It seems that everyone and teen-age son is a social media expert. All those experts seem to have nebulous ideas on how to promote your brand, get more visitors and really, really want you to buy their book. What’s often missing in all these “experts” books and articles is actual proof that what they do works. Enter Marshal Sponder, who is very honest that he’s not a “marketer” or “public relations” expert, but just a guy who put together a bunch of data and provides insight into that data. He’s a a web analytics expert, who has used analytics to optimize social media marketing efforts of companies from Gillette, Warner Brothers to the New York Times. Yes, he also recently published the book Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and using Metrics and really wants you to buy it. We were fortunate enough to get some time with him and he provided some interesting insight into Social Media, what really works, and more important proof on what works. It’s a very long interview, but if you are looking to learn something about social media, it’s worth the read.
Can you give us a brief overview of Marshal Sponder, how you got into metrics?
Getting involved in metrics was a gradual awaking for me. For most of the 1990’s I was earning a living as a Unix Administrator/Architect for various banks and corporations, mostly on Wall Street, and after 9/11 that work dried up due to changing times. I transferred my skills into SEO work, and began working for IBM (in 2003) which led me to work on Search Analytics at IBM. In order to track how organic and internal search affected IBM.com; I needed to master Web Analytics (at the time, IBM Surfaid). Around the same time, I started blogging at WebMetricsGuru.com about Web Analytics; my blog became popular and begun to be read within the Web Analytics community.
As a result of my blogging, I developed a dedicated following with the Analytics community and I was approached by members of the Web Analytics Association and urged to run for a seat on the Board of Directors; I ran and was elected, founding the Social Media Committee, which grew to be the largest the WAA ever had, totaling 76 members at its peak out of a total membership of under 2000 web analysts. The Committee was in the forefront of Social Media Metrics, attempting to draft the first Social Media Standards for industry, the first attempt I’m aware of. That work made me further deepen my ideas about web standards and the needs for them. After I left the WAA Board two years later, and the committee I founded was dissolved due to a change of direction at the WAA, I continued to be a voice for analytics and standards in the rapidly merging Social Media and Web Analytics communities, and that finally inspired me to write a book on Social Media Analytics, which was just published by McGraw-Hill in July 2011.