Expert Interview with Korey Lee on Using Social Media Analytics

Most business and website owners acknowledge the importance of collecting data about their site's traffic, but when it comes to actually analyzing all those numbers - well, that's a different story.

Korey Lee, CIO for data aggregator SumAll, says the biggest pain point these days for everyone from small businesses to multibillion dollar brands is understanding the impact and effectiveness of their social media campaigns.

And tied to this is finding methods to aggregate the dozens if not hundreds of different Facebook, Twitter and Google Analytics accounts across several subsidiaries, site properties, or brands.

It's no easy feat.

For traditional analysts, it can take days if not weeks to export, aggregate, collage and clean data on behalf of different brands. But a tool like SumAll can automatically import dozens of data platforms in minutes and then update these data streams in real time.

For instance, Lee says Starbucks uses SumAll across dozens of country-specific social media sites, and consequently can get a quick and easy view of their social presence and impact internationally rather than just country by country.

"Most importantly, perhaps, we realize that business owners are incredibly busy running their businesses," he says. "Our vision is to help businesses of all sizes make better decisions from their data without having to spend hours poring over spreadsheets, writing queries or haggling engineers to get back at their data."

We recently checked in with Korey to learn more about SumAll and get his advice on how to leverage analytics in order to increase a brand's reach. Here's what he had to say:

Tell us about SumAll...what services do you offer? Who should be using them?

SumAll is a business intelligence tool for small- and medium-sized businesses. We created and are the clear leader in the Connected Data category. In just two years, more than 200,000 companies have signed on to SumAll. In addition to SMBs, SumAll has also reached enterprise businesses, including Siemens, Walmart, Starbucks, TED, National Geographic, Pandora, EA and Ford.

Our elegant cloud-based product is an omnichannel business intelligence platform for SMBs, eCommerce stores, agencies and enterprises businesses. Currently deployed in more than 100 countries, we connect more than 30 business data sources (revenue, analytics, social, marketing services) to help drive key financial, marketing and customer insights. Engagement for our tool is five times that of silo/single data type products like Google Analytics.

SumAll is currently tracking some $4 billion in eCommerce data, more than 300 billion social actions and 190 billion visits.

What sets SumAll apart from other sites offering data tracking and analysis?

SumAll is able to bring all your data into one place without any engineering or analysts. All you need is your username, password and, for some platforms, an API key. Once you enter in your credentials, SumAll does all the heavy lifting for you, processes your data, then feeds it back to you in a seamless and easy-to-digest environment. Users also have the option to receive daily and weekly email updates for all their data sources so they can stay on top of what's happening with their business.

We're also excited to announce our most recent feature, AlwaysAware, which allows users to stay abreast of their stats in a real-time basis and receive email or SMS alerts when their data falls outside specific bounds. For example, if CPCs become very inexpensive, a marketing manager will likely want to know so that they can ramp up spend to take advantage of lower prices.

There are a ton of other vertical analytics tools out there - largely focused on one area (Google Analytics for traffic, Hootsuite for social), but SumAll is the only one that provides the horizontal breadth of data across all types of platforms so you can see what's going on with all aspects of your business in one email, one interface and stay on top of all your data in real time.

How can analyzing all the data in one place help a business owner with their marketing strategy?

Experiencing your social, marketing, traffic and transactional data in one unified environment allows you to see what's happening with your business in real time and take action on those insights. One of our users, Diamond Candles (a scented candle online store), was able to see a correlation in Facebook campaigns to traffic and revenue yielding the insight that Facebook was a successful acquisition channel for them over Twitter or Instagram. Conversely, other SumAll customers have found that Instagram or Twitter work better for them over Facebook - it really depends on your audience, customer demographic and vertical, but regardless, the insights are within your data, and you can finally get to them with SumAll.

Social media aside, bringing AdWords, Bing, MailChimp, Sendgrid and ConstantContact into your SumAll account can also yield intelligence on how your paid and email acquisition channels are functioning in real time. This enables the owner-operator or marketing manager to experiment with more channels and impact the bottom line without requiring armies of analysts and engineers.

What do you think is the biggest misconceptions business owners have about all the numbers they collect - from Facebook fans to ad clicks to retweets? What do they tend to focus on that maybe isn't really helpful? What are they commonly overlooking?

I think much of the time, SMB owners are really caught up in having an account on every single social media outlet. While that might be good for initial experimentation, after that, it's most important to see where your exponential growth is and if it's something that's driving sales or traffic for you. Once you have identified where your sweet spots are, it's best to focus on those.

How does using a program like SumAll help empower business owners to start understanding what all the numbers mean instead of relying on outside help?

