The super-hot political season we’re in is a great time talk about reputation management in social media as professional smear artists work overtime spreading rumors about candidates of all stripes. Obama’s campaign has aggressively recognized this with their Fight The Smears site where they immediately publish any new rumors and refute them decisively in real time. I don’t know if they are using social media monitoring to follow what people are saying but I think it’s likely. This kind of proactive reputation defense requires a combination of technology and human involvement.
For example, though we offer a sentiment indicator in our analysis tools it is just that: an indicator. It identifies words and phrases in context that it thinks could be indications of a negative or positive statement related to a keyword in that search. If it saw ‘Obama sucks‘ in a blog post it would likely flag that as negative. This is where the human beats the computer every time however. Using our drill down feature you can read the ‘negative’ statement in context. Suppose it actually says:
‘ Obama sucks down a frosty at a local fast food joint while talking to a smiling group of fans’
The computer thinks that’s negative, any human knows it’s positive and would correct the sentiment in SM2 accordingly. Yes, it’s labor intensive but not as intensive as rebuilding a reputation damaged by an untruth or misconception.
Sentiment and Accuracy Claims
Semantic search offers up the Holy Grail of search, search that understands natural language queries such as:
‘which dealer in Rochester has a blue Civic in stock?’
The amount of things a search engine would have to understand to return an accurate answer to this question is mind-boggling. It would have to know that Civic and dealer in the same sentence probably means a car is involved, that ‘in stock’ is a sort query and that blue is an attribute. Then it has to know that we’re only interested in Rochester dealers.
This kind of thing is why we have to be very wary of claims of accuracy in sentiment analysis. Unless a service is having actual humans read every result you can only use sentiment as a guide to the general direction of the discussion.
Reputation also varies with demographics and you can see some of this in SM2. If SM2 shows a majority of males from 34-50 in the Midwest think Obama is a Muslim (he is not!), then your management has identified a particular demo in social media that requires your attention and some remedial action.
Reputation management is labor and time intensive. It requires real time discovery because distortions can travel extremely fast in social media, the ultimate rumor mill. Like a recent Doonesbury storyline depicting his weary daughter relentlessly scanning the web 24/7 for Obama smears, it requires a lot of attention.
ROI for Reputation Management?
How do you measure the cost of swing voters in a hotly contested state? Of a false product rumor that derails sales overnight? Of not being prepared when a new market sector latches onto your product for a use you never considered? The ROI is based on risks averted which is tough to quantify.
The subject of social media engagement for marketing purposes is a touchy one, especially with B-C marketing where consumers are very likely to be angered by any kind of pitching in social media. However, for B-B marketing it’s a whole different story- I know because it’s Techrigy’s primary marketing channel and may become the primary channel for B-B lead generation period. But can you measure it?
You can if you plan a campaign, not a campaign like an ad campaign, a campaign designed to turn your engagement into measurable results. You start by hiring or assigning a Community Manager to a product or service within your agency or marketing group. This person’s job is to reach out to social media via a service like ours (overt plug!) and participate in conversations. That’s all well and good but how do you justify the overhead involved?
You start by understanding how people respond to you. If you’re adding value to the conversation via blogging, comments, Twitters, etc. make sure there is a link associated with your name at all times. If people like you response they are quite likely to click on your name/link to find out what your story is. Where that link takes them is critical to creating and measuring conversions.
Let’s look at an example from my world. There are a lot of blogs and conversations out there about social media and brands. It’s a huge subject with a lot of unknowns because we’re creating a whole new world here. This means people are hungry for knowledge and shared experience. We’re a B-B (business to business) company so my real marketing goal is the generation of highly qualified leads. That’s the end game for me. My target market is all of the people out there trying to figure out social monitoring and engagement.
