Expert Q&A: David Alston, VP of marketing and community, Radian6

David Alston, Radian6's VP of marketing and community, answers questions about measuring and monitoring social media.

David Alston, Radian6's VP of marketing and community, answers questions about measuring and monitoring social media.

PRWeek: Many businesses have turned their attention to measurement and monitoring during this economic recession. What are some of the most frequent requests you're hearing from clients?

David Alston: The recession has certainly caused many organizations to reassess their spending and to look at new ways to reach their customers. At the same time, they are realizing that social media is not a media but yet another two-way communications channel to reach out to customers, influencers, and prospects.

A number of the questions we get now are not just about how to effectively monitor all forms of social media but how to engage. This had led us to develop new features that allow users to work together in responding to Tweets, posts, and other comments with the ability to track and report on their progress.

PRWeek: Where are we in terms of measuring social media? And what's next?

Alston: We are just scratching the surface in terms of how social media will transform the agency and the enterprise. The nature of social media - its accessibility, transparency, and its ability to build relationships - is challenging the processes and structures within companies, many that have become too rigid and siloed to react to the new Web 2.0-empowered consumer. I believe we are where CRM was 10 years ago.

While in many cases PR was the first to adopt social media, many, if not most, functions will eventually be affected. This is why we have decided to migrate from a dashboard solution to a platform, integrating with other enterprise systems like Salesforce and Webtrends. Social media listening and engaging will eventually become part of the business landscape, no different from the phone or e-mail.

PRWeek: Radian6 works with a variety of organizations. How do the needs differ across different types of organizations?

Alston: We've been very fortunate to have clients to guide us with the development of our platform, including various regional and global PR and social media specialty agency partners and corporates like Dell, Comcast, UPS, and Embarq. While the need for real-time data, easy-to-use tools, alerts, and reports all remain pretty similar there are a number of different uses across the various customer segments and organizational departments.

The PR function is interested in monitoring for crises, tracking campaign effectiveness, influencer discovery, and media release reach. The marketing function is interested in competitive intelligence gathering, share of conversation versus competitors, digital campaign measurement, Web analytics integration, and lead generation. The customer service function looks for issue discovery, engagement tracking, team workflow coordination and reporting, and CRM integration.

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