Marketers' demand for social ROI drives analytics moves

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Marketers are facing a fire hose of social media data, especially as networks like Google+ expand and Twitter explores monetization strategies. With brands dedicating significant spending to the channel, digital service providers such as Google, Webtrends and Buddy Media, among others, are making acquisitions to better position themselves in the social analytics space. 

Digital analytics company Webtrends began preparing for the social media onslaught in 2008, said Bruce Kenny, EVP of technology and hosted operations at the firm. However, it is now seeing its strategy mature after a pair of acquisitions in the past year. Webtrends bought analytics firm Reinvigorate last month to add real-time capabilities to its social and mobile offerings after acquiring social marketing company Transpond a year ago. 

"We're seeing a shorter and shorter window for the marketing campaign, thus the need to measure in real-time is what's driving the 
acquisitions that you're seeing," said Kenny.

The need to measure social content quickly is amplified by the integration of social media elements into virtually every digital marketing campaign, says Peter Yared, former CEO of Transpond and now Webtrends' VP and GM of social platforms. Because of that integration, marketers want vendors with a "full suite" of social capabilities, from campaign management to analytics, he said. 

Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow said he's constantly asked by clients how to measure social to inform their marketing budgets. The company acquired social analytics company Spinback in May to help answer those questions. Lazerow said Buddy Media planned to develop such capabilities in-house but "it's a product we didn't think could wait for us to 
build it out."

Aaron Shockey, VP of digital marketing at Neiman Marcus, said measuring social can be more difficult than tracking traditional campaigns.

"The full impact of social ROI is difficult to measure. But that's no different than other brand-engagement campaigns out there. You can track it through views and tracking links back to site. We can get a feel for its performance, and we have social listening tools so we know what's being said," he explained. "But there are varying levels of measurement, and word-of-mouth is difficult to measure and more difficult than hard and fast direct marketing tactics."

Even Internet giants like Google and Twitter have acquired companies that will help them measure consumers' social media use, with Twitter buying BackType in July and Google acquiring PostRank the previous month. A Google spokesperson said the company bought PostRank because it recognizes the importance of social analytics for online business and plans to make social data "more actionable and accountable." Twitter did not respond to request for comment.


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