By Ampofo, Lawrence
Communication World , Vol. 26, No. 3
The PR sector is perennially challenged to prove its worth, and is under more pressure than ever to justify its share of diminishing communication budgets. More specifically, as the first decade of the 21st century comes to an end, the need to provide meaningful measurement of PR activity undertaken in the digital media environment is greater than ever.
Despite an intense industrywide effort to find ways to measure digital media and increasing demand from clients for accurate evaluation of digital media campaigns, no set of standard metrics has been agreed on. Of more concern at this time, though, is that, as with anything new, digital media measurement is vulnerable to opportunists looking to make a buck with a quick fix that is received enthusiastically by its target market not because it is right or good but because there is nothing else.
For example, an article in the online peer-reviewed journal First Monday (www .firstmonday.org) asks whether some of the criteria currently being used to calculate influence in social networks really do as they say. The article, "Social Networks That Matter: Twitter Under the Microscope," examines the state of complexity within Twitter user networks. Its central claim is that the daily grind of work, coupled with the short attention span of Internet users, means that there is actually far less real interaction among social network users than imagined. Instead, it cites the second tier of the more informal and amorphous network of "followers" and "followees," who post fewer updates, or none at all, but who regularly follow the feeds from a given user.
The article questions whether a link between users should be indicative of direct interaction, and identifies this as characteristic of the flaw in many efforts to accurately measure the success of PR in digital media environments: that it is a one-dimensional assumption that does not demonstrate any understanding of the tool. The number of "friends" a user has says nothing about the level of engagement of those friends with the user. …