Social media is marketing, not advertising, but it's got to live somewhere, and it's got to be measured. So it's only slightly ironic that the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) would introduce definitions of social media metrics, given social media is the marketing channel that's actual beginning to replace advertising.

In a hefty 12-page document, the IAB's "Social Media Ad Metrics Definitions" (PDF download) slices social media into three subsets, and outlines relevant metrics for each. The major categories are defined as:

- Social Media Sites
- Blogs
- Widgets & Social Media Applications

Again: despite the title of the paper, these are definitions that do not apply to advertising, but rather to content marketing. The document emphasizes that value in social media is derived from participation and interaction, sharing, propagating and creating...content. Not ads.

Yet many of the IAB's social media metrics will sound familiar to anyone involved in online advertising or even site owners: unique visitors, page views, cost per unique visitor, visits, downloads...that stuff just plain makes sense. Yet other metrics related to conversations generated by blog posts, for example, and the "influence" of apps such as widgets are food for thought, as well as fuel for debate.

Debate is good, of course, but not as good as applying quantatative goals and benchmarks to the social media initiatives undertaken by a growing number of marketers. All of whom should download the IAB's new guidelines and seriously consider which should be applied to their own campaigns.

Rebecca Lieb

Published 6 May, 2009 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

Follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Comments (2)

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Partner, PA Consulting Group at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Rebecca, Thanks for sharing this report. It's content appears to be actions based and purely quantitative metrics...a numbers game. As social media is all about conversations i.e. content, meaning, sentiment, influence and authority; I feel this report has a bit of a hole in it as these elements are not covered in any detail. It would be good to hear other opinions.

about 9 years ago


Stuart Crowder, Internet Marketing Consultant / Social Media Expert at n/a

I agree with Karl, It states things such as, 'This document defines these supplemental metrics in more detail in an effort to stimulate growth by making the reporting of metrics for agencies and advertisers across multiple media partners more consistent' Which surely contradicts the way that Social Media can be quantified to customers as they will all be expecting concrete facts and figures such as 'cost per unique visitor' which generally don’t take into effect the 'social' and 'conversational communication' metrics and opportunities which are of most importance in Social Media.

I think as a basis it is a useful document for internet marketers and clients but should not be used as the bible as each Social media campaign has its own attributes and will change over time as new opportunities become available.

about 9 years ago

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