Publishing in the Big Data Era

We’re in the era of data everywhere. As the Web becomes more social (not there yet — see below), publishers have to look at even more touch points. We spoke with Sachin Kamdar, CEO of social analytics company, about some of the hurdles publishers keep tripping over.

What is biggest issue facing publishers when it comes to understanding social data?
The biggest issue is being able to aggregate other metrics with social data. What publishers do right now is think about social as its own silo. How many shares on Twitter, how many shares on Facebook? How does it intersect with the audience? They need to use pieces of data to come up with a social strategy moving forward. There’s a data problem now, as they aggregate across other data areas of their property. There needs to be one data stream. It’s about being able to surface those intersections for the publishers. Is my social audience different than the standard reader that visits? If so, how do I get them to stay and then share and comment and engage with them?

What are some mistakes that publishers make when looking social data?
The mistake is not going far enough; people treat social as a linear one-off thing — dropping a few social buttons on my site will be enough to get content viral. The other thing is that they just tweet out their own articles. Many publishers will treat social as an RSS feed and link to every post they have. This is not a way to engage with audience. Some digital companies don’t realize it’s not a one-way street. Content is your property; people are talking about it, so engage with them.

So it sounds like publishers need to look at themselves as brands?
I would take it a step further. Not only are publishers brands but so are the content creators themselves. They (reporters) should have all the data transparent to them to understand what audience is resonating with them from a social perspective and leverage that data to grow the audience.

But do publishers have resources to do this?
It takes technology to do it. When you think about this, they have to quickly pull in information from social networks into an interface for someone to understand how the data intersects. It would take someone sitting there and listening to what’s happening. There are free tools that can do an OK job; Google Analytics is a good way to start and may have to use that. But it’s more about letting content creators have their conversations about content and engage audiences in a multidirectional fashion, as opposed just posting on the site and waiting for comments.

Has the Internet fully moved from an SEO model to a social model?
Not yet. Search still very much accounts for a good portion of traffic. If you look at growth between the two, social is edging up where search was. Search is sort of flat; someone searches for something, you might now know their keyword. With social, you know the audience and brand and all the things that are interactive with social. It presents an opportunity to build an audience and engage with them. Publishers should leverage the fact that content is sharable; use it to your advantage as a publisher. When you think about social vs. search, SEO is almost commoditized to a certain extent in terms of practices, and in another sense, Google is always changing its algorithm, so it’s tough to optimize without spending a lot of money. The best bet is social where you have the ability to engage and optimize, and don’t need to spend money on an SEO tool or consultant. If you have important things to say, great content, you can use social to augment and push that so content reaches the potential you have instead of relying on search to drive traffic. It can be proactive instead of reactive.

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