SumAll cuts out the need for a data analyst. Rather than having to spend tons of time going from one platform or interface to the next to see your growth, we allow you draw those correlations all in a single place. If you want to track your email campaign's open rate to see if it actually had an affect on sales, SumAll allows you to do that in seconds. It's also helpful to have these all in one space because if you didn't have all your data in front of you, it's much more difficult to realize that one thing could affect another.

What are currently the most cost-effective marketing tools available online these days?

SumAll - obviously. Granted I'm a little biased, we do provide a completely free tool that can track dozens of marketing channels including SEM, SEO, email and social media. How do you beat that?

There are of course other great tools like Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Chartbeat and Mixpanel out there, which are on the lower end of the cost spectrum relative to heavier and pricier integrations like Oracle, SAP or Omniture. Most of these lighter-weight tools only give you insight into one aspect of your business, though so you still need something like SumAll to get back to the 30,000 foot horizontal view of your business - from soup to nuts.

Based on your experience, what seems to be the ideal balance for businesses when trying to figure out how to allocate resources to social media efforts vs. PPC vs. SEO vs. other traditional marketing strategies? Is there a formula that can offer that offers the best ROI?

I wish there was a magical formula that offers optimal ROI; perhaps we just haven't discovered it yet.

I believe that social media is the one of the most cost-effective marketing channels today. It's still an incredibly new ecosystem, so there's tons of headroom for growth and optimization. Even if you decide to hire a social media manager and buy some ads on these platforms, it's still economical - clicks and impressions are generally cheaper than SEM and demographic reach and preferences are much easier to narrow down and target against.

That said, it's also important to test across a variety channels and measure what's working and what's not. I'm of the belief that ultimately, content is king - investing time in generating quality content that's relevant to your customers, helpful to the marketplace and speaks to your business will net you better SEO rankings, higher relevancy for PPC/SEM and give you more credibility in social media.

Strategies will naturally vary from business to business. Some of our users are wildly successful on social while others are killing it on SEM or display - it's really a matter of understanding your customer audience and where they spend their time.

Whether it's ad clicks, impressions, retweets or likes - business owners are fundamentally paying for engagement. The average adult in the U.S. spends more than five hours online per day, which surpassed TV and continues to rise at a rate of 16 percent per year. As individual attention is increasingly drawn to online sources, targeted, data driven marketing to a specific demographic is probably the most effective way to reach your audience.

Traditional media may make sense for household brands simply to increase general awareness, but it's fundamentally incredibly difficult to quantify impact, so unless you're running a Coca-cola type brand, I would shy away from it.

What brands do you think we can all learn from as far as how they are using data to effectively grow business?

Target, Amex and Google - all very different companies, but all using data to intelligently engage customers.

Target, in spite of their recent credit card fiasco, collects a ton of data on their users, unbeknownst to most. Based on spend patterns and preferences, they were able to discern and market to teenage mothers, much to the chagrin of her parents. They continue to use this data to retarget campaigns toward existing customers.

Though more subtle, credit card companies like American Express have treasure troves of data on user consumption patterns and have leveraged this data to create increasingly targeted marketing campaigns and tailor experiences to specific user preferences.

Google Now, the product embedded within more current Android devices, utilizes location, calendar, email, maps and search data to provide suggestions, reminders and guidance that optimize your life. For instance, if you have a meeting across town and you've included the location in your calendar entry, Google Now will alert you when you need to leave via your preferred method of transit to ensure you get there in time - it even accounts for traffic!

The more data points we can connect for an individual or a business, the more improvement and optimizations are possible. I believe these companies, large and mighty as they may be, are still only scratching the surface of possibility in this realm.

What are some of the most exciting or intriguing digital marketing tools in the works right now? How do you think they'll change the game?

I think there are several digital marketing strategies that are increasingly effective today - the top three we've been focusing on are AB testing, content marketing and mobile.

AB Testing tools like Optimizely and VisualWebsiteOptimizer are great for rapid iteration on sign-up / check-out / landing page flows to determine statistically performant results.

Taking a thought leadership role in your area of expertise via content marketing through your company's blog or forums is a great way to engage your own customers and the broader community. Our customers are always curious how they stack up to their peers - providing performance benchmarks or sales lines so that companies have a proxy for where they stand adds value. This requires getting intelligence out of your internal data. If you want to go big and expensive, check out Oracle or SAP. For a faster, lighter-weight data implementation, take a look at Tableau or RJMetrics.

Mobile advertising is becoming ever more pervasive and with GPS data can become ever more relevant and targeted, especially with increasing engagement on social platforms. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, among other networks, are prime opportunities to reach a very targeted demographic of users with pre-determined preferences. Across our thousands of SEM users, clicks on these social platforms are generally cheaper as well. We did a recent post on this here.

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