How to Measure Social Media like a CIPR Boffin


Ever bent a 15cm ruler until it snapped in your hands? It hurts loads.

Time to stop using our measuring tools in the wrong way – especially when it comes to social.

Here’s my breakdown of a CIPR event on Social Measuring and Evaluation hosted by Richard Bagnall in London last week.

Richard is one of those guys who can lock a tractor beam to your attention span for as long as he wants, purely by knowing his stuff. Think Professor Brian Cox on physics – Richard Bagnall is the same on PR, content and social engagement.

It’s fair to say I might have overdone it on the note-taking during his talk but I’ve simplified my scribblings here (kind of):

Moving away from the abacus

Counting is not measuring – not any more.Abacus

When RB began to talk about social measuring tools and their flaws, it got me thinking of that old problem with TV ratings; just like ratings never used to take into account households with two TVs, SMM tools don’t identify users interacting with content on multiple platforms,,

,,they count all interactions as if they’re coming from unique fingertips.

I am feeling ambitious so let’s pretend the Facebook button at the bottom of this post displays three ‘likes’.

This particular sharing button includes the FB shares and comments in its total count too – this could mean all three ‘likes’ effectively come from the same person.

I could have shared my post, liked it and, being an egotistical biff, I could have commented on it through Facebook as well,,but still it would seem like three separate people had engaged with the post here.

This is one very basic example and there are much more accurate social sharing buttons out there (which I really should be installing), but the point can be applied across the board,,

A reader who Tweets a link may also +1 it at the same time – does that mean you can justifiably say the associated content has reached more than one pair of eyes?

It’s also worth remembering how a RT does not necessarily mean another person has clicked, read and engaged with the content to which it links.

It works in the opposite direction too, as more than one person could be viewing the content on the same screen.

Richard Bagnall was in no way discrediting the usefulness of tools for social analytics, I took his point as an underlining of how they are not enough – not when it comes to measuring engagement anyway.

More on what Bagnall thinks on quantitative metrics can be found here.

Manual is the only way to go

I’ll be honest, I was hoping the CIPR session might have revealed a single tool which could monitor social engagement to such a credible level, that I could come away and start automating some belter reports for my online content. I was wrong.

Instead, I was indirectly told to stop looking for shortcuts and start investing some of my time into real measurement. Bagnall enlightened me to how manual research is the only way.

Just as a heads up, the Social Analytics Chrome extension is cool. It’s not ‘the answer’ but it can be useful.

How to Measure Social Media Engagement 

purpose of pr

First, the client’s social media campaign objectives and KPIs need to be aligned with those of the overall business; increasing sales, traffic, brand-awareness, knowledge etc.

This is where that 15cm ruler comes back into play – and breaking it into pieces is not so bad an idea after all.

Richard explained that social media does not exclusively belong to PR and in order to measure SM, we need to fragment the entire measuring exercise and assign the shrapnel to different business objectives:

  1. Brand Exposure
    Opportunities to see (impressions)
    Brand mentions
    Share of conversation
    Search rank
  2. Engagement
    Comments/post ratio
    Number of links
    URL visits
    Resolution rate
  3. Influence
    Likelihood to recommend
  4. Action
    Target-page visits

Which out of this quartet of social media shiznit interests you the most?

I guess that depends on your position within an organisation.

As a copywriter, I like the engagement side of things but if you’re a board director, you probably just want to focus on Number 4. Either way, it all needs to be taken into account for the most accurate and useful measurement of social media.

A lot of this is already measured by online marketers – just ask any SEO working on a month-end report. Still, breaking it up into more manageable sections, using different measuring tools for each and sending the sectioned results to the relevant people, makes a lot of sense to me.

What next?

So, we need a whole pencil case of measuring apparatus in order to capture the true social impact of our content. But where and when do we stop measuring?04-02-2013 08-45-53

Bagnall highlighted how before digital, a PR company could simply add up the press cuttings from a certain day or week, to measure the success of their copy.

Now, a blog is permanent and can be shared online over a series of weeks, months or even years. Measuring the success of something that is not time-bound can get kind of tricky.

