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Defining and Measuring Share of Voice

May 31, 2017

While b-to-b organizations invest heavily in brand to influence buyers, it’s often a blind spot for measurement and insight

Share of voice is a ratio or percentage that reflects the presence of a brand in the context of a discussion. It is a popular type of measurement, viewed by many organizations as a simple indicator of brand relevance, based on the assumption that the more people are talking about the organization, the better. In the b-to-b world, however, more precise share-of-voice measurement is required to show that the attention is worthwhile. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we define share of voice and the data inputs required to calculate a relevant b-to-b share-of-voice metric.

Required Elements For Share of Voice Measurement

For b-to-b organizations, a generic share-of-voice metric tends not to be meaningful or actionable as a point-in-time view. However, a generic view can act as the baseline for variations or flavors of share of voice. It also can serve as an interesting and easy metric for tracking fluctuations and correlating them with industry events or marketing efforts. In its most basic form, share-of-voice measurement requires the following elements:

  • Brand. The most fundamental component of any share-of-voice measurement is the organization’s brand, reflected in the corporate or product name being measured or any relevant trademarks. This element can be focused on either the corporate brand or a product brand within the portfolio if the brand name is unique.
  • Timeframe. Timeframe refers to the start and end date for the data set being gathered. Even the broadest analysis of share of voice requires this element to ensure accurate and consistent comparisons over time.
  • Forum. This element refers to the location, media type or channel in which the conversation is taking place. Even when a share-of-voice metric is characterized by an agency or market research firm as an overall share of voice, it is really a combined view of a system of searchable media locations and other forums (e.g. digital/Web, social, print, out-of-home advertising). In more advanced applications, the forum element becomes a measurement dial that can be turned to hone in on a particular view (e.g. campaign performance, virtual water cooler discussion on a topic).
  • X factor. Along with the elements named above, a fourth element is required for comparison. Options for this parameter include competition, keywords or audience.

Even with an overall share-of-voice measurement, it’s important to understand the exact forums and timeframes included in or implied by the calculation. Various tools or analysts may come up with different share-of-voice numbers based on the forums used for data collection and/or the timeframe.

X Factor Options for Share of Voice Measurement

An organization may choose one of the options listed below as the standard comparative measurement parameter, or it may show all three variations as a core baseline set:

  • Competitors. Adding an identified set of competitors is one of the most straightforward ways to establish comparative parameters around the share-of-voice calculation and create additional meaning and value for internal brand measurement stakeholders (e.g. executives). In addition to a defined list of competitors at the corporate level, many organizations find that the competitive set might shift slightly as they consider the entire portfolio of offerings. For example, some products might have a unique competitive set, or perhaps the competitive set varies by region. A best practice is to limit the competitive set to five.
  • Keywords. Keyword selection is one of the most powerful parameters that can be applied to share-of-voice measurement, enabling the organization to focus on specific portions of the overall content within a particular forum. A well-selected keyword or system of keywords can provide insight into the brand’s role in discussions about particular products, trends or needs, or even within specific audiences. Additionally, if organizations use proprietary or brand terms as keyword parameters (e.g. slogans, taglines), they can then use share of voice to test the market resonance of those terms. Additionally, the same keywords can be revisited following a large brand advertising investment (for example) to understand whether the investment changed the conversation in any significant and advantageous way.
  • Audience. This parameter refers to the group of content creators among which share of voice is measured. Organizations interested in assessing share of voice on Twitter among a key group of influencers, for example, should create a list of named influencers and assess the presence of the brand among those individuals. By focusing on named individuals, all other voices are effectively filtered out.

Recommended Elements for Share of Voice Measurement

Organizations may include the following elements in share-of-voice measurement to further confine the data set to the specific type of insight sought:

  • Media category (paid/earned/owned). Organizations should understand forums or media locations/channels as a combination of paid, earned and owned activities and outputs. Advanced organizations also may track shared (e.g. owned accounts on non-owned platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn) or enabled (e.g. social advocacy programs) activities and outputs. This is a key delineator, as it creates visibility and transparency around how much of the conversation the organization is paying to elbow its way into vs. appearing in organically. While these two views may be related, earned share of voice is a more authentic reflection of a brand’s standing in the marketplace.
  • Exclusions. To help refine the data being measured, organizations should identify any elements that are adding noise but no value to the metric. For instance, coverage relating to financial reporting may not provide a useful reflection of how communications or marketing efforts are being received. News related to an executive’s personal life also would distract from the primary focus of the analysis. The exclusion of synonyms is even more commonly required – e.g. if the organization is tracking its brand’s share of voice in the cloud computing space, it should ensure that it’s not picking up articles about weather or actual clouds. Lists of excluded keywords help eliminate non-critical, erroneous or misleading publication units from the analysis.

Making the Share-of-Voice Calculation

Once the organization decides what elements are required and recommended, it should perform the share-of-voice calculation as follows:

  • Count total qualifying items. Total qualifying items represent all publication units (e.g. articles, social posts, tweets, blogs) to be counted. To calculate total qualifying items, organizations should begin with the established timeframe and forums, then count all units of publication containing either the brand and named competitors or all units of publication containing listed keywords.
  • Count qualifying brand items. Qualifying brand items represent all relevant publication units associated with the organization’s brand. Organizations should calculate qualifying brand items by limiting the total qualifying items to those publication units that contain direct mentions of the brand – inclusive of the company name, relevant product names or trademarks.
  • Perform the division. Divide qualifying brand items by total qualifying items to arrive at a share of voice. Share of voice is expressed as a percentage and can be calculated for the organization’s brand and any other brand included in the analysis.

SiriusDecisions recommends using items (publication units) rather than raw mentions as the more meaningful unit of measurement, although the calculation can be made based on either, as long as the same units are counted consistently throughout the comparison set.

The Sirius Decision

When used correctly, share-of-voice measurement allows marketing and communications professionals to understand how effectively their efforts have captured the attention of their key audiences relative to critical topics and initiative areas. Too often, b-to-b organizations fail to treat share of voice as anything other than a vanity metric to be held up as an interesting indicator of busyness – but little else. When taken seriously, share-of-voice metrics can disclose invaluable information about competitive positioning, the interests of key audiences and what brands need to focus on to drive better performance.