So far, Wayin has focused primarily on analytics such as click-through rates for proof of its effectiveness, but it plans to expand such metrics soon, McNealy said. Meanwhile, it has forged data-integration partnerships with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Klout.
Originally created by McNealy along with co-founders Scott Johnston and Tom Jessiman, Wayin named McNealy CEO in May, replacing Elaine Feeney. The company has taken in $33.8 million in five funding rounds from investors including U.S. Venture Partners.
Now with 60 employees, it boasts sales growth of 260 percent year-over-year since 2013. Adobe, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, The Weather Channel, Major League Baseball and the Denver Broncos are all among the organizations it claims as clients.
Many traditional businesses are looking for help understanding social data, said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT. "Making objective sense out of the giga-reams of social information being generated daily would be a remarkable achievement."
Wayin faces competition from players small and large, but "many of those companies position their efforts in social media as part of larger portfolios," King noted.
Wayin is betting its persuasion-focused approach will set it apart.
As much as half of the total value of today's corporate advertising budgets is "a jump ball," McNealy contends. The competition is between traditional, hindsight-oriented approaches and forward-focused tactics using real-time marketing.
"This is billions and billions of dollars at stake," he said. "It's a big business opportunity."
That opportunity may well be tailor-made for McNealy, who calls himself not only a "raging libertarian" but also "a hopeless capitalist: I love investing, building, growing, buying, selling, hiring and firing," he said. "Capitalism is an economic war that has positive effects -- it's a wonderful war and a great competition."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.