Clay McDaniel leads Spring Creek Group, a Seattle-based social media agency serving clients such as Microsoft, HTC and LiveNation. In a conversation with eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson, McDaniel, Spring Creek’s founder and managing partner, shares the three key ways companies use social media monitoring, why social media measurement has faced a lot of pressure to succeed, and whether it will live up to its promise.
eMarketer: What are the key ways companies use social media monitoring?
Clay McDaniel: The leading opportunity for social media data and research analysis is competitive brand perception. Large consumer brands believe that how they stack up against their competitors in loyalty and trust is a leading indicator of consumers’ future buying and decision-making.
The second most common objective of social media listening and monitoring research is measurement of a brand’s own marketing campaigns. They want feedback on how their investments in marketing and their customer engagement activities are doing. In social media, there’s a sense that this data is constantly coming—it’s very topical, it’s of the moment. When people sound off, whether it’s negative or positive, that’s really useful feedback for businesses that are spending millions of dollars on their marketing and sales activities.
The third objective is gaining business-specific KPIs [key performance indicators]. That can be measuring share of voice and wanting to understand, “When people talk about running shoes, how much do they talk about my running shoes?” Or it might be measuring the total size of a brand community to get a sense for how much or how little of their total customer base they have a permission-based communication relationship with.
eMarketer: Do you think there’s more pressure being put on social media measurement to prove itself than on other types of measurement?
McDaniel: I think that the perceived abundance and diversity of information available through social networks and social media has resulted in a higher level of pressure and expectation about the nature and types of questions that social media research can answer.
With social, it’s like, we’ve got it all. It’s all public. It’s out there and you just have to grab it. The reality is, if you want to grab a meaningful share of the chatter that’s not just on Twitter and Facebook but that’s on the blogs and forums, and on niche community sites, and on non-English language sites, then it costs a lot of money, and it takes a lot of time and effort.
eMarketer: How have your clients evolved their use of social media measurement?
McDaniel: Our clients started with wanting to just know research and insights. And then that evolved into wanting to measure brand affinity, brand love and brand advocacy, because they feel like those are leading indicators of the longer-term value of their customer relationships.
And now clients want measurement of their investments. They say, “We need help not just measuring the great masses and what they have to say. We also want your help measuring our branded communities, because we’re investing a lot of money in those. And we want your help measuring the success and advocacy of our marketing content, because we’re spending a lot of money on that. And can you also give us data on all of our competitors?”
eMarketer: How close are we to getting to that desired level of value from social media measurement?
McDaniel: Social media—and also mobile media—are starting to look like they can offer cross-channel insight, and that’s where the promise is. I think there’s so much excitement around social media measurement and analysis because if it can prove to be one of these sources of data and analysis that actually improve the efficiency and the efficacy of marketing spend across all of these channels, then I think this hype is warranted.