Should Publishers Be Judged by their ‘Social Quality’?

By Devon Glenn 

The makers of a popular link-sharing platform are hoping to turn publishers on to a new scoring system that determines whether their content is reaching a socially engaged audience.  On Wednesday, ShareThis released an analytics dashboard and a score lookup tool so that publishers can find out their scores and optimize their content accordingly.

Created in 2011, the Social Quality Index (SQI) uses a unique algorithm to analyze a publication’s clicks, shares, and number of page views in 27 content categories and compares them against the 1.4 million other sites in ShareThis’ network.  The idea is that the more social the readers are, the more attractive the site will be to advertisers who rely on social sharing.


The value of sites like Twitter and Facebook to publishers is obvious. Unlike the water cooler or the office bulletin board, social nets ensure that publishers don’t have to leave their desks to see who outside their subscription base is reading their articles — they can see it right on their screens.

But the concept of measuring a publication’s worth by what the readers do with the articles they read is a pretty big deal. In the old days of print, clipping articles and mailing them to people was something that only grandparents did. Now that it’s easy to share a story without the aid of a hand-written note on floral stationary, more people are willing to do it, which usually leads to more page views. But are people who are more likely to share articles also more likely to spend money?

ShareThis tested this theory on Wendy’s, a fast-food restaurant known for square-shaped beef patties and an adorably redheaded spokesperson. To establish a baseline, Wendy’s and ShareThis ran an ad campaign on sites that were not indexed in the network. The companies delivered the next campaign to the same audience on sites with high SQI scores. Both groups were given 30 million impressions.

ShareThis reported the following results:

  • The click-through rate exceeded the campaign average by 209%
  • The volume of Wendy’s menu page views increased 236%
  • Wendy’s store locator inquiries increased 236%
  • WendyMail sign-ups increased 234%
  • The results were accomplished with nearly half the average cost per menu page view (0.61x), store locator inquiry (0.59x) and WendyMail sign-up (0.62x) taking total spend into consideration

It might have helped to see how the numbers compared on sites with low scores, but the Wendy’s team seemed happy with the results. “We’re talking about some impressive stats here,” said Brandon Rhoten, director of digital marketing at Wendy’s International in a statement. “SQI helped drive the most socially relevant audiences to the custom message we developed, creating a larger impact than any other paid part of this campaign. It helped us tap into audiences we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”