transcending "likes" for deeper social insights

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Social marketers might once have been satisfied harvesting “likes” and retweets the way Scrooge collects coins. But as social channels mature, those same marketers are realizing they need to figure out exactly how to spend all that digital currency. Such is the basis behind's announcement today that it has added 20 social analytics providers into its Social Insights ecosystem for Marketing Cloud, as well as launched a new business model around the piloting and purchasing process.

Marketing Cloud, released exactly one month ago, is a combination of assets from acquired companies Radian6 and Buddy Media, designed to help brands manage and streamline the various marketing messages and tool-sets used by different enterprise departments—from PR to marketing to customer service.

The goal with these new social analytics partnerships around Marketing Cloud, says Gordon Evans, senior director of product marketing for Marketing Cloud, is to provide marketers with the tools to turn social conversations into conversions. “What customers are telling us is they want insight into the data,” Evans explains. He pinpoints three key areas that social marketers want to better grasp: understanding how to identify influencers and who is influenced by whom; understanding sentiment and meaning in social conversations, particularly in multiple languages; and figuring out intent—such as whether certain consumer actions are buying signals or are indicative of service-related issues.

In theory, the analytics providers that make up the Social Insights community allow brands to uncover the implicit meaning of a social media communication like an English lit major parses Chaucer. If a Twitter user addresses his followers as “peeps,” for instance, this often indicates a degree of influence. A consumer saying he is “loving” a product indicates more than basic positive or negative sentiment—it demonstrates effusive excitement, thus giving marketers the ability to understand more nuanced consumer emotions. Marketers also need to know if specific products are mentioned—whether a consumer mentioning “Slate” refers to HP's tablet of that name, or if that person is building a garden pathway. 

These enhancements, Evans says, go beyond the nominal Marketing Cloud stack. “Salesforce provides in the Marketing Cloud some basic analytics around age, demographics, and some other analytics,” he explains. “What we've done is partnered with the ecosystem of providers through our API so marketers can, based on customer demand, layer analytics right into our product.”

To facilitate uptake of these social analytics, Salesforce built a business model similar to its popular AppExchange community, essentially an app store for business software. Brands that want to use the tools provided by Salesforce's partnering social analytics vendors use a credit system to purchase certain functionality based on current needs.

For instance, a brand that wants to identify key influencers one month can apply credit to purchase a tool-set that measures precisely that. The next month, that same brand might want a breakdown of customer sentiment over a new product release; they can use their credits to purchase that capability, as well.

“[Brands] want more from social media,” Evans says. “They want new kinds of insights. They want to go beyond the caloric metrics like how much to the what, why, and who. And they want to turn those conversations into customers, drive loyalty, and create new customers.”

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