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Although more companies and nonprofit organizations now use media monitoring and measurement, many don’t gain its full benefits. Not following recommended best practices when setting up search parameters or analyzing results can produce confusing results or bog down measurement dashboards with unnecessary data.

By fixing these common social media listening and media measurement mistakes, companies can obtain accurate information, reach better decisions, and meet their business goals.

Not weeding out irrelevant results. Boolean search terms can filter out extraneous mentions. Place NOT before a word to exclude it from results. Write AND between search terms to include both words in any order and narrow results. Write OR to produce results containing more than one word.

Eliminating irrelevant results is especially beneficial for companies with a name or other search term that’s identical to an unrelated term, such as another company in an unrelated industry. To avoid confusion with the former president, the Lincoln Motor Company could search for: Lincoln AND (auto OR car OR dealer OR etc.) AND NOT (president OR penny OR emancipation OR St. OR Ave.) Some media monitoring services, such as Glean.info, also allow filters based on geographic location, language, social media platforms and other factors.

Not specifying capitalization. Specifying capitalization helps improve clip accuracy for many companies – especially companies with generic words in their name, such as Orange, the mobile telecommunications company in Europe. Requiring capitalization of the O on Orange greatly improves accuracy. Using the “AND NOT” terms eliminates obviously irrelevant articles about the Orange Bowl, Orange Parade, Orange Julius or Orange Blossom.

Not monitoring variations of brand and product names. Monitoring for mentions of the company’s name is obvious. But many consumers refer to a company by its nickname, like WallyMart or Wallyworld. Include common misspellings and abbreviations in search terms: Many customers often misspell company or product names or abbreviate terms.

Not monitoring competitors. The massive amount of information that competitors post online provides a treasure trove of information. Some even post sensitive information on social media. With media monitoring, companies can learn what customers like and dislike about competitors, their marketing and PR successes and failures, and product development plans. Companies can even uncover opportunities for sales to their disgruntled customers. To monitor competitors, replace your search terms with those of competitors, including their company names, product names, misspellings and other keywords that describe industry issues.

Comparisons to the wrong competitors. Defining competitors helps formulate successful strategies, but brands frequently compare themselves to the wrong competitors. “The most common mistake I see is a brand comparing themselves with the biggest brand in their industry, even though their brand is much smaller and serves a completely different group of clients,” says  Kim Do at Lewis, a PR agency. Compare your organization to competitors in the same geographical locations, in the same vertical markets or those seeking the same media audience, Do advises.

Tracking too many metrics. Media monitoring dashboards often accrue a large number of metrics over time. Many may be obsolete, irrelevant and even harmful. Analysts can become buried in useless data. Periodically, perhaps once a year, reassess metrics and jettison those not linked to business objectives. Seek actionable metrics: those that help reach decisions. Some media monitoring services including Glean.info can customize metrics for their clients depending on their specific goals.

Emphasizing vanity metrics. Many marketers sometimes track vanity metrics, such as likes and followers to measure success. Vanity metrics make boost egos, but provide little insight into what helps increase revenue or improve a business. While easy to report, those metrics can be difficult to link to business objectives.

Being impressed by impressions. Impressions only represent the number of potential viewers. They don’t indicate if anyone remembers or even saw the message. In addition, some PR and marketing professionals inflate the numbers with multipliers. Impressions indicate very top-of-the-funnel information; some measurement experts say they don’t matter at all. Pay little or no heed to impressions and consider more worthwhile metrics. If you have to show impressions, then avoid multipliers.

Not using clean data. Clean data is essential to obtain accurate and meaningful insights and recommendations. Corrupted, or “dirty data,” can cause dreadful results. A single clip with really wrong data can lead to incorrect conclusions about an entire campaign. If you’re a do-it-yourself media analyst, use Excel rather than Word. Excel allows you to divide categories of data into rows and columns that can be cross referenced and dissected later with pivot tables, says freelance media analyst Steph Bridgman. List each new media item in a new row, and divide coverage up into categories. Organizing data into rows and files makes it easier to produce valid analytics about media coverage.

Take advantage of Excel’s Remove Duplicates option. Go to the Data tab and click on “Remove Duplicates.” Select a column with a unique number, like “Clip ID,” or “Item ID.” If that doesn’t exist, then use the unique URL of the article and click OK. Most media monitoring services perform this chore automatically – and also provide clean data.

Not integrating data. Integrating public relations, marketing and other communications functions promotes a consistent message and voice across all channels of communication and more efficient allocation of resources. An integrated communications dashboard reports all earned, owned and paid metrics within a single view. That 360-degree viewpoint can reveal the most effective strategies and prove how PR and marketing help the organization meet business goals.

Bottom Line: While media monitoring and measurement provides many benefits, common mistakes blunt its value. Fixing those prevalent errors unleashes its full power.