So my message when I comment is always related to helping my peers, who happen to be my prospects, understand what we’re trying to do and how. Because I stay relevant to the thread I’m in and I only pitch when there is a direct request for information, people are clicking my name/link. That link takes them directly to the free sign-up page for SM2 where they can fill out a simple form to get a free account. Those that do are considered conversions.
Very quickly, the formula for ROI is # of leads that sales can close X average value of sale. Say you turn 5% of sign-ups to paying customers (these are made-up numbers) and your average sale is $5000. That makes a lead worth $250 (5000/20=250).
So how do you measure conversions? You can use unique URLs for your link but that doesn’t take into account word of mouth (WOM) which is an exponential factor in social media. You can ask people in your form how they found you but only a few will offer that info. You can use site Analytics to track referring pages but that has limited effectiveness in .
The fact is that there is no totally accurate way to measure the exact ROI for your social media engagement, however it is far more measurable than virtually any form of traditional brand advertising. How are you measuring engagement?
BTW, I’m experimenting with Zemanta in this post, a WordPress plugin that adds links and images it thinks are relevant. Not sure what I think yet…
Like most people involved with social media on a professional level I’ve been reading Groundswell and getting a lot out of it, particularly their insights on social media engagement. However reading it while observing the constantly changing social landscape brings out a big problem with business books and traditional print media devoted to trendy subjects: the rapid loss of relevance.
For example, Groundswell devotes quite a bit of time to a company called Communispace that creates artificial social networks for market research projects. Basically they recruit people to join a network by incentivizing them to participate. They then analyze the results to uncover trends and sentiment about their client’s product or service.
The problem I see with this is that they are essentially using social media to create an old school research tool: focus groups. The problem with tools like focus groups, polls and surveys is that the participants are having questions pushed out to them. This inevitably skews results or misses something that was unpredictable. Social media monitoring, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem- what you hear is the unvarnished and unguided natural conversation.
The Communispace model, which I’m sure is quite useful, looks transitional to me, an attempt to mash together social media and traditional market research into something most marketers feel more comfortable with. The problem is that if you have to entice people to join something they would not otherwise be interested in and incentivize them to participate, you have colored the results.
If you use monitoring to discover a real community, perhaps one you didn’t know existed, then you’ve found a treasure trove of real opinions, reactions, reviews, etc. The difference between these two approaches is where Groundswell has a bit of a problem. Their Communispace example feels quite dated to me because it is still an attempt to use older marketing survey techniques in a medium that doesn’t require them.
Rather than being a problem, this looks like a breakthrough to me, one that the Groundswell authors acknowledge to some degree. The conflict is that they are Forrester researchers and companies like Forrester have built their expertise on surveying and polling, focus groups, etc. The ability to actually listen in on market conversations made possible by social media will drive a sea change in the market research industry, one that today’s early adopters are starting to understand.
I need to expand on the title of this post, which appeared in my last post, because I think it is a critical distinction. With the emergence of social media as a very different beast than the web, understanding how different is critical.
- The Internet is a storehouse of information contained in websites with distinct URLs, often relatively static content (information isn’t necessarily always changing) and structured navigation that can be indexed and saved.
- Social media is a river of conversations, often not associated with a location (URL) which means capturing its history is a totally different challenge than traditional search models. Rather than pointing to a source, social media monitoring indicates a zeitgeist* than is continually evolving.
*Zeitgeist (pronounced ) is originally a German expression that means “the spirit of the age”, literally translated as time (Zeit), spirit (Geist) (Geist)“. In some countries it has a different meaning; e.g. in the Netherlands Zeitgeist literally refers to; the mind of the time(tijdsgeest), and mind is understood as the mental spirit (state of mind). The word zeitgeist describes the intellectual and cultural climate of an era.
This is important. Understanding a global conversation requires more than simply returning accurate search results. There must be analysis tools associated with the discovery tool. Why? To answer these questions:
- What are they saying?
- Who are they?
- Where are they?
- Is it good, bad or indifferent?
- What do they look like (gender, age, etc.)?
