A Better Way to Buy (than by the Nielsen Numbers)

Guest blogger Dan Neely, CEO of Networked Insights, suggests that brands and agencies use social media metrics as a new lens to optimize media spends. By doing so, they can leverage learning from consumer conversations to more effectively distribute buys on the TV shows that have the most highly engaged audiences.

Dan Neely, Networked Insights‘ founder and CEO, has over a decade of experience with technology, manufacturing and services companies, His expertise is in customer intelligence and experience with the challenges companies face in gathering relevant, real-time insights about their customers. Join his conversation on Twitter.

A month or so ago, Nielsen reported that they had undercounted Web traffic for at least three months. We talked to a few reporters about what this means for analytics and marketing. One editor of a prominent publication wasn’t concerned: “Who cares if the numbers are wrong if everyone is using the same data?”

That’s sort of like a financial analyst asking how we could get in trouble if everyone is using the same criteria to give out subprime loans. Perhaps he assumed that I just wanted to tout my company’s numbers as more accurate – but it’s bigger than that. In fact, even the undercounting – though important – doesn’t get at the heart of the problem.

A system that prioritizes counting over insights is limiting from the start.

Counting the number of unique visitors and page views a website receives over time should be a mere baseline, a start, for interactive marketers – even if the numbers are accurate. But most brands don’t use insights from social analytics to inform their media buying. And that’s why they’re in trouble when counts are wrong. Marketers need to adapt. Marketing is no longer driven and judged solely by the number of people looking at your paid media. That only achieves initial exposure. Your brand’s owned content is equally important. Paid media can function as a powerful short-term catalyst.

These same digital spend issues and challenges apply to TV, where Nielsen dictates the value of a show. The primary metrics – Gross Rating Points (GRPs) and Target Rating Points (TRPs) – don’t necessarily correlate to engagement. I’m not always 100 percent engaged when I watch TV. However there is a solution to this problem of determining actual engagement with a show, which is provided by social data.

By using social as a new lens to optimize your media spend, you leverage learning from consumer conversations to effectively distribute buys on the TV shows that have the most highly engaged audiences.

With social, we measure engagement to track real-time fan interest. Engagement offers depth because each post represents a viewer reacting directly to a show’s content. Those reactions in turn each cause a ripple through social as they are consumed and each new reader in turn influences others.

This knowledge can also lead the way around media lockouts that prevent a brand from directly reaching out to a key target around an event. Social analytics help identify hyper-segments from these events that overlap with properties that are not locked out. Finding where else that same audience gathers can help achieve a reach and frequency at bargain prices compared to the amount a media sponsorship costs.

The benefits of using social analytics for media planning and buying go beyond engaging new segments effectively. That’s why we should care that everyone is using the same data: When you’re all dealt the same hand, it’s hard to get ahead. Social provides a competitive advantage; creating efficiencies across your entire spend (traditional and digital). Social gives you the edge to thrive against competitors, who, on the whole, will always outspend you. When everyone begins using social data to value audiences, the advantage will be diminished. But in these exciting, brave new days, early adopters can reap tremendous rewards – efficiencies of 10 percent or more in media buys.

So the real question is: Are you going to use the same old data as everyone else, or are you going to get the edge in your spend?