September 1, 2015

How Tracking Social Content Helps Brands Measure Their ROI

Michael Cheng, the CEO and Co-Founder of Sniply, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the intersection of sales, marketing, and technology. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland, explores a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders.

In this episode we discuss the story behind Sniply, social media ROI, and how marketers can filter content noise.

Below are a few highlights from our conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: Is the biggest trend in social media today the increasing amount of content sharing?

Michael Cheng: Yes, but I’ll go a little deeper. Sniply’s whole existence is in response to that trend. The trend that we’ve been seeing, especially on social media, is the way people consume content has drastically changed. Previously,  people subscribed to newsletters — they might even receive it in their mail. And even more people commit to physical subscriptions as well. Gradually, we’ve seen that change.

If you recall the past 5-10 articles you’ve read, they’ve probably been on social media — if your friends shared an article on Facebook or Twitter. The way we consume content has become much more social than direct from the source. That changes a lot for businesses because the way you reach people now, is a lot more social than it used to be. As you mentioned as well, a lot more links are being shared. Look at the sheer volume of articles on Facebook now, and compare it to how it was a couple years back where it was actually filled with life updates,

Now you’re looking at 75 to 90 percent of articles, content, top events, and news, and it’s super catered to your network and what you’re interested in. But the challenge for business of course, is if you were to start the journey of content marketing from a creation point of view, it’s become that much more difficult, because there’s so much noise out there these days. To really write a viral hit is — I wouldn’t say impossible — but extremely difficult.

With the sheer volume of content being shared, the act of filtering and curation has become exponentially more valuable than it was before, because people turn to thought leaders now to help them filter through the noise — not necessarily to produce genuine words of wisdom. The act of filtering the universe of information and data on the internet every single day has become a very key point.

From what we saw, we were able to differentiate our business by being a really good curator. A really good curator means the information we share is always on the spot and more importantly — it’s fast. So viral content isn’t always viral; being first to share that viral content delivers enormous value to your brand and company. Everything we do is around curation, and a lot of what we do is to find the best content. Share it before anyone else and drive traffic to both our company and also the original publisher as well.

TA: How do analytics and data drive a social media marketing tool like this?

Cheng: You can’t really track sharing on third party content. I mean, you share a Buzzfeed article. It’s got a list of 20 places you must go before you die. A million people click on it, but what does that actually mean? A big part of how we built Sniply and how we use Sniply ourselves is to provide conversion rates. Now I can include a call to action even as I share a Buzzfeed article, a call to action that says, “Click here to visit our site.”

That number is important because it tells me how many people are coming back to my site, which I can process through my funnel and ROI and all that. But the ROI component to sharing content means I can then allocate resources to build a social media team.

I can dedicate a specific amount of time or money to picking out and sharing content. To give you a brief example, in the past 30 days, I have shared 71 snips. They’ve been clicked 4,310 times and converted 471 of those users. So that’s a 10.93 conversion space. That gives me a very concrete idea of what my social media following is worth, because I know that for every tenth person who clicks on my link, one of them will interact with my call to action.

A lot of businesses might have ten or a hundred thousand followers, but when asked, “Well, what does that really mean for your business?” It’s very difficult to really make a tangible ROI metric out of it — and that’s what we’re all about.

TA: What do you see as some of the biggest issues in social media right now?

Cheng: One of the more interesting and pretty big issues is automation versus really scaling. A lot of companies– because Twitter, when you post something, whatever you post is going to disappear within 10 or 20 seconds. It’s becoming increasingly important to increase the activity of social media. So, sharing more content and sharing more often.

At some point, scaling is difficult with costs. How do you hire someone that sits there 24/7 doing this thing? A lot of people look to automation. Now of course, the challenges with automating social media are obvious. Social media is supposed to be genuine, it meets the human touch. A lot of what we battle with is, “How do we build automation, but keep in mind that social media is not about automation, but it needs automation.”

That controversy, that paradox, is something to think about. As technology builders, we need to build some way to make it substantially easier to ramp up social media efforts without necessarily removing the human touch, which is the foundation of social media.

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