- How do I reach them?
Without analysis tools you’re forced to try and distinguish value in a sea of babble. That’s why we’re constantly working to improve both the data and the tools in SM2.
I’m continually amazed that the dialog around behavioral targeting doesn’t include social media monitoring (our territory). If I’m buying a car, I’m increasingly likely to go out into Twitter, blogs, forums, etc., to compare experiences with others who own or are thinking about owning that car. If I’m a brand owner, this kind of conversation monitoring is critical to understanding behavior very early in the buying process. That’s the situation now but it is evolving very rapidly.
We’re seeing evidence that consumers are not using conventional sites and search for information and they’re not allowing surveying of their actual behavior when they do. It is analogous to the movement to either lie to or refuse to participate in political polling, a movement that kills the value of the survey biz. Only monitoring can offer insights in this environment.
This realization is gradually starting to filter out to the marketing community and it is causing that proverbial groundswell effect everyone is talking about. If consumers are talking amongst themselves as a primary means of gathering information for a buying decision then virtually every traditional means of reaching them is broken, possibly forever. The best sign I’ve seen that this is happening is the repeated attempts at conferences and forums for the advertising business to try and figure out how to deliver advertising to social media, a model that can’t work because that world is too granular and too changeable: An influential blog post or Twitter thread can rise in value, affect decisions and fade away before any relevant ad has a chance of getting served there.
Monitoring provides the window and drill-down offers the access but the final challenge we all face is managing our end of the dialog in beneficial ways. That’s the new marketing paradigm IMHO.
The ability to connect different applications and needs is an important aspect of social media with its interlinked model of friends, followers, groups, etc. Last night we launched the first of our community features in SM2.
First a little background: We use a concept called folders to help categorize the results you get in SM2. There are default folders and you can create your own. You set the rules (attributes) for the folder (legal-related, positive sentiment, Bill Clinton, etc) and anything you find is automatically placed in relevant folders if those keywords are found in context. You can then analyze by folder categories, compare folders, etc. It’s a very useful way of filtering results.
As more and more users joined the SM2 community we realized that we could make it possible to share folder rules that worked well for you and vice-versa, saving time and helping expand the discovery experience in SM2. This is now enabled- you can add a folder rule by sharing it and go into a shared area to find folder rules that might help with your analysis. And if you try one and it’s not for you, clear it in your account- it won’t affect your search results.
More community features coming soon.
SM2, like most of our competition, is driven by a keyword set-up you do when initiating a search. We provide a tabbed interface to help you define sets of keywords that will accurately drive your search results. These include keyword categories like Organization, Competitors, Products, People, etc. By using these categories when setting up your SM2 search you prepare the application so it can help you sort and analyze results. We also offer the ability to utilize negative phrases to eliminate undesired results- plus some advice on not using words that are too generic.
Most of us are familiar with the use of keywords in search optimization for web sites and in contextual ad campaigns like Google Adwords. These keywords are the phrases most commonly entered into search engines by people seeking information. Keywords for social media monitoring are a little different because we’re looking for things people refer to in conversations rather than search terms. ‘Buzzwords’ might be a better description.
I recently did an SM2 search on the subject of Al Gore and We Can Do It, his climate change awareness campaign. The only keywords I used were “Al Gore” and “We can do it” and wecandoit.org, their website. These were specific enough to return a lot of results, enough for me to see trends, identify sentiment (highly positive, BTW), get a good idea of geo-location, etc. Other ‘brands’ can require many more keywords, particularly when there are many competing brands, multiple markets, etc.
If you’re finding that you’re getting too few or too many relevant results you can clear your search and start over with a better set of keywords, perhaps removing generic terms or adding a few more specific phrases. And if you’re tracking someone with a common name like ‘Mike Johnson’ you may want to associate his name with something less common like the name of the company he works for. This creates a phrase that kills off getting a lot of irrelevant results.
- Brand Management
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