What I gathered from RB’s speech and this particular point, was that we cannot judge the social impact of a solitary piece of content accurately enough within a week, we can only review, compare and contrast all the different metrics, for all the different pieces of content, using all the best social measuring tools and manual quarrying, after a longer period of time – campaign-long or at least quarter-long.

The challenge here is that clients, particularly when it comes to PR, want instant feedback and results.

I suppose it depends on the strength of your relationships with clients, whether you can persuade them to get on-board with a long-ball analytics programme and whether you have the resource to manually look into social interaction with your content.

My wide-eyed advice – get hold of that resource no matter what and make time to bend your ruler to a snap, because what is the point in your copywriting if you cannot monitor, adapt and justify it in the right way, to the right people, at the right time, through the right medium, to achieve your own objectives?

What do you think? I’d love to get some views on this from a variety of marketing roles. Drop your thoughts in a comment and I’ll get back to you.


Rob Philbin


How to Complain like a Boss

Blood in your eyes – that’s how you can tell if you have complained properly. Here’s how I got bloody eyes writing a £300 email complaint to exactly the right people.


Before becoming a copywriter, I worked in retail for seven years and saw plenty of customers in my time choking on their own rage at the help desk to no avail. Moaning through pure anger and bad breath gets you nowhere. Would you go the extra mile for somebody who didn’t even go the extra mint before screaming at you for help?

Below, are the five stages I took to get £300 from my car dealership,,

Temporarily adopt the mind of a mentalist

As soon as your natural human layer of toleration is punctured by the negligence of a company, start writing things down. The dates and times of each phone call with your new enemy from this point on need to be recorded – they will be used in your ultimate email as evidence. Still, this isn’t a courtroom drama and not much evidence is required,,but at least it makes your email seem like the work of a true psychopath.

Go all CIA on this shit


So, everything you want to say is already in your cocked-shotgun of a mind and all you want to do is pull the trigger at the complaints department. Wait.

Why bother wasting ammo on somebody who is paid to get metaphorically shot at every day? Aim higher at the MDs and CEOs of your target company. Their contact details may not be published on the official website but they can always be found.

“It just comes to you. This stuff just flies through the air. They send this information out, I mean it’s just beamed out all over the fuckin’ place. You just gotta know how to grab it.”  – Tom Noonan, Heat (1995)

Try using a few simple Google searches within quotations:

“best person to complain to at [company name]”
“CEO for [company name] is called”
“I complained to [company name] using this email”
“email address for [CEO name] at [company name]”

Sneaky queries like this will likely provide some forum results – digging deeper into these is your best chance of acquiring the email address you’re after, usually leaked by some bitter ex-employee or a fellow complainer.

Write like a pro

Once you have about three high-ranking people to copy in on the email, go ahead and CC in the complaints department too for a laugh. Click that oh-so-satisfying red exclamation mark and it’s time to write a see-sawing subject line.

By ‘see-sawing’, I mean five words max that include both a positive and negative message, intriguing enough for a busy chairperson to click:

My example: “Congratulations from a disappointed customer.”

This sets the tone for the rest of the complaint. Chronologically explain everything about your poor experience with this company, including timestamps for each incident – taken from your pre-draft psycho notes mentioned earlier.

Say some good stuff about the company – the attitude of a staff member maybe. Then let the negatives bleed into the content and shock through pure quantity (if you don’t have enough negatives to do this, then you probably don’t have the right to complain,,be thankful for that).

Rainbow it up

Highlight any seriously bad points in red – CEOs can be notorious for skim-reading and the colours seem to help.

Break the text up with subheadings and if it’s getting a bit thick – put a halfway checkpoint in:

My example: “Apologies if this notice is sapping too much of your time, I don’t enjoy spending my night writing about it all either”

I coloured this part in green,,another contributor to the all-important psycho element.

In regards to things like appearance, spelling and punctuation – approach the email like you would a personal statement on an application to Oxford. Nobody is going to read a 2000 word critique of their business written in plain font.

Try to adopt the tone of a disappointed mother in your sign-off and be sure to say thanks.


