The Interactive Advertising Bureau last month released guidelines for social media ad metrics and best practices. The documents, available at www.iab.net, set standard definitions, common metrics and industry best practices for the burgeoning social media advertising industry.
“Industry standards are essential to making social media easy, safe and scalable for advertisers,” said Seth Goldstein, CEO of social media ad company Socialmedia.com, San Francisco, and co-chairman of the IAB's User Generated Content and Social Media committee, which helped develop the guidelines. “The new IAB framework is a critical first step in this direction, and we are excited to help enable the next generation of social advertising. The first document, “Social Media Ad Metrics Definitions,” was released May 5 and classifies social media into three groups—social media sites, blogs, and widgets and applications. The guidelines provide common metrics for each group and explain how those metrics are defined.
For example, common metrics for social media sites include unique visitors, cost per unique visitor (the total cost of the ad placement divided by the number of unique visitors), page views and return visits. These metrics are not new, having been used for years to measure online advertising on traditional Web sites.
In the blog category, some newer metrics have been introduced, such as conversation reach (the number of unique visitors across sites in a conversation).
Ad industry experts applauded the social media ad guidelines, saying they are needed to help advance the industry.
“There is a desperate need [for guidelines] right now,” said Paul Gillin, principal of Paul Gillin Communications, a social media marketing consultancy and a BtoB columnist. “Probably the No. 1 objection to social media campaigns is the measurement issue. There is a reticence to invest in social media campaigns because of the lack of measurement criteria.”
Gillin said the IAB guidelines are a good “first step,” particularly the section on blog metrics. “It takes a crack at trying to come up with ways to count mentions as being an indicator of credibility or relevance,” he said. “It's imperfect, but everything is imperfect in this category. The key is [that] it is now up to the measurement companies and Web analytics firms to provide these kinds of measurement in their reports.”
Media buyers also said the guidelines will help them in their efforts to develop and measure social media campaigns for clients.
“There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace right now because people aren't speaking the same language,” said Chris Kovac, social media supervisor at Nicholson Kovac, a b-to-b marketing communications agency based in Kansas City, Mo. “Establishing a common language has to be the first step,” he said.
“Once we're on the same page, then we can define subgroups of advertising. Is it an interactive banner ad, is it an engagement ad, etc.”
One of the most important things to measure in social media is engagement with users, Kovac said. “We want to measure the behavior—not just who's clicking on what,” he said. “Then we can understand who are the influencers. For example, we look at how many people are commenting on our blogs and forwarding them to friends.”
Kovac said that while measuring social media is important, it is also hard to standardize metrics, particularly for something like influence.
Also last month, the IAB released “Social Advertising Best Practices,” a document that provides definitions and recommendations for the successful execution of social advertising campaigns.
The document contains key terms and definitions of the different elements of a social media ad and how social advertising differs from other online display advertising; a library of examples of successful social media advertising campaigns; and privacy guidelines regarding data gathering, consumer disclosure and use of consumer information.