How To Develop Your Own Social Media Engagement Index

By Katie Delahaye Paine

Forget engagement, affection, influence, and whatever other social media or mainstream media scores you’re debating. What we really need for a public relations measurement metric is a Kick Butt Index (KBI). My KBI idea grew out of a recent conversation I had. A former client of mine described his measurement needs as follows:

“I want something so that when the business development guy or the product manager storms into my office and says ‘Lockheed just kicked our butt on this one!’  I’ll have an answer.”

What does “Kicked Our Butt” really mean?

The crux of his problem—and similar problems for most of the rest of the PR world—is that no one agrees up front what “kicked our butt” means. How do you really define success? Does it mean more front page headlines or better message communication? More fans on Facebook or more retweets?

Just about every organization I deal with has different PR / social media programs, with different goals and audiences, which means that every organization I deal with has a slightly different definition of what Kicking Butt really means. And then within every organization there are probably seven different definitions, depending on whether you are in sales, marketing, finance, competitive intelligence, or PR.

If your definition of Kicking Butt means more coverage than the other guy, then you need to define what that coverage should look like. Are key messages most important? Getting your CEO or thought leader quoted? Getting your brand in a headline? Are there myths that you need to dispel?

I’ve been helping organizations develop customized KBI’s for nearly a decade, and here’s the process.

Call a meeting with your boss. In that meeting, agree on what success means for the program. If someone says “lots of coverage” remind them that not all coverage is desirable. Get everyone to describe what a perfect 10 story looks like for your program. Then determine what your worst nightmare mention looks like. And maybe clips don’t matter at all. Maybe “kicking butt” really means “more unique visits,” or some other metric. That’s up to you.

In the process of figuring this out, most organizations do one or more of the following:

  1. List desired outcomes of a program, department, launch or whatever it is that you are promoting.
  2. List key messages and rank them by importance.
  3. List strategic initiatives and rank them by importance.
  4. List most influential media sources
  5. List key target stakeholders.
  6. List key competitors.

Not only does this process get you a clear, agreed upon definition of “kicking butt,” but it also sets you well on the way toward a perfect measurement system. By getting everyone to agree on a standard definition of success, you can far more easily judge your performance in the marketplace, relative to your competition.

If you want to develop your own custom “social media engagement index” start by referring to your goals. What are the priorities and objectives of your specific program? What sort of engagement do you want to encourage? If you are a new organization and trying to build a following, a like might be an acceptable level of engagement. If you are an established brand with a message to get across, then a like or even a short comment may not be sufficient.

The most important thing is to start with a discussion of your goals and objectives, the perceived path to purchase, and the role that senior leadership believes that your social media engagement program plays in that path to purchase. That will determine the weightings and the specific elements of your index.

Be clear about whether you are measuring “owned” social media or “earned” social media. For “owned” a KBI might look something like the suggested scoring below, and would be applied to all your content.

Earned Media - Kick Butt Index

Social Media Engagement Index for “Owned” Media – how are people interacting with your content








Earned Media - Kick Butt Index

Social Media Engagement Index for “Earned” Media – what people are saying about you












Each item of content receives a score, then both the total score and the average score per month or week is calculated. Ideally you would collect three to six months of data and correlate it with sales leads, conversions, or some other business metric to most accurately determine which actions correlate most closely with the business outcomes.

There are any number of tools, like Simply Measured or Sprout Social, that will provide most of this information. You will need a web analytics tool like Google Analytics or Simply Measured to find the number of clicks to specific URLs and to determine correlation rates with web traffic.

Register to attend a workshop on traditional and social media measurement with expert Katie Delahaye Paine on Thursday, March 19, from 8-11:30 a.m. at the U.S. Navy Memorial located at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Register and learn more at

2 thoughts on “How To Develop Your Own Social Media Engagement Index

  1. Pingback: Determining the Impact of Customer Relationships -

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