7 metrics trends that pervaded PR in 2015

Monitoring of visuals, the emergence of data throttling and the demise of the bundling board are just some hallmarks of the past year.

It’s been quite a year. Here are seven trends in public relations and social media measurement from 2015:

Trend No. 1: We bade farewell to the bundling board.

For years, most organizations have kept a giant bundling board between social media and traditional media monitoring. Like the Puritans, they admitted that the two parties had occasional contact, yet there were strict rules designed to keep them apart.

In reality, organizations used different vendors and different methodologies, because most traditional media monitoring companies didn’t understand social media monitoring, and most social media monitoring companies didn’t care about (or were really bad at) tracking traditional media.

New platforms do both well, and unlike old social monitoring firms that eschewed human intervention, the developers of these platforms understand that humans are a vital element of their success.

The two best that I’ve seen so far are Talkwalker and CyberAlert.

Talkwalker has taken the best of social media monitoring—speed, elegance and a beautiful interface—and married it with a great PR platform that doesn’t just tell you how many mentions you got, but adds sexy details like the number of shares, data on the publications, and human coding for messaging and other parameters.

CyberAlert‘s new dashboard takes all the great features of Talkwalker and raises the bar by incorporating broadcast media, Web analytics, CRM data and social analytics into a single dashboard. (CyberAlert has also brought on board much of the old KDPaine & Partners team, so I can vouch for the quality of their work.)

Frankly, I don’t care who’s doing it, as long as someone is getting rid of that damn bundling board for good.

Trend No. 2: We saw more indigestion than integration.

About a year ago, I was eagerly anticipating the big announcement at PRSA’s International Conference when we would learn the new name of the conglomerate that used to be Cision + Vocus + Visible + Gorkana + ViralHeat.

In what has to be the industry’s Yawn of the Century, the name did not change at all. Thus far, Cision‘s integration process resembles my putting together dinner when I’m confronted with six extra people at the last minute: Open the fridge, give whatever is in there a sniff, throw the good stuff into a big pot, add a dash of wine, some garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and hope you don’t poison anyone.

Cision certainly isn’t poisoning anyone, but they’re not making clients very happy. It looks like Vocus’ technology and Visible’s staff seem to have passed the sniff test, and they’ve substituted ViralHeat for Radian 6. Gorkana is in the mix somewhere. All that means a lot of changes for a lot of customers, and a number are starting to look elsewhere.

Similar growing pains are happening at Carma, which has combined the remnants of Report International, KDPaine & Partners, and Salience Insight. Once again, the shift to a new platform has been rocky.

The other major media monitoring marriage of the last year, that of LexisNexis and Moreover, seems to have taken an equally disjointed path to integration. Moreover is maintaining a distinct brand identity from its parent, but its Newsdesk is now offered as LexisNexis Newsdesk.

Trend No. 3: Data throttling became a thing.

First Twitter launched the mobile video broadcasting app Periscope, and then it strangled its closest competitor, Meerkat (the talk of SXSW this year). By blocking Meerkat’s access to its social graph, Twitter rendered Meerkat’s contact import feature inoperable. This move is hardly surprising, given that Twitter wants to support Periscope.

Then Twitter cut access to its firehose of data by third-party developers and now forces everyone to buy its data through Gnip, the social data provider it acquired a year ago. Companies that already had a partnership with Gnip—such as Simply Measured, Brandwatch and UberVu—did the happy dance while their competitors scrambled.

In the meantime, Facebook made it much more difficult for brands to access data about their customers via the world’s largest social network when it placed huge restrictions on access to its users’ data in May.

Monitoring companies and other heavy Facebook users went scrambling for alternatives. So far, with LinkedIn and Twitter also increasing restrictions, there doesn’t seem to be an alternative.

Look for networks to exert ever more control (i.e., monetization) over their data in 2016.

Trend No. 4: We looked beyond PR for excitement.

Probably the biggest development of the year was the invasion of software and technology into internal communications, with companies like Bananatag pitching themselves as “the MailChimp for internal email” and offering metrics that are almost as good as those offered by, yes, MailChimp.

Now you don’t have to rely on the dreaded “newsletter survey” to see whether your content is what your employees want to read.

Then there was the news from Engagement Labs that it was buying The Keller Fay Group, a word-of-mouth measurement company. If, as predicted, Engagement Labs merges Keller Fay’s offline research with its own brand engagement measurement tool, eValue, we’ll have the first true integration between online and offline engagement. Pretty exciting stuff.

Trend No. 5: There was modest movement toward more standards.

The Barcelona Principles, which helped kick-start the movement toward measurement standards, turned five last month. In honor of the birthday the Institute for Public Relations, PRSA, ICCO, the Global Alliance, and AMEC (the founding coalition that wrote the Principles back in 2009) have regrouped and rewritten the original principles to incorporate a far broader definition of communications.

No longer do the principles apply just to the media relations side of corporate communications. They now also cover the broader umbrella that includes internal communications. The language has also been rewritten to acknowledge that many organizations aren’t for-profit.

Download this free white paper to discover smart ways to measure your internal communications and link your efforts to business goals.

In a related development, the IPR Measurement Commission has taken on the task of testing and validating the standards established by the Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards in 2013.

Specifically, they’ll be validating the standards around sentiment and engagement, using the process established by David Geddes, Julie O’Neil and Marianne Eisenmann for traditional media in 2014. Trained professional coders are reviewing the coding instructions and studying social media conversations from three disparate organizations:

  1. A consumer company (Southwest Airlines)
  2. A government agency (U.S. National Fish & Wildlife)
  3. A non-profit (Goodwill Industries)

You can read all the details here.

Trend No. 6: We made progress toward measuring visuals.

Ditto arrived on the scene promising to track and report any sightings of your brand images. Second, Sysomos just released Gaze, which promises to “find images of your brand across social channels and bring them together in one place.”

This is an important requirement for anyone measuring results, given the rapidly growing use of Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.

Trend No. 7: We saw the end of digital advertising as we know it.

In 2015 the people sent a message to advertisers: “We’d rather pay for an app than see your ad.”

NPR’s Marketplace reported that 35,000 people have downloaded iOS ad blocker Purify since its Sept. 16 launch. It’s one of many ad blockers offered since Apple enabled this technology.

At $3.99 a pop, Purify has earned over $150,000 in revenue; however, that’s not the only way to make money in the ad-blocking wars. Advertisers can get past the filter with “acceptable” non-intrusive ads—and a fee.

A version of this article first appeared on The Measurement Advisor.

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