The move to use GRPs (Gross Ratings Points) for measuring social media is a confluence of two corporate agendas rather than a real attempt to give brands a viable/realistic measurement tool.
Facebook wants a shot at TV budgets and needs a way in. Nielsen needs to remain relevant and competitive in the digital world. But GRPs will add zero actionable insight for marketers.
These dominant players are looking to rig the game in their favor. Facebook totally controls access to the audience. Nielsen controls how things are measured. Both can manipulate the game to their own advantage.
Listen closely, you can hear the pitch in your head. “We can now measure the relative reach of your postings and compare them with the reach of your TV spots using the same yardstick. Now you can easily plan and but social media and TV together or create the optimal media mix.”
GRPs are a short hand that media guys use to figure reach and frequency for campaigns and limited time buys. They don’t tell you anything about impact of your message, time spent or exposure to your message or engagement; how users respond, react, re-post, share or comment on content.
Gross Ratings Points and Total Ratings Points (TRPs) became the default measurement to generate a plan quickly when former broadcast planners and buyers became overnight digital media specialists in the late 1990s. Nielsen has trained a few generations of media planners, media buyers and clients so that this shorthand has become the default standard.
Most working marketers believe that orthodox reliance on TRPs limits media creativity and obscures competitive media opportunities. But it’s a simple and easy calculation to justify a buy recommendation or to back into a budget number.
Facebook totally controls reach, especially for marketers, with the EdgeRank algorithm. Research indicating that brand access to fan’s walls is less than 10 percent of posts threatens to kill the golden goose. If brands can’t get better access to the Facebook users who have friended us, there’s no way we’re going to pay the ad rates Zuckerberg fantasizes about. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is testing different filters and has hinted that they might even create an unfiltered newsfeed.
Changing the filter and granting brands greater access will not only improve advertiser relations, but it will multiply the data Facebook can capture and re-sell to eager marketers. It might also provoke a considerable user backlash if endless ads appear in newsfeeds.
More importantly GRPs don’t measure the stuff we need to know. We need to know what people do on Facebook, what they click or don’t, what content draws them in or keeps them on our page and how much they share what they find with their friends. GRPs offer no answers to these questions.