Analytic Core Drives Insight for Social Marketing Challenges: Interview with Evan James, Head of Americas Marketing at Socialbakers
Evan James, Head of Americas Marketing, gave us a view on the Socialbakers approach to social media marketing: cross-channel visibility into a brand’s own social profiles paired with comparisons to competitor performance, including in newer areas like social video. According to James, Socialbakers has the largest social pages database, allowing them to create customized benchmarks for specific industries, geographic markets, and sets of competitors. Beyond their core analytics product, Socialbakers also has solutions to help with publishing and content management (Builder) and ads strategy (Promoted Post Detection). James explained that because Socialbakers has an intrinsically analytic perspective on social media marketing, analytics are built deep into all of these other products.
Give us an introduction to Socialbakers—who are you, and what is your value proposition?
We started in 2008. Over the years we have developed into a social media marketing company with an emphasis on analytics. Our core product, Socialbakers, gives marketers visibility across their social profiles—across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Sina Weibo, and vKontakte—to understand what’s working and not working. The main piece involves being able to see how they’re performing in context of competitors. Our customers can see how they stack up one-to-one versus their most important competitors, as well as where they fall in a general overview of their top 10 competitors.
We also have more pages in our database than any other analytics provider, and that allows us to create customized benchmarks. For example, Dove can understand where they sit within the US market among all other FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) brands. Or, they can see how the Dove Facebook page compares against FMCGs in Mexico. These benchmarks give our customers the insight to know where they stack up within the industry.
Socialbakers helps with content strategy, publishing strategy, and ads strategy. We show our customers how effective their social campaigns are in these areas, as well as where they fit within the industry and competition.
Who are your customers? Do they fit into a particular company size segment or vertical?
Our model is pretty open in terms of verticals. We primarily sell into brands, agencies and media companies. When it comes to brands, Socialbakers is a good fit for any brand with a Facebook presence. We work with more B2C than B2B brands, although we do have some B2B clients. We work with brands in all major B2C sectors; our only major qualifier for being a good fit is that they have an active social media presence. A few key verticals for us are FMCG, hospitality, travel, eCommerce and finance.
In terms of size, our customer base runs the gamut. On the smaller side, we have a self-serve analytics product that costs as little as $50 per month. We work with SMBs throughout our different markets. But we also have quite a high number of enterprise clients. For example, we’ve worked with Nestle since 2012. Our enterprise customers include brands like NHL, L’Oreal, Louis Vuitton, Hennesey, Turkish Airways, and McDonalds. Many of the Fortune 500s use Socialbakers. Currently our biggest focus is on the enterprise segment.
What does an enterprise deployment typically look like?
Usually for enterprise clients we provide a larger analytics package. They can be measuring as many as 1,000+ pages, with hundreds of users. These deployments are almost always global. They’re looking at multiple different products that they own, with different pages for each market for each social network. We give them a view across the board.
For example, the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) global social team uses our dashboard to look at how all of their pages are performing at a high level. Then we provide accounts to all the community managers, who monitor their local pages against local competitors. Typically our enterprise deployments include services beyond analytics.
Socialbakers is our core analytics software. In addition, we also offer many other services, such as Socialbakers Builder, our publishing and content management tool. It allows users to manage all incoming interactions and outgoing posts, and enables users to evaluate both organic and paid content and then immediately take action on future campaigns accordingly. We also offer Command Centers and executive dashboards that give a high level overview of page performance, and Promoted Post Detection, which allows users to hone in on specific competitors to see what percentage of posts they are paying for, and what interaction results they are getting. Basically, we help our customers determine whether a competitor’s paid strategy is effective.
You started in the social analytics space. When did your management and publishing capabilities come into play?
We launched Builder in 2012. Since then we’ve built on more custom based services, especially in 2014-2015.
As we see ourselves, our core competency is analytics. Whenever we develop a new application or software or service, we’re always focused on analytics. Even with management and publishing, we built deep analytics into that platform. For us it’s not just about being able to publish content; it’s also about understanding how effective the publishing is, and what can be done to improve.
We integrate analytics into our product strategy no matter where we expand. All of our clients use analytics within their package, and some have added these other tools and services as well.
Do your customers integrate Socialbakers with another SMMS tool?
Some do, some don’t. Our enterprise customers tend to use at least one other social tool. They use Socialbakers for analytics, but they may be using another provider for listening, core management, or publishing. On the SMB side, this ends up being done a bit more organically—typically, they’re using the native platforms for publishing.
Who is your typical buyer?
We see a range of buyers. We are typically selling to heads of Social, heads of Digital, VPs of Marketing, and sometimes CMOs. With our very large enterprise accounts, we sell to the CMO. Increasingly, we’re also talking to the Director of Analytics.
Who are the users of Socialbakers?
There are a range of Socialbakers users, including community managers, employees in the analytics department, and everybody working within the social team, both on social marketing and social PR. We now also have some users on the social ad management team.
How do you differentiate from your competitors?
