Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How to ensure social incremental audiences are measured effectively

NDA sat down with Ira Xhelili, Senior Sales Director, Comscore to discuss the evolution of cross-platform media measurement.

Is the social media marketplace becoming too fragmented to measure effectively?

Whereas five years ago, advertisers would largely flock to Meta or YouTube to drive their social strategy, that social media mix today has evolved. With new hurdles over the years, from changes to algorithms, to declining audiences, to new formats commanding attention, and varying levels of transparency, new platforms have come out to capitalise on these hiccups.

And they’re making an impact – many brands tell us that TikTok is their biggest platform, and it serves as the genesis of content creation. Others rely on the likes of Reddit, LinkedIn or Snap (which recently exceeded its revenue forecasts). 

This diversification points to a holistic strategy that brands and their partners are crafting when it comes to social media. I would be remiss not to mention that Meta and YouTube are still part of the “billion-dollar social club”– in terms of both audiences and hours tracked globally.

They have, however, oftentimes had to adapt their offering to meet advertisers’ appetite for what’s working really well on other platforms. Formats like YouTube Shorts, Reels or Stories follow in the footsteps of TikTok’s (or Snap’s) “crown jewel”, its short-form video format.  

Whilst fragmentation is appeasing to advertisers’ previously unmet needs, bringing the opportunity to connect with consumers authentically at different stages of their digital journey, more importantly, it is raising the bar when it comes to accountability of social media platforms. All this only further amplifies the need for a consistent, unified view of who those audiences are, how they consume content and where their attention is shifting – whatever platform they may be on. 

Why does social media need to be part of any cross-platform measurement strategy?

In the UK alone, we spent a staggering 55.1bn minutes in March 2024 on social media, a channel where advertisers in the UK can reach 87.5% of the total digital audiences. The last 12 months haven’t changed the composition of the top 10 players, but it is worth noting that the only platforms that have grown their audiences’ size in this period are Reddit and TikTok.  

This is not just a numbers game however, as the argument for social propels us to dive deeper than that. Social media brings the opportunity for authentic connections and experiences that deliver trust and purpose, to a point where consumers or followers become a community with a shared purpose, goal and views. Influencers on social media often serve as the voice of the brand, bringing authenticity and linking brands to key ‘’moments’’, where brands can align themselves to key cultural shifts and movements.

Looking beyond the benefits of surface-level engagements such as likes, comments or shares, social media has proven to be a commerce powerhouse – when done well. 

In light of all this, the question on social media naturally shifts away from “Why” to “How”? 

Can you elaborate on how Comscore’s new approach to audience measurement helps to solve some of these challenges?

Cross-platform measurement is our centre of gravity at Comscore. We put the consumer at the heart of all our measurement efforts, and instead of chasing after shiny trends, platforms, advertising channels or formats, we let consumers and their behaviours dictate the narrative and solutions that we bring to the industry.

Ultimately, we are committed to going where audiences take us, and it is our view that in order to deliver that well, we need to be able to offer both the buy-side and sell-side a consistent, a unified meeting point that connects audiences and the content they consume – whatever the platform. 

And to do so, we have armoured ourselves with industry-leading datasets. These include our human panels, our social measurement, the industry’s second-largest commercial crawler, partnerships with leading industry stakeholders and a future-proof methodology that sets us up for the long term with sustainable audience measurement in the face of cookie deprecation. 

When we stitch all these various datasets together, Comscore serves as a compass – a source of truth that helps marketers navigate the shifts in the digital landscape, with the consumer at the heart of all that we do. Providing brands, their agencies and publishers with a unified representation of all audiences and media across OTT, desktop, mobile, video, and social is central to our strategy in Europe.

The launch of Social Incremental, which now provides a new Total Digital number that de-duplicates digital and social audiences, is an industry-first initiative. It builds upon our strong track record of digital innovation which will accelerate publishers’ monetisation strategies and enhance brands’ strategic and planning intelligence.  

What does the measurement of social incremental audiences entail?

Social is an integral part of our online identities, which is why Social Incremental was conceived as a natural response to our mission in the industry. Social Incremental now allows publishers, for the first time in the industry, to capture and monetise the true footprint of their deduplicated audiences, bridging the previous fragmentations of digital and social audiences.

Under one single roof, brands, agencies and publishers can understand how audiences overlap, their combined total audience reach and deduplicated social reach – all supported by integrated reporting, under one single roof.  

Social-first publishers now get a seat at the Comscore Industry Rankings table, which is significant as historically they would not have been represented and, therefore, were unable to monetise their social audiences. To add, all publishers now have a chance to show their advertising partners the value they can deliver through their cross-platform reach. 

How might this holistic view of measurement empower brand marketers to make more informed decisions and enhance their overall marketing strategy?

With the new Total Digital reach measurement, advertisers can evaluate media entities side by side, make investment decisions and optimise their perfect channel mix to reach their target audience more efficiently. They can support their partnership goals or strategic planning by focusing on supporting demos and directing content development towards areas where they may be struggling against a competitor.  

Ad sales teams, on the other hand, can go to market with a cross-channel reach figure, in turn making their social sites more attractive to advertisers by highlighting performance for key demos. Or they can rely on audience affinity analyses for prospecting purposes, all which in turn impacts ad revenues.   

It all comes down to showcasing the power of a cross-channel footprint to better reach the end consumer. 

How does it address the need for long-term sustainable audience measurement in Europe?

To echo an earlier statement, where the consumer is, our roadmap is intended to follow. The numbers already point to social media being a vital piece of that cross-platform puzzle. Social is just as, if not more, deeply embedded into our everyday lives further into the continent, with Spain and Italy touting the highest presence of audiences on social platforms at 95% and 90%, respectively.

On that note, there is no single player in Europe that dominates the ecosystem as a currency. Each individual market follows its own sets of best practices and vision on measurement. Comscore works closely with the Joint Industry Committees in various European markets, and we are on a mission to provide a consistent methodology in different markets.  

In those efforts towards a cross-platform world, we’re working towards a consistent, uniform de-duplicated view across desktop, mobile, social and CTV. On CTV, we’re embracing its evolution and are evolving our offering to match the very same reliable suite of solutions you’d find within our My Metrix flagship products. Finally, our Unified Digital Measurement (UDM 2.0) methodology sets the stage for a long-term future environment that leads with consumer privacy and choice in mind. 

Ultimately, the only constant in our industry is change. So, as we cover these initiatives today, we are mindful of what’s on the horizon and further beyond. However, what we stand firm on is our commitment and strive to evolve with cross-channel measurement alongside the consumer, and as mentioned earlier, to let consumers lead the way along the measurement path.