Will the IAB's Social Media Metrics Definitions Help Crack The Engagement Code?

Social media and online advertising wonk that I am, I spent part of the morning looking at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's just-released social media metrics definitions. Readers of this column may not see anything earthshakingly new here, but I'm encouraged  thinking about how these definitions will help codify and legitimize social media advertising, and help crack the "engagement" code, one of advertising's great, eternal mysteries. (Maybe we should have gotten Tom Hanks on the case some time ago.)

The great thing about putting these definitions down on paper is that they create a road map for advertisers on how to make social media purposeful, measuring a wide variety of user interactions and monitoring online dialogue, and putting numbers around it that marketers can understand. (I'm not saying here that the words themselves aren't important, but that quantifying social media is a very important step toward defining its value.)

Below are just a few of the thing the IAB document defines:

  • Application and video installs.
  • The number of relevant actions, including newsfeed items posted, comments posted, uploads, poll votes, and so forth.
  • Conversation size, which measures the number of content relevant sites and content relevant links, and the monthly uniques spread across those conversations.
  • Site relevance, which measures the density with which phrases specific to a client concern are brought up among relevant sites.
  • Author credibility, such as how relevant the author's content is and how often it is linked to.
  • Content freshness and relevance, which defines how frequently an author posts.
  • The average number of friends among users of a specific application.
  • Number of people currently using an application.


In other words, compared to old-time metrics like reach, frequency and the click-through, these metrics are deep, not only measuring whether people are engaged, but how they are engaging. It's like being able to measure the temperature with a thermometer rather than opening the front door and declaring it either hot or cold.

As I said above, for those really involved with social media, these definitions probably just put into writing what you already knew. But imagine that you're an advertiser who sorely needs to understand social media. Then imagine yourself suddenly finding that you can not only monitor discussion around a certain topic near and dear to your brand but that you can also mention the number of people talking about it and their level of passion. Suddenly, social media goes from a huge, indefinable blob of conversations into something that has contours around which you can engage, plan and buy. That's huge.

I'm sure these definitions aren't perfect, so I'll close by asking our vibrant Social Media Insider community what you think about them. Do they go too far, or not far enough? How actionable are they based on the tools we have today? Comment below. I'm sure the IAB will notice.

6 comments about "Will the IAB's Social Media Metrics Definitions Help Crack The Engagement Code?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Sarah Hofstetter from 360i, May 6, 2009 at 3:46 p.m.

    I love the concept of "author credibility" and many other items cited in this report, which can certainly be applied across both paid and earned media. While the metrics are very insightful for paid media, as an industry, we need to make sure we're measuring paid media and earned media appropriately. But marketers can't oversimplify by leveling the playing field down to the impression, click, or even engagement level. How should we measure marketer-influenced chatter, whether via Digital Word of Mouth (DWOM) or community advocacy programs, as compared with organic chatter? Should a blog post endorsing a brand be measured the same as a rich media ad unit on that blog? Looking forward to an active discussion about this at OMMA Social!

  2. Tommy Liu from Supercool Creative, May 6, 2009 at 4:27 p.m.

    It's great the IAB gathered heavyweights in social media and online advertising across the board to truly lay out metrics definitions. Although I agree it's not "earthshakingly new" it is a great foundation for advertisers looking to understand and break into the social media market as you mentioned. From here the definitions can grow to be more in-depth and better honed with specifics. Thanks for the post I will reference it for my news roundup blog post on Friday.

    Supercool Creative > > - blog

  3. Garry Mendez, May 6, 2009 at 4:48 p.m.

    Metrics are good. Metrics let you keep score. These metrics let you measure effectiveness IF you’ve established a set of goals based on these metrics. This is where so many people fall down. It’s easy to train your focus on what’s NEW in social media (chasing cool) instead of what’s going on NOW in social media (meeting customers where they are).

    All too often we sacrifice engagement in an effort to get “ahead of the curve.” These metrics and the rather mundane things they are intended to measure can help keep us grounded.

  4. Britta Meyer from Loomia, May 6, 2009 at 5:14 p.m.

    "Suddenly, social media goes from a huge, indefinable blob of conversations into something that has contours around which you can engage, plan and buy. That's huge."

    Yes, it's big. I like these metrics because they define the level of engagement more meaningfully, and they will apply differently to different advertisers, however, there is one critical link missing, that would make this huge: Conversion. How are these social media activities contributing to the bottom line compared to each other, as well as to other marketing?

    At the end of the day, as marketers, we must design our marketing mix with the goal to maximize ROI. To engage, plan and buy social media initiatives we still need to develop an understanding of their performance, so we can choose the right mix.

  5. Michelle Bonat from RumbaFish, May 6, 2009 at 6:54 p.m.

    Great news! Anything that can be measured better is good. We numbers geeks can cheer!

  6. Tilly Pick from Development Practice 360, LLC., May 7, 2009 at 10:07 p.m.

    It's a really great start. I do echo what Andrew said. We have to keep in mind how the data is collected when we look at it, interpret it and use it to make decisions. I would add that while behavioral data is great (which is what this essentially is), understanding the motivations and emotional outcomes of the behavior (e.g. why are people doing it as well as how do they feel about issues, topics, brands as a result of it etc.) are also critical.

Next story loading loading..