Our key differentiators are our focus on analytics and our much larger database. The Socialbakers database helps our customers understand performance in context. Most other social analytics companies provide metrics and analysis on your own performance, and some allow you to look into your competitors. But they don’t have the industry benchmarks that we do. We have so many more pages in our database, and that context allows users to really understand their site within their general industry.
Do you ever compete with marketing analytics tools?
Occasionally, especially in the ad space, where there isn’t a company fully focused on analytics around social ads and DSPs are still controlling the space.
But typically, I would say no—the space has validated itself enough to stand alone. Generally speaking, social is a part of marketing analytics. But right now it requires a provider that is more specialized, rather than being part of a broader marketing analytics package. Our buyers are usually looking specifically for social analytics.
Why are your buyers looking specifically for social analytics tools, rather than for social analytics as a piece of marketing analytics?
Although marketing analytics tools like Hitwise (part of the Experian Marketing Suite) are great, they just don’t have the necessary background in social, so their social capabilities don’t go very deep. Even the smaller, basic social analytics and listening companies are providing more value for a lot less money compared to those larger omni-channel marketing tools.
What are some of the trends that are driving your product strategy?
One of the most interesting trends is the growth of social video, which has been picking up speed since 2014. In the past, people would upload a video to YouTube, copy the link, and post it to Facebook. That has shifted—we’re seeing more and more marketers creating custom video content specifically for a platform and uploading it directly. Across every network, this strategy results in a higher number of interactions.
Already there has been huge uptake of the social video strategy, especially on Facebook. It will be interesting to see how other networks develop. So far we’ve seen smaller increases on Twitter videos; the same with Instagram. But it’s a space that’s shifting. We are seeing more dollars being put into content generation, and more emphasis on video in general because it’s garnering better engagement.
Additionally, there has been a huge rise in live streaming of social video, with platforms like Periscope and Meerkat, which more and more marketers starting to develop content for. So we are in the process of developing a video analytics solution. It’s currently in beta, and we will be releasing it sometime in the next quarter or so.
At a higher level, the social marketing space has become more complex. We’re seeing entire social departments, rather than just individuals or interns, handling a company’s social presence. This validation of social marketing makes analytics more important and more relevant. Social marketing is no longer about speedy content publishing. It’s about spending time to understand what makes effective content, when is the right time to publish, who is the right audience, and optimizing those parameters for the future. Companies are also working to amplify the effect of social through ads, and they’re listening in across the space to understand how individual posts affect brand uplift. They’ve realized how important it is to respond to incoming questions and comments. Social analytics are key to these more complex social strategies.
What metrics do you look at when it comes to analyzing social video?
We track the high metrics, like views, but we also dig into retention rates over the course of a video. If you post a 1 min video, when are people dropping off? This is important because most videos have a CTA after the majority of its viewers have already dropped off. If marketers understand retention they can determine where to place the CTA or most important message in order to hit the majority of their audience. In addition, video can play into the ad targeting space (how you’re targeting it, and who you’re targeting it to). But generally speaking, today we’re focused more on retention rates and performance across networks.
Marketers need to know what style is working on each of those different networks. Often they’ll end up editing a video slightly to match the style of the network. For Facebook, they need to create something that will appear on auto play with no sound, but that is going to grab the viewers’ attention. The goal is to get viewers to turn on the volume; it needs to be graphically engaging at the beginning, so that they will want to listen. YouTube is more about retention rates. Twitter users are increasingly using more native Twitter videos, but the percentage is still low, therefore, we are still working on developing a full analytics solution to evaluate performance. We’re working on developing metrics for that video style.
How are your customers thinking about the ROI and value of social marketing?
The question of ROI has been around forever with social. But the thinking around this issue has evolved since 2010; now, companies are starting to figure out that success really depends on the context of their industry or area.
For example, ROI in the FMCG space is vastly different than ROI for an eCommerce brand. Generally speaking, ROI for FMCGs is focused on reach, increasing brand recognition and brand awareness. With online transactions, it’s more of the hard ROI—how much time and money went into the campaign, and did it increase my number of website visitors, click-throughs, and purchases? In customer service-focused industries, such as airlines, hospitality or telecommunications companies, ROI is related to classic customer care metrics. How often are they resolving customer issues, and how quickly are they doing it? Those industries are interested in tying social to response rates, resolve rates, and whether customers are feeling happy with the way issues were resolved.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One of the most complex things about our offering is that while analytics is at our core, it’s difficult to say analytics is all we do. It may be a concise description, but it doesn’t fully and cohesively represent our other social capabilities. I think it’s important for buyers to understand all of our features tie into analytics, but our value proposition really goes beyond analytics. We are a multi-product solution focused on providing insight for every type of social marketing challenge.
Megan champions research at TrustRadius. Her mission is to ensure we gather the highest quality data from authenticated reviewers, and provide useful curated reports for prospective software buyers. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at a media company. She holds MA degrees in Journalism and Latin American Studies from the University of Texas.