, 2010

Richard, thanks for the thoughtful presentation.

On slide 8, you avoid listing the single most important KPI any client will sit up and listen to: “Increase Sales.”

It is also one of the most difficult to achieve. The more we cling to engagement, awareness and advocacy (though all valuable to the process) and shy away from linking social media with pure sales metrics, the more difficult it’s going to be for our activities to monetize themselves.

It’s also quite difficult to prove a connection to sales. But it’s one that the broadcast and print industries have insisted they align themselves with for decades.

SM producers need to align with these hard numbers, so senior executives will view our initiatives as being worthy of more than “pilot” sized investment.


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Richard Pentin
October 13, 2010

Thanks for the feedback Stuart. I couldn’t agree with you more. Whilst soft metrics are important we need to somehow get better at measuring the impact on sales otherwise social media will never be taken that seriously. That’s exactly why we’ve included ACTION category to complement AWARENESS, APPRECITATION and ADVOCACY. So lead generation and sales impact metrics would fall under this category. eg enquiries, brochure requests, voucher redemptions, reduction in call centre operational costs, footfall traffic, incremental sales uplift etc.

I’m not saying every social media activity needs to measure these metrics. Again it depends on your INTENT but if lead gen was one of the primary objectives then these are the sorts of things we should be be trying to measure.

But your point raises a far bigger question which is HOW do we measure these sales metrics? I’m afraid the framework doesn’t attempt to answer that question. At this stage we simply wanted to provide a framework to guide brands on the most pertinent metrics to populate.


[...] piece of work that I have seen in this area was completed by members of the IAB in the UK here: All 0 CommentsCannot add comment at this time. Add [...]

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