In essence, the SQI is an indicator of the volume of social sharing and clicks across all of ShareThis's 2.4 million publishers, who are mostly smaller, long-tail players but also include major outlets like Vogue, The Food Network, New York magazine, AllThingsD and others. In addition to showing what content is being shared across Facebook, Twitter and other social channels, the index's numbers can then be sliced and diced along 27 separate vertical categories, according to the specific needs of Starcom clients.
The move aims to create a hard number around the value of "sharing" and to offer social metrics alongside demographics or reach, said ShareThis CEO Kurt Abrahamson in an interview with AdExchanger.
"We haven't put a strict time frame on the arrangement," he said. "My hope is that as we get more visibility, more publishers will be encouraged to participate in our network and use our share tools, since they'll be seen by one of the largest media agencies."
The SMG relationship may set the stage for greater integration of mobile/app-focused sharing Socialize, which ShareThis acquired in March. At the moment, the SQI doesn't reach into mobile – increasingly a key area for social media activity – but Abrahamson expects that to change by summer.
SMG has used ShareThis for two years. The expansion of the relationship could provide solace to long-tail publishers alarmed by the diminishing returns of cookie-based data, which face challenges from regulators and browser makers.
But can social sharing data really provide a clear target for advertisers, as opposed to any other contextual or semantic tool?
"For marketers, they can use social sharing as a signal to identify sites that fit their campaign needs and the verticals that are important for their buying decisions," said Abrahamson. "We just used the SQI for SMG'S client Wendy's in order to better target food and beverage content… It's not meant to replace any one metric, but make all the other data points that marketers use that much more insightful."