Altimeter Group releases social media measurement white paper

Posted on April 22, 2010 2:11 pm by | Measurement | Social Media

Once again, I’m hearing calls to shrug off the “social media” label and acknowledge that all media—or at least all digital media—is social.

It’s simply not true on a number of levels. I find it most intriguing that some of the same people insisting that all media is social are asserting that nobody should serve as the coordinator of social media in an organization, but rather than it should become an integral part of every employee’s job. I doubt any of those advocates would support turning print or television media over to employees without anybody coordinating the effort. (Brian Solis, speaking yesterday at the New Communications Forum, likened this concept to an orchestra playing without a conductor.

The haphazard means by which we are monitoring and measuring social media is another reason to distinguish it from other channels. We are so far from agreeing on standards for assessing the impact of social media that retaining the distinction is vital, lest organizations in the early days of social media adoption continue to think that Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVEs) are applicable to their social efforts. (It’s distressing enough to know some organizations still apply AVEs to traditional PR.)

There is, however, some deep thinking going on around monitoring and measuring social media. Katie Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners, made a checklist available back in January designed to lead you through the social media measurement process. And today, The Altimeter Group has released a hefty white paper titled “Social Marketing Analytics: A New Framework for Measuring Results in Social Media.”

Unlike most analyst firms, which view their research as a profit center, Charlene Li’s Altimeter Group has released its white paper into the wild for anybody to download. In fact, it’s available on Slideshare for embedding (and hence offered here):

The Altimeter paper, written by Jeremiah Owyang (who also blogged about the report) and John Lovett (senior partner with Web Analytics Demystified), emphasizes the need for a strategic approach to social media anchored by the business goals your social media efforts are designed to achieve. Owyang and Lovett divide business objectives into four categories:

  • Foster dialog
  • Promote advocacy
  • Facilitate support
  • Spur innovation

I do hope to see a future version add more business objectives, but this is a solid list. For each objective, Altimeter offers three KPIs (key performance indicators) and a list monitoring/measuring services that can deliver related analytics. For example, the KPIs for facilitating support include resolution rate, resolution time and satisfaction score. Services that can help assess your satisfaction score include the likes of iPerceptions and Opinion Lab (among others).

The paper 26-page paper provides ample detail on each KPI, along with a formula for arriving at a usable metric. Equally important, Owyang and Lovett don’t suggest you follow their recommendations to the letter, but rather adapt them to your organization’s needs.

Together, Katie Paine’s checklist and Altimeter’s white paper make for a comprehensive overview not only of measuring but ensuring that social communication efforts achieve meaningful, measurable results. Paine’s checklist addresses serves as more of a tactical guide, listing the kinds of data you’ll need and drawing distinctions between the measurement of qualitative and quantitative data, for example, while the Altimeter paper provides a outstanding theoretical structure to which you can apply your measurement activities.

More work—a lot more work—is needed to get social media measurement practices anywhere near the standards of measurements applicable to traditional communications. And, as Owyang and Lovett note, no single monitoring or measuring service covers all the bases yet.

But the kind of deep thinking offered by Paine and Altimeter are excellent starts. They also speak loud and clear to the need to focus on the social dimensions of communication as a distinct category rather than lump them all together.



  • 1.It is interesting that this article surfaced as me and a colleague were debating this just the other day. I completely agree with the stance that not all media is social. There are many media mediums (say that 3 times fast) that in my opinion support being anti social. I hope as well that some one will come out with a more specific definition of what constitutes as "social" media. I think the 4 mentioned by Jeremiah Owyang is off to a good start.

    Maine D. French | April 2010

  • 2.Hi Shel,

    Great post and thanks for calling both of these reports to our attention. The direct link to the Altimeter whitepaper isn't working; however this link does:

    Thanks Shel

    Simon Young | May 2010 | New Zealand

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