Storytelling Innovator Series

Interview: Unmetric CEO Lux Narayan on the Power of Social Media Intelligence

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As you read this, chances are high that your competitors are spying on you.

For Lakshmanan (Lux) Narayan, this is great news.

Narayan is the co-founder and CEO of a social media intelligence company for brands, Unmetric (one of Forbes’ top social media companies to watch in 2015). Unmetric has recently released an app called Sense that allows marketers to analyze more than 35,000 brands in over 25 industries, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. More, it allows marketers to tap into those brands’ social media engagement and metrics.

I caught up with Narayan to find out how he thinks social intelligence will impact content marketing strategies, how brands can best decide what social media updates to amplify with paid promotion, and much more.

Question: What are the biggest advantages of understanding your competitors’ social media strategies?

LN: Social media’s gold rush phase, which involved staking claim to as many followers as possible, is long over. Marketers must now work to convert fans and followers into customers. But it doesn’t stop at sales promotion. Brands today use social to provide customer service, respond to crises, introduce products, and recruit talent (i.e. business objectives). All marketers worry about two things: customers and competitors. The advantage to understanding customers is clear. On the competitor side, all brand collateral—whether print, online, or TV—makes its way into social. For the Super Bowl, brands now post their TV spots to YouTube before the game. The net effect of how brands use social creates a line of sight to their larger marketing and business efforts, which if understood, can be a big advantage.

How can content marketers most effectively use social media intelligence to improve their content strategies?

The powerful thing about social media intelligence is that it’s useful for any brand marketer in charge of content. Social media is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding what brands are doing. The rich data that social provides about any brand’s content strategy allows marketers to measure and subsequently improve their own.

At Unmetric, we created something called the Intelligent Workflow in order to help content marketers enhance and improve their efforts with competitive intelligence. Traditionally, brands would listen to consumers, create new content, publish that content, and then listen again.

While listening and publishing are an important part of any content marketing strategy, we believe brands can use data to benchmark their efforts against competitors, aspirational brands, or simply their own past content. This analysis can then be a springboard for new engaging content, as well as provide insights for managing the overall content and campaign mix.Unmetric

Media companies are starting to understand that they need to publish to platforms directly. How will social media intelligence influence the direction media companies take their content?

Media and entertainment brands are unique, in that creating content is already what they do all the time. This includes news outlets from the The New York Times Company to BuzzFeed and entertainment providers from the cable networks to Netflix. For many of these brands, their content is their currency—whether behind a paywall, subscription, or ad revenue model.

However, media companies also need to have a strategy when it comes to social. Social intelligence can help these companies understand things such as what kind of content to share, how much teaser content to share on social and what similar brands are doing—all in an effort to pull in viewers and readers.

Analyzing historical social media data allows marketers to predict how well content will do—this is necessary for brands to publish updates more intelligently. But shouldn’t brands be experimenting, too, and not just relying on what’s worked in the past?

Great point. The short answer is: yes. One of my favorite quotes from Sir Martin Sorrell is: “I believe data can inform great creativity.” The keyword here for me is “inform.” Using historical data, whether anecdotally, or with more in-depth predictive analytics can definitely help inform and inspire during the ideation phase of content creation.

That said, my stance has always been that human ingenuity and insight will always be an essential part of the creative process. No algorithm can perfectly capture the intangible things that go into great content. Marketers should be bold, experiment, and push creative boundaries.

How will new technologies drive the future of competitive intelligence?

As marketing becomes more of a balance between a creative art and data-driven science, new technologies will become more critical for all marketers. In terms of competitive intelligence, there are quite a few emerging technologies that will drive the space forward such as predictive analytics and modeling, artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP), and advanced data mining to name a few.

How can marketers with limited budgets for paid social media best decide what content to amplify?

Brands today don’t enjoy the free organic reach they once did on social. For any brand seeking to understand where and when to put budget behind social efforts, analytics and benchmarking can help. Every brand has different goals with their social media, so paid efforts should be aligned with objectives and executed strategically.

Start by asking what the campaign objective is. Are you trying to maximize social shares? Are you running a contest and want to get sign-ups? Are you asking for user generated content? Are you trying to drive purchases with a sales promotion? Once your objective is clear, you can look back at similar internal campaigns to see what content had the best success.

Competitive intelligence works well here too. Understanding what content competing brands paid to promote through social channels, and the reaction of what’s likely a shared audience, can help inform what might be worth putting money behind.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see brands make when running multiple social media channels?

Some most common mistakes for brands on social today are the same as they were years ago. They include:

  • Not clearly defining objectives for each social network
  • Diving into tactics before developing long-term content strategies
  • Keeping individual social networks in silos vs. exploring cross-network campaigns
  • Conversely to #3, simply posting the same content to all networks even if not appropriate
  • Spending excessive time and resources to manually track and report on data for each network

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