Viacom Looks to Set Social Media Guarantees

Partners with Mass Relevance on Tool to Measure Engagement Across Social Media

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Holland Roden, who plays Lydia Martin in MTV's 'Teen Wolf,' in a Viacom Echo campaign for the film 'Oculus.'
Holland Roden, who plays Lydia Martin in MTV's 'Teen Wolf,' in a Viacom Echo campaign for the film 'Oculus.' Credit: Viacom

Viacom is taking steps toward offering advertisers guarantees for the social media impact it can give them.

The company, which owns networks such as MTV and Comedy Central, plans to underpin the guarantees with data from Mass Relevance on social activity across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Google + and YouTube in real time, according to Jeff Lucas, head of sales, music and entertainment, at Viacom.

The resulting measurement platform -- dubbed Echograph -- will bring a level of accountability to social media that has yet to be seen from TV networks, Mr. Lucas said. It will let Viacom give clients data on reach, influencers, engagement, age and gender breakdowns and hashtag popularity, among others.

Echograph will support Viacom Velocity, the company's previously announced integrated, custom content unit, which develops branded content campaigns to run across its portfolio of networks like MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central. As part of Viacom Velocity, clients can make use of Viacom Echo Social Media Network, which tailors Velocity-created campaigns for social media.

Viacom isn't planning to guarantee that a simple flight of TV commercials will generate a certain amount of social activity. A hypothetical buy under the new program could instead involve a marketer commissioning custom social-ready content -- video, gifs, images -- from Viacom Velocity, to be distributed through the company's various social accounts and its partnerships with players like Twitter and Tumblr.

As Viacom and Mass Relevance gain in-market experience using Echograph over the next few months, they expect to be able to guarantee certain levels of social reach and targeting for client campaigns.

Because Viacom is still in the early stages of Echograph, there are no formalized plans for what happens if, once the company starts offering guarantees, it fails to meet them.

While there are platforms that measure social reach, such as Nielsen Twitter ratings, Mr. Lucas said there isn't one place where marketers can easily find not only the impressions but engagement across all forms of social media.

"Social isn't just about impressions, it's about engagement," he said, noting how Viacom viewers not only retweet content but will add their own flair to gifs and share with friends, something that is currently difficult to quantify.

Viacom's ultimate goal is to more quickly and become predictive when it comes to social media, he added.

Echograph will be exclusive to Viacom through October, but Mass Relevance Chief Strategy Officer Jesse Redniss said they may look to partner with other TV networks and companies to provide this data in the future.

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