DigitasLBi, Wharton's Berger Introduce 'Contagious Index' To Measure Online Influence

Why is some content shared a lot and some not so much? And what types of content are most effective?

Many brands are on a continual quest for answers to those queries. Now, in a bid to help them in that quest, DigitasLBi and author and Wharton professor Jonah Berger are introducing the "Contagious Index," a new social-media monitoring tool that analyzes social content on Facebook and Twitter based on consumer-to-consumer data.

The agency claims the tool can measure a brand’s ability to consistently create and distribute shared and engaging social content and determine how those abilities stack up against competitors.

"Brands using their social channels primarily for customer service [and] broadcast messaging aren't tapping into the power of the platforms," says Jill Sherman, SVP, social strategy DigitasLBi. "Not having a thoughtfully planned social strategy and content strategy will inevitably lower your chances of success."



With this index, marketers and brands are able to map and compare brands in social media across different benchmarks, including the consistency of content, brand virality, and a brand’s performance versus the industry average. And, the agency asserts, it can provide insights into the “why” behind the performance.

“Sharing content is personal and a uniquely ‘social’ action that is a powerful indicator of what’s resonated with an individual in a meaningful way,” says Sherman. “Sharing is markedly different from other social media actions such as commenting, liking, or subscribing, not just in the way it impacts perceptions among personal networks, but in the way it impacts algorithms. We now have the ability to assess the value and velocity around consumer-to-consumer sharing and gauge how well content is performing to predict future outcomes.”

Few brands dominate in both Facebook and Twitter popularity. For instance, the most "contagious" airline brand on Facebook is Qatar Airlines, while Delta gets the nod on Twitter. That’s probably because the channels require different marketer tactics and strategies, per the agency.

"Because behaviors vary across Twitter and Facebook, understanding the types of content, formats, and how to entice particular actions are essential to success," says Sherman. "This tool allows us to take a deeper, more prescriptive look at what is working on the different platforms to inform future content strategies."

Oreo, Jaguar, BMW, and Simply Orange Juice are among the index's social media winners.

Mary Kay is the most successful beauty brand on Facebook because of its business model. Its fans have a financial incentive to promote Mary Kay products because the brand only sells products peer to peer and Mary Kay reps are compensated for every product they sell to their friends. Therefore, people are more likely to engage and share Mary Kay content.

But Urban Decay is the most popular beauty brand via Twitter because of its visually striking images and regular giveaways.

Meanwhile, Taco Bell has one of the highest “contagious” index scores on Twitter given its lighthearted and humorous way the fast-food chain interacts with followers. The brand frequently posts tweets that feature pop culture references or recent memes, and it retweets comical posts that mention Taco Bell. Starbucks receives the top score on Facebook thanks to its loyal following’s strong affinity to engage in more serious conversations. 

"Sure, 'likes' are nice, but relatively passive," says Sherman. "Active sharing is a more meaningful measure of value. Through the Contagious Index, we can extract insights that will help engineer--precisely--success of a content series for a single brand." 

More on the index can be found here.


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