From the Desk of Katie Paine
Happy New Year! Our PR and social media measurement industry is going through some exciting times, and you’ve probably read plenty of review-of-the-past-year articles, (including mine: The Measurement Industry’s Evil Empire?). So now I will gaze into my crystal ball and look forward to what excitement our industry holds in the coming year.
#1. Don’t count the little guys out yet.
2015 will be a boom year for the independent public relations and social media monitoring and/or measurement companies that remain standing. While there is no doubt that GTCR’s consolidation of Cision, Vocus, Visible, and Gorkana into a single monitoring and measurement company will change the measurement landscape, it will be 2016 before clients actually see any benefits of the deal.
The recent order from the UK’s anti-trust watchdog group, the Competition and Markets Authority, puts on hold any benefits from the proposed consolidation of Gorkana/Cision/Vocus. Which means that for most of 2015 existing customers will continue to be faced with at least three different platforms, and prospects will continue to wonder what they’re really buying.
#2. Customers will continue to be frustrated, so opportunities abound.
A fascinating discussion of vendor pros and cons begun by Jon-Michael Basile on LinkedIn reveals a wide range of consumer confusion, frustration, and, yes, even some satisfaction with the big players in the industry. The 50 comments (so far), mostly concern customer experiences with Vocus, Cision, and Meltwater. These vendors are revealed as good for some things and and bad for others, with a surprising number of quite specific negative comments, more or less equally distributed among the three.
What that conversation says to me is that, while GTCR gets its act together in the next 15 months or so, there is tremendous opportunity for industry stalwarts like BurrellesLuce, CyberAlert, and CustomScoop to capture market share. Especially since much of the confusion arises from clients not fully articulating their own needs and vendors over-promising their capabilities
#3. Social listening tools, media monitoring, and influence measurement will be forced to marry.
As the lines between traditional and social media continue to blur, social listening platforms are increasingly offering traditional media integration in their packages. The problem is that the volume of social chatter overwhelms traditional news. When you try to figure out just who really matters or what topic is really trending with the people that matter, the data is meaningless.
Big platforms like Visible, NetBase, and Radian 6 currently rank authors by their Klout score (God forbid) or the number of followers. But that overlooks any influential voices that may be well-connected but not prolific in social media. Systems like Trackur and LittleBird can identify the truly influential. I predict that, either through acquisition or partnering, these systems will begin to be incorporated into social listening platforms.
#4. Consolidation will come to the social analytics marketplace.
As if clients weren’t confused enough by the maneuverings in the monitoring/measurement/PR services world, the social analytics world is even worse. Like the old PR measurement world, there are a myriad different tools to do different things:
- There are companies that do a great job helping you distribute your content in social media, like Sprinklr, HootSuite, Spreadfast, etc.
- Then there are companies that do a great job listening, like NetBase, Sysomos, etc.
- And then there are the companies that really excel at producing metrics that tell you whether all that distributing and listening are having any impact, like Simply Measured and Social Bro.
To date, no one does all three functions well. The people doing the “pushing it out” function have got to get better at measurement, and the measurement companies will be forced by client demand to do a better job managing engagement. Look for a GTCR-like consolidation move in this arena sometime in 2015.
#5. A major brand will make a major mistake based on flawed social listening data.
Having both offered and used social listening services in the last decade, I know how incredibly easy it is to jump to a conclusion only to find out that the data is fundamentally flawed. The pretty pie chart that automatically shows up on your dashboard may stun you with dramatically bad news, but the real story might turn out to be a whole bunch of people panning a book character that shares a name with your brand. Or perhaps your automated analysis system has decided that “cheaper” is a negative adjective, when in fact you just proudly announced a major reduction in your prices.
As I keep telling clients, there never will be a fully “automated” system. Unless you have humans checking, reviewing, and correcting the data on a daily or weekly basis you run a very high risk of reporting flawed numbers. In the meantime, look for some high profile embarrassment as a result.
#6. Measurement Sherpa will make it onto a list of the “jobs with the most potential” in 2015.
For the first time in my memory, a job title that includes “research” actually made it onto a list of “Jobs With the Most Potential…” Although Measurement Sherpa isn’t a category CareerBuilder is tracking yet, I predict that if they knew what a Measurement Sherpa really did, it would be on the list.
There is no doubt that there is a surge in demand for data analysts and people who can look at numbers and glean meaning from data. PR agencies and departments around the world are increasingly asked to demonstrate their value, and that necessitates measurement. Which is where Measurement Sherpas, or research assistants, or whatever you call that person in charge of monitoring and/or evaluation, have the potential to wield so much power. A good Measurement Sherpa is able to turn out a report in four hours or less. (See my article on how to do it here.) When someone does that consistently and those reports make it into the board room, that person will start to get noticed.
#7. Integrated dashboards will become the new PowerPoints.
I’ve spent far too long mucking about formatting lots of numbers into a PowerPoint deck, so I know just how easy it is to make mistakes. That’s part of the appeal of powerful dashboard platforms like Tableau, SAS, and Clik, which are designed to take data from a variety of sources and automatically bring it into a single dashboard from which you can both present results and analyze the data. The real problem here is that there isn’t yet, and probably never will be, one company that does everything well. So clients continue to buy the tool that is better for their needs, but then are left with no easy way to combine results from Google Analytics, Simply Measured, NetBase, etc. Which is why you’ll see a major shift not just in corporate America, but in non-profit, higher ed and DMO circles as well.
#8. Non-profits and destination marketers will lead the way in proving the ROI of social media.
In these days of sophisticated social metrics and CRM, it is actually easier for non-profits and destination marketers to make a connection between their publicity efforts and, if not ROI, then at least outcomes. And, because the organizations tend to be smaller and more focussed on their missions, data is more easily shared between departments. For this reason organizations like Atlantic City Alliance and National Wildlife Federation are already making substantial advances in measuring outcomes. On the destination marketing side, technology like that of Arrivalist will make it even easier. Look for some really great case studies emerging from these sectors in 2015.
#9. Business schools and communications departments will join forces to teach measurement.
Already universities like McMaster and Syracuse are joining forces to teach business to PR people. Unfortunately not enough business schools are teaching PR well, but I predict that will change. Business leaders are more aware than ever of the potential costs and risks associated with mismanaged PR — note NFL, Uber, LuluLemon, Centerplate, etc — which is one reason why PR people are finally getting some, if not all, of the respect they deserve. The problem is that if the PR people themselves don’t understand the business implications of what they do, they won’t hold that seat at the table for very long. Which is why the educators at the forefront of PR and business will come together in 2015 and create the courses that the next generation of PR and business people need to succeed.
#10. Paine Publishing will debut at least two new eBooks.
This isn’t much of a stretch, since we already have these in the works. So I’ll definitely be right on at least one of these predictions. ∞