‘Downton Abbey’ rules for social media measurement

Even the folks behind PBS’ post-Edwardian drama worry about measurement. Hear how PBS tracks social media, and why ROI isn’t the best metric.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. Learn more about this session.

Yes, “Downton Abbey” fans, the day arrives every year when the rest of us troglodytes sit bellowing at that ritual of televised tribalism known as the Super Bowl.

While you, smarty-pants, watch the PBS period drama instead.

For all of you who turned a public television show into a trending topic one Super Bowl Sunday, brace yourselves for some startling news. Measurement matters, even to the folks in bowties and gowns at PBS.

In a two-part Ragan Training video, “The ‘Downton Abbey’ rules for measuring the value of social media strategy,” Kevin Dando of PBS and Angela Jeffrey of Salience Insight explain how to prove your worth to your organization.

Dando is PBS’s director of digital marketing and communications; Jeffrey is Salience’s U.S. managing director.

Trending topic

In his session, Dando shows a slide of trending topics on one Super Bowl Sunday. “Downton Abbey” was among them.

“Every other topic basically was about football or the Super Bowl, but #DowntonPBS had so much traction during that particular episode, it became a trending topic in the U.S.,” Dando says.

This video clip is taken from the Ragan Training session, “Build and promote your company culture to make ‘cents.‘”

Sure, but what do you do with that, apart from sneaking it into your performance review? How do you prove a return on the money put into social media staffers’ salaries? In other words, as the bosses ask, “What are you bringing us?”

Fear not, Dando says. There is actually a tangible return on investment for social media. For public TV, the point is to engage social media conversation so that people watch its shows and visit its website. He is armed with a new approach by The Nielsen Ratings, the TV measurement king, which says social media drives viewership.

Explains Dando: “The people who used to come to us and say, ‘Our radio ads, our billboards are doing X for ratings of this show. What are you guys doing in social media? Now we can say, ‘The people who measure TV—your god, Nielsen—are saying that Twitter actually has an effect.”

Engagement and YouTube metrics

PBS isn’t fixated on followers or fans, but it encourages viewers to “like,” comment, and share on Facebook, Twitter, and many other platforms.

“What we want is engagement,” Dando says. “The nice thing is engagement actually helps you get more followers because of the algorithms that they use.”

YouTube, however, is one place where PBS obsesses over several metrics: subscribers, minutes watched, and comments.

“When you publish something into YouTube,” Dando says, “and someone is following your channel, they are going to see that content. It’s going to be pushed to them. So it’s really, really important that you get as many subscribers as possible.”

Cautions about ROI

Salience Insight’s Jeffrey cautions against relying on standard ROI measurements.

“ROI is really nothing we’re supposed to be using,” she says. “It is a financial metric that belongs to all organizational financial things. It’s not just about communications. We’re really taught now more and more not to use that phrasing.”

Because you insist, she says, here’s the equation for correctly calculate ROI:

ROI = [(Payback – Investment) / Investment)] x 100

For example, a nonprofit’s campaign garners $100,000. Subtract the investment of 250 hours at $100 per hour, or $25,000, from the take, for a figure of $75,000. Divide that by the investment (again, $25,000) and you get 3. Now multiply 3 by 100 for an ROI of 300 percent.

As “a good alternative,” Jeffrey suggests this “revenue event” calculation:

Revenue Event = (Payback – Investment)

Example: 100 people registered for a Ragan online conference (her example) at $150 apiece, with a total haul of $15,000. Staff time and out-of-pocket expenses total $1,000, for a net of $14,000.

Jeffrey outlines several other formulas to calculate your financial impact, offering an excellent suggestion: Agree with your management about what measurement you’ll use.

“It gives some way to communicate in dollars-and-cents language to management, as long as they buy off on the formulas,” Jeffrey says.

For his part, Dando also details the tools PBS uses to track its social channels, among them Adobe Social, Curalate, Meltwater Buzz, Google Analytics, Simply Measured, HootSuite, and Topsy. (“I really, really do like Topsy for all things Twitter,” he says.)

But whether you work for PBS or the NFL, there’s one basic lesson to remember.

“If you think about engaging content,” Jeffrey says, “you’re going to get followers.”



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