Unicorn Metrics


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Caution: I am not a Social Media “Expert,” “guru,” “ninja” or “shaman.”

When we counsel our clients about what metrics are important for measuring a successful communications campaign, we often lob oral grenades such as engagement, influence and interactions. These kinds of metrics make you feel great.

But they don’t really exist. They have the possibility to exist and some folks have come close to making them a reality, but for the most part, these metrics are figments of our social media dashboard’s imagination. They’re Unicorn Metrics.

Is this real life?

When a consultant tells a client they have “raised the level of engagement,” what are they really saying? When a company that purports to be able to assign a score that assesses an individual’s influence claims it uses a “scientific approach,” what experiments has it done?

To me, these aren’t things that can be shown in words. I’m looking for equations that demonstrate metrics such as reach or engagement. Equations such as the one that philly.com uses to measure engagement. Now, I understand that there is a significant market for these types of services that can accurately measure these metrics (full disclosure, my employer is one of them). And exposing a proprietary algorithm is not a reasonable request.

But applying the same standards the scientific community follows would be a good start.

The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method. Image by Erik Ong, on the Wikimedia Commons.

Remember the scientific method from junior high school? Hypothesis, experiment, record, report. I think that the public relations/marketing/communications industry would be well served by more science and less pontificating by gurus. I’m not advocating eliminating intellectual property.

But we would all benefit from openly publishing of scientific studies that expose the methodologies, results and analysis of the science behind the new metrics that are attempting to define our industry.

Exposing the science of influence would put an end to the debates of which service is better or which metrics are accurate. However you define influence (I like this one from Radian 6), having scientific proof would put an end to these unicorn metrics.

Anybody up for starting the Social Media Analytics Review Monthly? (Yes, that spells SMARM) See you in the comments!

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