LIVONIA — Market Strategies International released its inaugural Social Media Brand Index, which provides a rigorous view of how top brands across different industries succeeded in social media in 2011.

The Index, which also shares five insights every marketer should consider when analyzing social media investments, is based on the most comprehensive methodology used to date.

“Companies are swimming in Web analytics, but they often have no idea where they are in relation to other swimmers,” said Theo Downes-Le Guin, a consultant to Market Strategies and its former chief research officer. “Our Index rank orders nearly 150 leading brands across industries as well as the most social brands by industry.”

Market Strategies specifically built this Index to address the effect of sponsored — not just “naturally occurring” — social media content and interactions. The underlying premise is that four elements drive a successful brand presence in social media:

* Volume: The number of conversations that contain a consumer opinion, emotion or behavior.
* Net Sentiment: The ratio of positive to negative sentiments expressed about a brand.
* Positive Emotions: The number of content items that are identified as having positive emotions.
* Sponsored Presence: The number of “likes” on a company-sponsored Facebook page, the number of followers on a corporate-sponsored Twitter account(s) and the number of subscribers to sponsored YouTube channel(s).

Downes-Le Guin added: “We’re still very early in the game in terms of understanding and analyzing social media marketing efforts, and we’re years away from an agreed-upon ROI model. But, we believe social media will remain an important part of the marketing mix and our ability to validly demonstrate that importance will grow over time.”

Five key takeaways emerged from the study that may be instructive for marketers who struggle with how to support their brands using social media:

* Diversity of social channels and tactics is critical to success.
* Every industry has a different “right” level of social.
* Reach without positive sentiment is a short-term win.
* Not all sponsored channels are equal.
* Measuring success requires mashing up data sources.

The competitive set of 146 brands for the Index is based on the top companies in the 2010 Fortune 500 and on Interbrand’s¬†100 Best Global Brands. By using these sources, the goal was to create a competitive set that was comprehensive but not overly weighted toward US-based and publicly traded brands. For analysis, Volume, Net Sentiment and Positive Emotions were collected and produced in NetBase, a leading social media analytics platform, based on 12 months of online activity in 2011. Full details on the methodology are included in the Index.

Market Strategies International is a market research consultancy with deep expertise in communications, energy, financial services, healthcare and technology. The firm designs and implements intelligent research and delivers meaningful results that help companies make business decisions with total confidence. Founded in 1989, Market Strategies has achieved ISO 20252 certification and consistently ranks as one of the 25 largest global market research firms, according to an annual report published in Marketing News.

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