Social Analytics: Why the Calculus Teacher Is Now Your Guidance Counselor
The blogpost below was first published on April 2, 2012 on Social Media Today.
So much for selling data.
‘We don’t believe data monitors work as a business model,’ explains Nanda Kishore, CTO of ShareThis, the ubiquitous, free app that lets you share webpages containing interesting articles, photos, and videos. Publishers embed the ShareThis button on their websites, users can add it to their toolbars.
With over 1.4 million sites in the network, ShareThis counts Hearst, Tribune, McClatchy, Hachette, and other newspaper and magazine companies as member publishers. With 180 million individuals who use ShareThis to spread content they enjoy, ShareThis – along with its direct competitor AddThis – is in an interesting position, bringing a unique angle to the total view of social data.
If the holy grail of social media is engagement – the act of a user doing something with a piece of content – what better measure of engagement is there than the sharing of content?
Clearly, in a world of privacy legislation, and with the opaqueness of Facebook’s member data, it is difficult for brand managers and marketers to understand what is being read and shared across several social networks at once. And, let’s face it, most people read the longer-form article or full-size photo or video NOT within the Twitter or Facebook interface.
As such, a unique content sharing pattern emerges: you first learn of an interesting article in a tweet on Twitter, through which you click the shortened URL . You then land on the newspaper’s website and read/skim the piece. If you enjoy it enough, you share it again and it goes back out to the social networks.
Indeed, there exists a ‘social life cycle’ for any piece of content.
Back to the selling of data issue. Rather than sell this data – even aggregated and anonymized – ShareThis has elected to use these insights to become a strategist and advisor to brands. Because the company knows which publishers and type of content is most likely to be shared, it can help brands with content marketing, publishing strategy, communications and messaging, and other initiatives.
Is ShareThis the only social media app provider/analytics aggregator that is doing this? Perhaps not. I predict that others in the social media monitoring or engagement space are perhaps asked from time to time for advice.
More likely, as social data and social software companies grow, they will mimic the IBM, Microsoft, or Salesforce.com model, and attempt to create huge ecosystems of partners and consultants to whom they can steer such inquiries – and charge for development, platform access or training, or collect referral fees.
The largest social media monitoring software provider, Radian6, has enjoyed one year of living under the roof of Salesforce.com, and will probably create its own partner/reseller subsystem – including agencies which provide direct consulting or social media execution services.
‘We are asked all the time from companies wishing to buy our data, but we just don’t want to sell it,’ adds Kishore. ‘It’s not just the data, it’s what you do with the data that matters.’