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6/10/2011
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MotiveQuest Takes Social Analytics Beyond Dashboards

CEO David Rabjohns treats social media analytics as online anthropology, using Big Data analysis to deliver deep insights.

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MotiveQuest CEO David Rabjohns says he is in the same business as social analytics companies like Radian6--but only sort of.

MotiveQuest monitors all the same social feeds from Twitter, and Facebook, and blogs, but without the emphasis on day-to-day monitoring of brand mentions associated with most social listening services. Instead, Rabjohns sees himself in the business of "online anthropology" or, in more plain language, marketing research on consumer desires and emotions. With customers like Citibank, Nike, Microsoft, Kraft, Novartis, and Audi, MotiveQuest specializes in delivering highly customized analysis of social chatter. The goal isn't even necessarily limited to influencing online behavior per se.

"Online people are motivated by the same things offline people are--it's just that you can measure them," Rabjohns said in an interview. The kind of analysis delivered by a social media analytics dashboard has a different value to an organization, and customers like Kraft also use Radian6 for that purpose.

"There is certainly a lot of confusion still in the marketplace, but our best customers are ones who have been through the use of a dashboard from a simple service and understand the limitations of that," Rabjohns said. "You can't create a dashboard that will effectively answer every question people have. Dashboards are sort of broad and shallow, as opposed to focused and deep." The typical focus on the mentions of brands and products leaves a lot of valuable information untouched, he said. "If you want to answer business questions, you need to look beyond brand monitoring because 90% of the conversations out there don't mention a brand."

Before starting MotiveQuest in 2003, Rabjohns was the youngest ever account planning executive vice president at Leo Burnett, the renowned advertising and marketing agency, but he said he has also recruited a technology team with the Big Data skills required for social media analytics.

Still, although MotiveQuest creates software tools for customers, most of its analysis comes in the form of briefings delivered by consultants. As an example of a trend they were able to tease out of the data, he cites a research project conducted for BMW and its Mini car brand. MotiveQuest studied Mini brand advocates to understand what made them so enthusiastic and motivated to promote their product to their online friends.

"It turned out it wasn't the motoring experience or the handling of the car that mattered, it was the customization of the car," Rabjohns said. Sales grew 22% once BMW realigned its marketing to emphasize that feature, he said.

Employees have more ways to communicate than ever, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A buyer's guide to enterprise social networking. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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