This is the point where you should have a network of blood lines in your eyes. Cool them down with some cucumber slices or if you don’t have any cucumber, use the corner of a standard milk bottle (sounds weird but it works).

Give them a beer

That’s what I decided to do.

My email to the big cheeses at the auto trader worked. I received phone calls and emails almost immediately from several different people associated with the brand’s head office.

One of these was kind enough to invite me into my local branch for further discussion. I took a craft beer for the guy because I figured I did not hate this man and he had at least read my enormous email. I also thought that this gift would stick in his memory through randomness alone, therefore if I encountered any further problems, he would remember the psycho with the pale ale.

I received £50 for my expenses and £250 as a goodwill gesture. I did not raise my voice or my blood pressure once.

Next time you have an issue to raise with a company, don’t fire from the hip. Complain like a boss with bloodshot eyes.

Everyday’s a school day:

Eyes are amongst the most rapidly healing organs in the body. With the right treatment, it only takes about two days to recover from a scratch on the cornea.

Rob Philbin



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coffee copywriting

Coffeewriting – Putting the Cool in ‘Cool Beans’

coffee copywritingWhen a fresh pot has been brewed and its almost wooden scent splinters the air, everybody in the room (even the non-coffee drinker) is lifted. I envy any advertiser with a coffee-related client.

“Morning coffee is like an airplane oxygen mask – you put the mask on first before helping the others.”

Writing copy for the jar itself must be a joy – just three lines of creative space to describe why these particular beans have a flavour too good to miss out on. It’s like a haiku but instead of a picturesque riddle, the content is crafted around something worth talking about, something critical to productivity and daily happiness.

Let’s take Cafédirect’s Machu Picchu coffee from Peru:

“Using the same award-winning 100% Arabica beans as our Machu Picchu Roast & Ground, this single origin instant coffee retains the rich, smooth taste with dark chocolate overtones that are so distinctive to the Machu Picchu region.”

Ignoring the fact Cafédirect’s writer expects the customer to already know about their Roast & Ground product, this one line does the job.

Loads of hot drinks are described as ‘rich’ or ‘smooth’ but I think those words work (accidentally or not) on a subtle level here –  reassuring the reader that this coffee will feel familiar enough for any open-mind to try.

The ‘dark chocolate overtones’ are what make this coffee ‘the shit’ and by attaching that unique taste to the origin of the beans, the customer feels like they’re sampling a piece of Peru with this fresh twist on coffee.

In my opinion, that has become the key to loyal customer acquisition in recent years – offering something truly unique. Starbucks and Costa will always be successful (dodging tax helps) but the modern day coffee lover is looking for that rawer taste,,it’s the modern consumer who loves the caramel macchiato.*

“This some serious gourmet shit.”

If you could jar-up the texture and freshness of a home-brewed Peruvian coffee, it would sell at a premium price to aficionados who want that to be their drink. NESCAFÉ Original is semi-doomed in the same way as the gastro pub – younger generations are seeking out fresh experiences over the generic.

The idea reminds me of that controversial scene from Pulp Fiction where Tarantino’s character brings the ‘gourmet shit’ on Samuel L and John Travolta.

Humanity’s need for coffee is akin to its need for chocolate and that need is never going to disappear. Battling for market share depends on two things; great tasting product and seamless marketing.

Where’s the sensory language?

With an industry so globally interesting to write about, Cafédirect has no excuse to not revise its average copywriting on what is actually a nice, smoky-tasting, jar of instant.

The subject matter is a content writer’s dream – whoever has that responsibility for Cafédirect owes it to us all to do a better job,,in my thirsty opinion anyway.

People can travel the world in more ways than one and for me, tasting a brew sourced from somewhere I can’t visit without first having an injection, is one of those ways. I want to go on holiday every single day and I see the content on a jar of coffee as the metaphorical brochure – the ideal blank page for any creative copywriter.

Every day’s a school day:

The world’s first webcam was invented by scientists at Cambridge University, purely to monitor the fullness of their coffee pot.

*I love the Starbucks caramel macchiato but if I had the option to try some weird coffee that I can’t pronounce the name of, served from an independent vendor, I would take the latter every time.




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