Q&A: Dan Neely, founder and CEO, Networked Insights

Dan Neely, founder and CEO of social media analytics company Networked Insights, discusses the changes in how marketers are using social media, the integration of marketing channels and his “bullpen approach to marketing.”

Prior to founding Networked Insights in 2006, Neely served as director of strategy at Internet consulting company Scient Corp.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): What trends are you seeing in social media marketing?

Dan Neely (Networked Insights): The trends that have happened are many people have used [social media] to figure out what has happened or is happening to their brand. So they listen to how many people are mentioning [them] and is it good or bad stuff that they’re saying. It’s been a very reactive stance. Where the landscape is moving is using [social media] to predict.

There’s a quote that came out from one of our clients, Brian Wallace at RIM, and he says, “Competent marketers react to social. Smart marketers are directed by it.” So that’s the shift in the landscape that’s taking place. We have many people who are reacting to it—”Oh, what’s my customer saying about me”—versus those that are using it to predict what it the next thing that’s gonna happen. So that’s the first one.

The second trend is many companies that are using it to direct them rather than just react to it are using it as a leading indicator to inform all of marketing versus just using it to inform their social media activities. Let’s be honest, it is the richest, most accurate, fastest focus group that’s ever existed.

DMN: Of the other marketing channels that social media can inform, is there one in particular that it’s able to provide the most value?

Neely: I think the walls between marketing channels are disappearing, or have disappeared in many of our clients. Now they all intersect with each other. So now what we talk about is social allows us to sequence in the right way across those channels versus it just being I’m going to do this on this channel, this on this channel and this on this channel. They’re truly going to be integrated, and we’re going to sequence things in the right order versus saying it’s going to be this way, owned is going to be that way and earned is going to be this way.

It doesn’t work that way anymore because the only way to get to the minimal effective amount of marketing dollars you should spend is you have to use each of them as levers together versus thinking of them as independent channels.

DMN: I recently wrote an article on search marketing, and there’s some reticence among marketers when it comes to integrating different marketing channels because the ownership lines blur. Can you talk about the challenges to integration and how you’re seeing marketers engage those challenges?

Neely: What’s improving is you don’t need spectacular marketing if you have killer products. Those companies that are not taking the walls down probably don’t have killer products. Ultimately your customer is driving you to take those walls down, and I think it’s just time that’ll make it happen.

It’s no different than when people started launching websites back in the ’90s. It was separated out into a different group, and now it’s back [to being] part of the main group. I think that’ll continue to happen over time. Search is just going to be one of the levers that we pull. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to have someone that’s managing it, but they’re going to know when that lever becomes pulled.

I see a bullpen approach to marketing versus it being a departmental approach to marketing. It’s a bullpen in which we’re all sitting together. You’re just managing the portfolio dollars now, and you have a group of people that are going to be able to pull the triggers on those things.

One of the barriers is the types of people that are in marketing. We’re going to see a shift more towards those that understand data and analytics and less to do with those that understand creative. We see those people already in search today.

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