del.icio.us as a PR measurement tool

The communications staff at Missouri University of Science and Technology (that’s where I work) recently created a del.icio.us account to keep track of our online news stories and blog posts. (We use Google Alerts and Technorati to find the stories in the first place, then we select the ones we think are the most important or most closely tied to our key messages to post on del.icio.us.)

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Using del.icio.us makes it easier for us to keep track of media coverage, but we’ve also discovered a side benefit: del.icio.us gives us yet another tool for measuring and analyzing our media relations activities in the sphere of online social media.

del.icio.us shows you which stories are saved by others, which is an indication of popularity. If no one else is saving your stories, then there’s a pretty good chance that either:

  1. the online world finds your stuff borng, or
  2. the stories aren’t getting to the right websites

A quick case study: Last week, when the earthquake hit the Midwest, we touted one of our quake experts (J. David Rogers, the Hasselmann Chair of Geological Engineering) to the media. He spoke to 15 different media outlets that Friday, most of them from the Midwest but including our state’s two largest daily newspapers and a couple of TV and news radio stations. But none of the stories were saved by other del.icio.us users except for a LiveScience.com story that quoted Rogers and appeared on Yahoo! News. Now we know that 10 other del.icio.us users also saved that story. We also can find out who those users are and what else they’re interested in.

Another recent news release — about some research on biodegradable plastics bags — got picked up by Popular Science magazine’s blog PopSci.com, and that also was saved by 10 other users. (Another popular sci/tech blog, Gizmodo, picked up the story, and although no other del.icio.us users have saved it, a quick look at the comments shows a high level of interest among Gizmodo readers.

So, the takeaways here, I guess, are:

  1. del.icio.us is a great, simple tool for posting and tracking your institution’s online news and blog mentions
  2. del.icio.us gives you an opportunity to see who else is interested in the story, which could possibly lead to new connections and conversations with alumni, researchers, other academics
  3. del.icio.us may give you insight into which online sites are most popular for niche readerships, which in turn may help you adjust your media relations efforts

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

17 thoughts on “del.icio.us as a PR measurement tool”

  1. Good insights, Andrew. I’ll share with our communications team at Purdue’s College of Technology.

    BTW — it’s been good to read your blog. After leaving District VI, this is a nice reminder of the great people I left behind!

  2. Interesting use of del.icio.us.

    How does this compare to your internal website analytics (on the professor’s website and the posted press release)?

    It seems to me that del.icio.us use is itself a niche group of web users albeit tech savvy ones.

  3. Andrew,

    Just wanted to share some other things with you. Don’t know if you saw it but I wrote about Delicious about two months ago in my Social Survey series and it explains the URL function along with some other tags that you can use to track things. You can also search the system based on tags to see who’s tagged anything on your site.

  4. Steve – Great to hear from you again. I hope things are going well in Indiana. Your District VI buds miss you! (But at least now I don’t have as much tough competition for best guitarist in the district. Lookout District V!)

    Jamie – Good question. In the case of the earthquake story, we didn’t post a news release on our website. We sent out a quick email media advisory first thing in the morning last Friday, then got swamped with media calls. (It was also the day of our alumni association board meeting, so two of our three available media folks — me and the manager — had to be in meetings most of that morning with the association’s communications committee, leaving one staffer to do the yeoman’s work on fielding calls.) We did also release something about an upcoming earthquake conference, which got some local/regional play and was on our main website for a few days. We did post a news release about the biodegradable plastics and since last Friday, it’s the No. 1 story on our site in terms of visits. But, as I alluded to in my post, and as you mention, del.icio.us is just another facet in the analytics/measurement approach. It gives us one angle, but not the whole picture.

    Kyle – I should have known that you already covered del.icio.us. As usual, you are on top of things. Thanks for referring readers to your earlier post. It certainly adds more depth to the conversation.

  5. Andrew, this post hits home with me. We are currently trying to develop a system for keeping tabs on articles/stories/blogs/comments and this seems like a great way to go about it.

    Kyle, went back and read your post, great intro to delicious, I will use it to educate colleagues.

    Thanks again

  6. Eddie – We’re all in the same boat here. We haven’t come up with the measurement panacea by any means, but social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us can add yet another dimension. Good luck and let us know how you’re doing with it.

  7. I agree that this is a great means of establishing if your stuff is getting noticed, though I’d also argue that popularity isn’t necessarily a measure of quality.

    For example, if you have a huge Twitter following (say 800 people) you’re far more likely to enjoy a higher volume of traffic and inquiry into the links you’re sharing.

    Look at somebody like Jonathan Zittrain. He’s one of the most influential people on the internet and he has a mere 300 followers (likely to change quickly but there you go). Meanwhile, Miss Nameless Social Butterfly who games Twitter daily for new friends has 2,000 followers (because she’s invested the time and effort into that network).

    I’ve found some fairly critically important articles, essays and papers buried in a friend’s Delicious network simply because they aren’t promiscuous networkers. Material that doesn’t receive a lot of attention – not because it’s “boring” or irrelevant but because it hasn’t been aggressively marketed or positioned within a large network context.

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