Features

Networked Insights CEO: Influencers Are Our Holy Grail

Written on
Sep 11, 2008 
Author
Sarah Novotny  |

dan.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — Networked Insights is a company helping advertisers reach the ever-growing and always enigmatic social media audience. With such a difficult group to target, Networked Insights enables the advertiser/consumer relationship to be established with noninvasive ease, organically engaging people and creating insightful communities. Networked Insights founder and CEO Daniel Neely spoke with us about what’s going on with the company.

ADOTAS: Networked Insights deals with advertising in Social Media. Give our readers an overview of what the company does exactly and how you bridge the gap between the advertiser and the social media consumer?

DAN NEELY: Networked Insights provides Web site publishers with a technology platform that enables them to gain insight about customer interactions across social media applications. We have the unique ability to help these publishers monetize their social media and give advertisers the tools they need to maximize ad effectiveness by reaching relevant customers while they are engaged in social media activity.

We can determine the right places for advertisers to place their media buy based on various engagement metrics. We mine all of the interactions that happen on a publisher’s social media sites to help determine where the most influential people are hanging out, what conversations they are engaged in and the problems they are trying to solve. By doing this, we allow the advertiser to target their ad spend based on engagement.

ADOTAS: What are some misconceptions about advertising placement?

DAN NEELY: There is a misconception that quantity of mentions of a brand, or demographic data is indicative of where I should advertise. This was true before social media, but now it is about engagement. Research indicates that only 15 percent of people in social networks actually contribute content, so only mining that data would mean you are missing out on the other 85 percent that are reading, rating, sharing and inviting.

Social media advertising is different than traditional advertising on the Web because the content is continually changing. We are not talking about news stories that get updated every 30 minutes – with social media, every second there are thousands of new areas of inventory. Publishers need to keep up and work with advertisers to determine the most relevant areas to advertise. We allow them do this by providing real time insight into social interactions and engagement. We provide this insight across the five areas a brand advertiser cares about in order to inform their buy:

Needs (what do my customers want?);
Buzz (what is the context around the need?);
Brand, (where are they talking about me?);
Product (what are they saying about my product?);
Competition (how do I differentiate?).

By evaluating these five areas, and understanding who the primary influencers are and where the consumer is engaging, we enable highly effective ad buys – Engagement-based advertising, if you will. It is no longer about throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. Your customers are engaging and you want to reach them. If you know there are high levels of engagement, your advertising spend will perform.

ADOTAS: What are the challenges in being able to analyze consumer “conversations” for their marketable qualities without alienating users?

DAN NEELY: Companies are challenged because they can’t keep up in the constantly changing social media world. In a traditional publisher-driven environment, it is relatively easy to understand what people are engaged about. The publisher creates the content and sets tags associated with it, and the advertiser can execute a media buy based on the subject matter. However, in social media the content is always changing, new conversations spawn from generic topics and new users are coming into the mix all the time. Some of these users are anonymous, while some may be registered. What this means is that keyword searches are no longer indicative of user engagement.

Here’s an example. Let’s say 500 posts containing the keyword “Lunchables” in an online community are made by 20 people. In another topic thread, there are 10 posts about Lunchables made by 1 person, but 500 people read the posts, another 500 rate them, and yet another 500 users are inviting their friends to join the conversation. The second set of posts, while short on original content, have a massive amount of engagement and you can figure out who is an influencer and who are the users being influenced.

Another challenge of analyzing keywords in social media is that the context can get lost during the flow of the conversation. For example, if I were to post “I love the new Mercedes Mclaren” and you responded with “I love that car too” and posted that to your personal page, traditional methods of analyzing conversations would not understand that you were referring to the Mercedes.

The secret to effective advertising in social media is to understand engagement. What does the activity look like and how valuable is each user’s activity?

ADOTAS: And the potential alienation of users?

DAN NEELY: Alienating users is an issue that all social media publishers and advertisers will face. There are two keys to solving this problem:

1. Understand that your consumer owns the property, not you;
2. Current advertising approaches are too disruptive, the advertising needs to be part of the discussion rather than a noisy jerk injecting into the conversation with irrelevant subject matter (e.g. a beverage ad next to a conversation for car collectors).

ADOTAS: How will Customer Intelligence transform how brands market to consumers?

DAN NEELY: Customer Intelligence across social media is developing and maturing the same way Web analytics did in the 90s. As portals grew to prominence, companies decided that they too wanted to be online and created their own Web sites. As publishers grew their Web traffic, measurement on their sites and the portals became essential to track site usage and inform business decisions. Today, as companies navigate the social media landscape and attempt to market their brands on social networks and within their own social media properties, customer intelligence is what will provide every publisher, advertiser and owner of a social Web property with the insights needed to make the their social media efforts perform.

ADOTAS: What are the drawbacks to current methods?

DAN NEELY: Current methods are really based on linear progressions, adding users along a single path (YouTube, for example, is really successful at this with video) but with customers sharing, moving and contributing all over the Web sometimes on the same topic, but at different locations, the current measurement system does not work because the measurement tools are not able to analyze across multiple Web properties.

At Networked Insights, we not only analyze a publisher’s site, but we can also look across over 17,000 social networks on the Web. This model gives us the ability to provide analytics across most social media interactions. Current research methods do not take into account all conversations going on about a topic across the Web. For example, it would be foolish to say that Oprah only has an impact with her media properties: Oprah.com, her TV show and her magazine. Her impact can be felt on a much broader scale. The same can be said about the social Web. Current metrics are linear in that they do now allow for a “many too many” influence. This is a holy grail for advertisers because they could choose to spend $1,000 on an influencer (i.e. Oprah.com’s lead members, those linking to articles related to O magazine topics) knowing they will reach many influencees and $20 on an influencee (i.e. target individuals within social networks) for exposure purposes.

ADOTAS: How does Customer Intelligence avoid focusing on customer transactions as opposed to engagement? How does Networked Insights avoid blurring that line?

DAN NEELY: Customer intelligence across social media is about having your knowledge discovery path driven by your customer rather than by your company. Since social media is completely about engaging with other users with similar interests, we need to measure the engagement. Since engagement happens throughout the customers decision path, whether it be Web surfing to research a problem, looking at potential products that solve the problem or after the purchase when a user is sharing their experience with others. We no longer can simply look at measuring the transaction. We have to look at the entire social engagement. I’ve seen research which shows that 87 percent of consumers trust the opinions of other consumers before the experts. Measurement of how consumers engage, where they engage and how much they engage is far more important than measuring only the transaction. Networked insights has the unique ability to look at engagement throughout the decision process – early on, when a customer is just figuring out their need, all the way through the transaction when a customer has a point of view on the product or service they have purchased.

ADOTAS: Who are some of the clients finding success with Customer Intelligence and your other platforms?

DAN NEELY: We work with brands that are using our Customer Insights Platform to help them with everything from informing product development to making decisions about their ad buy.

We work with Web retailers such as The Guild and NetShops and have helped them figure out social commerce by combining their rich expertise in efficient transactions with consumers’ rich expertise in content creation. We have a unique ability to attach the two and have achieved high penetration rates as a result.

We are also working with large publishing companies, those that own the largest social communities on the Web, as well as vertical publishers that have built their own social media sites for specific industries.





Sarah Novotny is a contributing editor at Adotas. Sarah grew up in San Jose, California. Her educational and professional career have taken her to both Los Angeles and New York City where she received a B.F.A. from NYU. As a writer, Sarah has free-lanced for various publications focusing primarily on traditional advertising and media reviews. When not writing and editing for Adotas, Sarah is continuing her acting career in various theatrical and film/television productions.

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