Tackling the Woes of Social Measurement


The biggest woe in social media is measurement.  No one has figured it out.  There are no standards.  There are hundreds of measurement tools.  There are all kinds of metrics and statistics that can be measured.

The great thing about social media is that you can measure everything, but the worst part of social media is that you can measure everything.

Unfortunately, measuring everything doesn’t help.  It’s measuring the right thing that matters.  Otherwise, you’re stuck with results that are inaccurate or misleading.  Let me give you an example of what happens when you measure the wrong thing.

Let’s talk football. Because the NFL is prime example of how when you measure the wrong thing you can get misleading information.

Case in point: How the NFL measures team defenses.  NFL defenses are ranked by the number of yards they give up.  The fewer yards against them the higher they rank.

This year the top five defenses ranked by yards were:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Houston Texans
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • San Fransisco 49ers
  • New York Jets

The New England Patriots rank 31 out of 32 teams in this measurement system.  The Cleveland Browns are 29.

However, NFL games aren’t decided by yards.  They are decided by points.

In fact, yards is an irrelevant statistic in the outcome of a NFL game.  If two NFL teams play and one of them gains 1,000 yards and scores 14 points and the other gains 100 yards and scores 21 points, the team with the most points wins.

Yardage against might be an indicator of a good NFL defense, but it that’s all it is.  A more accurate way of measuring a defense is by how many points they give up.  The best defenses give up fewer points.  If we ranked NFL defenses this way some of the same teams are listed, but the list of best defenses is different:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Houston Texans
  • Cleveland Browns

As you can see the lowly Browns once ranked 29 now jump to number five.  And the New York Jets fall off the list to 20th place.  And the Patriots move up to 15th (which helps explains why they went 13-3 in the regular season).

Measurement is important, but only if you measure the right thing.

When you measure the wrong thing you get results, but it might not be results that are going to accurately help you reach your business goals.


ESPN Top NFL Defenses

Photo courtesy of Flickr (by ktylerconk)

3 Responses to “Tackling the Woes of Social Measurement”

  1. You hit the nail on the head here.

    It’s frustrating to see people measuring all sorts of metrics and coming to all sorts of completely inaccurate assumptions about it.

    The important metrics to measure will vary based on your social media objectives and the same rules definitely won’t apply across the board.

    Great example with the defence analogy in this post 🙂

  2. Thank you kindly, Stacey.


  1. Measuring Social Media | Simbeck Hampson | Business Innovation - January 23, 2012

    […] http://hightalk.net/2012/01/20/tackling-the-woes-of-social-measurement/ […]

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