Social Media Measurement Attribute: Defining Velocity

I would love to do some formal research on this on the day job, the following is just highlighting a probabble definition and formula, it certainly doesn’t include any formal methodology or practiced process.

There’s been a great deal of talk about ‘virality’ or ‘word of mouth’ but when it comes to measurement, we need something just a bit more substantial.

When I was on the vendor side at PodTech as Director of Corporate Social Media Strategy (client facing), I worked closely with Darold Masaro, VP of Sales. We frequently bantered over new ways to improve measurement as this is important improving existing programs and increasing budgets.

For many of those in the social media space, the goal is to ‘let go’ of your message and let it fly all around the web, getting folks to come to your irrelevant corporate website isn’t the goal –fish where the fish are.

Defining Social Media Velocity: Distance over Time
But how do you measure a distributed web strategy? We looked to one of many attributes called “Velocity”. This is not a new term, in fact, Physicists define this as distance traveled per unit time. As I described to Darold what we should be measuring, he quickly pegged I was seeking the term ‘velocity’, it’s stuck with me ever sense, the credit should go to him. The same applies to the web, and here’s how:

[Velocity, when applied to Social Media, is the measurement of how fast an idea, embed, widget or other like unit spreads over web properties. Benchmarked over time, acceleration and deceleration indicate relevancy]

Distance: As units (text, audio embeds, video embeds, widgets, memes) spread from one website to another you can track the URLs where they spread to.


Time: Depending on how fast a unit moves, it can vary from day to week, or less effective, perhaps a month.


Week One: A widget was installed on 5,000 Facebook profiles within 7 days, resulting in a weekly velocity of 714.

Week Two: A widget was installed on 15,000 Facebook profiles within 7 days, resulting in a weekly velocity of 2142.

Also, you could look at this over time and benchmark, and then look for accelerations and decelerations, in this case, week two accelerated from week one by 300%.

Now here’s how Darold further explains velocity:

“Velocity is the speed, direction, and size of conversations traveling the Internet around our brands. When I talk about velocity it’s from the perspective of a wave. So in that case we need to answer this question…What do markteers and sailors have in common? They should both be concerned about waves. Marketers should think in terms of conversational waves. Conversations are more effective for building brands than buzz, but this requires keeping the conversation alive.”

I asked Darold for just a definition but I see he couldn’t help but share more, I guess his days of getting an MBA just compelled him to think this through further. What’s interesting is Darold is a sailor, no not the cursing, one-eyed patch sailors with a parrot named jenkins, but pilots sailboats in Santa Cruz bay over wine and cheese.

He extends the sailing metaphor further, here’s just a portion of his thesis:

“It’s helpful to understand the four key aspects of a wave in order to gain insight into conversations around our brands. Hey I am a sailor and I see the world as a series of nautical metaphors.

Velocity represents both speed AND direction. This is important to point out as most use the common term of velocity which is just speed. I associate speed with what I hear a lot these days … “I want my campaign to go viral.” Where viral represents speed (how quickly, by how many), but we should also look at who is consuming our messages (direction) and sustaining the momentum. So there is more to velocity than speed and direction, and is important to understand if we are to build sustainable conversations around our brands.

We need to understand amplitude which is the size of the wave (this is equivalent to buzz), and frequency. The IceRocket graph below is an example of amplitude and frequency. The size of the wave is easy to understand, but frequency is less clear. In sailing we replace the word frequency with period. That is how long (in seconds) between the crest of one wave to the next. In the world of sailing the amplitude and period of a wave is very important for understanding the sea state. In marketing we have a sea state around our brand. To often the sea is calm, choppy or pounding with large unsustainable waves that come crashing down.”


If you want to reach Darold he can be emailed at