For years we’ve noticed the rapid change of the PR industry. As traditional media outlets have moved online, and many even shut down traditional print operations, readers are rapidly shifting towards Internet consumption instead of the hard-copy.

With this migration, our industry has had to quickly evolve, learn new skills and take the show on the digital highway. We’ve begun creating digital PR campaigns that span traditional media relations and outreach, byline articles and press releases; all the way to social media and customer activation programs. But in order to prove our worth, we’ve relied more and more on Internet metrics to track rewards.

But what if the metrics and tools we’re using have an inherent flaw in their accounting? Could we be creating our own demise by cooking the books with estimates and assumptions of accuracy, without someone holding these tools accountable? Could we be creating our own Enron?

Perhaps.

In our quest to engage consumers, when strapped for characters in a Twitter-centric communications model, we’ve adopted a range of link shorteners which are supposed to be giving us raw metrics of interactivity. However, a colleague of mine recently pointed out a key flaw in these shortening sites.

One such site, Bit.ly, is the flagship for the industry and is the shortener of record for such sites like the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and even CNN. But for these organizations that rapidly moved to Internet distribution models (and have substantial advertising dollars associated with impressions and clicks) all of them may be getting short-changed in their traffic accounting.

Essentially, there’s no way to ensure that the reporting that the site gives you is 100% accurate, unless you validate it against your own server/host statistics – which could take hours of analysis to validate links and originating URLs.

What this means is that without sufficient tools to accurately measure the success of our campaigns (to the individual person), we’re trusting our reputation, and making assumptions on our clients’ reputations, on false numbers. From hand’s-on accounting and click monitoring, I’ve noticed the disparity of tracking from many of the links I’ve shared on Twitter, Facebook, this blog and other sites where I contribute.

So the question is, how do we raise the bar of accountability and ensure that we’re getting the best statistics? Here are a few tools that could give us a leg-up:

  • Urchin – This wonderful toolbox from Google has given developers, site managers and campaign analysts one of the most accurate measurement tools to install on your servers and run from any desktop.
  • Tiny.CC – This alternative to Bit.ly (which was recently banned and reinstated from Twitter [likely because they use Bit.ly as their default shortener]) easily shows every click and origination for any link generated
  • Tweetburner – another link shortener has simple click tracks that measures each visitor
  • “+” – yes I just put a plus sign there. In-fact, you should do the same by placing it at the end of any Bit.ly link yourself and see the disparity of actual clicks.

 

I’m not opposed to people continuing to use Bit.ly or any other link shortener like ow.ly or goo.gl or whatever else you find. Just know that if we’re trying to claim credibility for our campaigns, we better have credible data.

Leave a Reply