ImageAs social media continues to mature, established industry players from large platforms to emerging vendors are quickly moving to standardize the value their business.

In April, Facebook introduced Cost-Per-Action, or CPA, a new metric that allows managers at brands and agencies to assign a dollar value to specific actions.

Instead of paying by impressions (CPM) or clicks (CPC) -- metrics that cast a wide net and can be easily gamed -- actions help managers understand the true cost of acquiring fans or engagements. And with marketing budgets allocating more resources to social media campaigns, demonstrating value for money has become a priority when generating earned media through a mix of owned and paid promotion.     

Early this year SocialChorus, an advocate marketing company, published an Ebook that compiled all of the available research on the monetary value of social endorsements. While conceding that no standard formula can be considered definitive, The Earned Media Value Index (EMV Index) is a starting point toward navigating the new cost metrics that are driving managers day-to day and month-to-month campaign decisions.  

Earned Media Value

It’s no surprise that the blog post ranks highest in terms of earned media value, according to the SocialChorus’s EMV index. Blog content provides a wider breadth of communication styles to a potentially highly engaged and loyal audience. What’s interesting to note, however, is that SocialChorus found the value of the blog post fluctuating markedly across industries.

For example, for mommy bloggers the average blog post was worth $300, whereas for fashion bloggers the number was as high as $1000 per post. But for the top ten ad networks, paid posts ranged from anywhere between $1,500 to $20,000.

After averaging out the data SocialChorus settled on an earned media value of $853 per blog post. We should be cautious in taking this number as definitive since SocialChorus doesn’t layout its methodology, but as a guide the number is instructive.

The EMV Index also breaks out the value of a Facebook Like ($1.60), Fan ($11.24) Share and Post ($10.17), as well as a Twitter Follower ($2.25), Tweets and Retweets ($5.00) and YouTube views ($0.38).

Since audience value varies from platform to platform and cost metrics continue to evolve, the EMV Index is more a of snapshot in time than an industry standard. Value, needless to say, is a moving target.  

What’s missing is a clear path that applies earned media metrics to campaign costs. If earned media endorsements and advocacy generate X amount of monetary business value (they drive subscriptions, sales and conversions), then the next piece of the puzzle is understanding the strategies that create an optimal cost-per- engagement or cost-per-action during a campaign period.

ROI Metrics: Cost-Per-Engagement

80 per cent of a brand’s reach comes from amplification through advocacy, according to a report by Social@Ogilvy. That earned media value, while not directly transferable to advertising value, provides a potential value metric that allows managers to show the audience reached, potential future customers and the cost value.  

Particularly for Public Relations professionals, as Gini Dietrich noted in Open Forum, moving beyond soft metrics like impressions, page views and followers toward data-driven metrics that integrate cost per actions and business metrics is an imperative. But that’s not always easy because technology, client expectations and clear strategy often aren’t aligned.   

At Measurely, we’re continually working to build out a platform that integrates ROI metrics and tools that align content marketing strategy to business metrics. One of the newest features in our new Measurely Reports (in Beta) is a Cost-Per-Engagement (CPE) metric which measures program budget against all of the aggregated earned media we track and collect for clients in real time. It helps clients understand what strategies are driving value.   

We’ve also recently started a series of campaigns with InNetwork, a cloud based influencer marketing service, where we provide the engagement analytics behind influencer programs. Through these campaigns we are aiming to establish benchmarks for the CPE value of influencer programs by industry and influencer.

By potentially standardizing a metric for earned media value, we want to help brands, agencies and publishers tie campaign costs to effective strategy and derive tangible business outcomes. We want to move with the target.