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Monitoring & Analyzing Social Media

With over 1.5 billion conversations stored, can you afford not to listen?

Category: Google and Search

Sep 15, 2008 0 Comments

The fluid nature of Social Media

Alisa has an insightful post on how conversations in social media are streams rather than locations. This ilustrates a fundemental reason why a monitoring service like SM2 is very different from an indexing service like Google. In essence we are collecting all the information that people are assembling into streams and enabling users to follow streams as they develop- streams that include their brands and reputations. Ordinarily you could only follow a few select users or groups because of time and resource constraints. With SM2 you have a tool that helps track all the streams and analyzes their content, sources and impact in real time.

We also hold our collection effectively forever (that’s the plan) in its original instance. If you Tweet then delete that Tweet, we still have it and if you reference a keyword that one of our users is seeking we will serve up that piece of conversational history along with any available public meta-data you’ve volunteered, any associated data connected with your Tweet by others and we offer up a results page that tells our user quite a bit about you.

Social media is fluid, however SM2 is effectively taking constant snapshots of that flow and and making it possible to return to any given moment.

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Aug 21, 2008 0 Comments

SM2 is not a search engine

We had an interesting conversation here at Techrigy headquarters about our technology with a guest who came by to learn about what we do. And we ran into a common misconception about SM2: That it is some kind of search engine. While it has some search capabilities, search is not its primary function.

Search solves a problem: finding specific answers to queries.

SM2 solves different problems: Finding references to specific terms across social media conversations and content and understanding who is having those conversations, what they’re saying and why. Unlike search, which seeks to supply the best answer(s), SM2 offers up all the possible results and then provides tools for organizing and understanding all of the relevant results.

SM2 has two components. There is a collection system that goes out and collects new social media results on an ongoing basis and stores those results in our Social Media Warehouse. Each result, which might be a blog post, a Tweet, meta data from a YouTube video, etc., is parsed for various data within that result. This data includes public information about the person who created the result such as location, gender, age, etc, any tagging or categorization the user has provided, things like DNS records and IP addresses, URLs, Alexa and Technorati data, etc. Each result can have up to 30 or more data fields in SM2.

The warehouse grows every day. We recently bypassed the 500 million results level and will rapidly hit one billion results as social media participation explodes. Each of those billion results will have multiple data fields which SM2 users can access. Obviously understanding all of this is a challenge. That’s where the second component of SM2 comes in.

The SM2 application front end is a set of tools for discovering conversations and understanding them without having to manually go through them one by one. Set-up gives you the ability to tailor the things you wish to monitor by using keyword phrases, excludes (phrases you do not want to find), whitelists (sources you specifically wish to monitor), etc. Once you run your search, SM2 goes into the warehouse and brings back all the results it finds that match your set-up and analyzes them. After the initial search it continues to bring back results as they are added to the warehouse until you terminate the search.

The analysis tools SM2 provides are extensive, comparable in some ways to web metrics tools like Google Analytics- except that they are very focused on the humans behind the conversations rather than traffic sources and patterns. They look at sentiment, gender, age, location, popularity, trends and themes, categories, etc.

For people who are very used to the search engine model, these differences are a little challenging to grasp. The key lies in understanding how social media differs from the traditional or web 1.0 Internet. Once you grasp that social media is primarily about communication the difference becomes easier to understand.

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Jun 12, 2008 0 Comments

SaaS, Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and SM2

We’re a software as a service (SaaS) company. A few years ago that was almost a novelty, especially in business to business applications where the trust factor was an issue as in: ‘where is my data?’ and ‘who can see my data?’, etc. Today this is much less of a factor as acceptance of SaaS is widespread, in part because the big guys like Google and Microsoft are entering the fray and other guys (gals, whatever) like Salesforce are building entire platforms on SaaS.

This was driven home to me as I started using Salesforce for CRM and started digging around in the platform. They have a really useful integration with both Google Apps and Adwords, something that will save huge amounts of time and streamline our processes in ways I couldn’t imagine not too long ago. And, for a non-programmer like me (I have the word ‘marketing’ in my title), the app is dead-simple to configure. I can build a form for free SM2 sign-ups, connect it to Adwords campaigns and track conversions. The data entered into the form is automatically added to our CRM and I can monitor all of this in a dashboard in Salesforce. With Apps integration I can use Apps to attach docs, spreadsheets and presentations to communications I have with our customers and prospects without leaving Salesforce. Really useful.

If I’m Microsoft this worries me. Salesforce is building a very powerful platform that you could literally run a business off and it’s scalable from 1 person to an enterprise. I can securely access it anywhere and really don’t require a dedicated machine for my work- it’s in the cloud.

Jun 2, 2008 0 Comments

Why offer a free version of our social media service, SM2?

Giving anything away for free is basically a loss-leader strategy from a marketing point of view- or used to be. We offer a free version of our tool so anyone can try it, use it and hopefully upgrade to one of the Professional versions. But that’s only one part of our thinking. The other part is a bigger idea, the idea of building in community features into SM2, features that any user, free or paid can decide to participate in (or not). By building a large base of users and then adding community features we think we’re going to build brand equity and loyalty.

So what do I mean by ‘community features’? Let’s say you build an intelligent set of folder rules (which is a means of categorizing results in SM2). In the community you could share that set of rules with other users, saving time and building the capabilities of the application in ways that are based on actual use. Another example might be a request for a list of influential blogs in Portugal. This request might get posted in a Community area and if there’s a user out there who already had such a list they could share a folder. When you go global in social media, having users share their local expertise with each other would be pretty cool. We don’t have these things yet but they’re in the pipeline and sooner rather than later.

Social media is a collaborative media so we’re building a collaborative application. To do this you almost have to have a freely available version that is not crippled in functionality or shelf life. Our SM2 Freemium is fully functional and does not expire. You are limited to 5 keywords and 1000 search results (unless you blog about us in which case we’ll double that) but you can clear results to run a new search. Think of something like Gmail which keeps adding capacity and features. It probably doesn’t generate a lot of money from ad revenues but it has accomplished something infinitely more valuable: it is moving users into acceptance of online applications as a mainstream tool, moving them past competitors like Microsoft and Yahoo.

More on our community features coming soon.

May 30, 2008 0 Comments

“Big will not beat small anymore. It will be fast beating slow”; quote from Rupert Murdoch

I joined Techrigy about 4 weeks ago and things are moving really fast here but the fastest thing for me has been how quickly our developers are able to incorporate feature requests from customers. There have been two updates since I started and they were not insignificant.

Aaron Newman, our CEO, and I were doing a demo yesterday with a market research firm. Their input and questions were very sophisticated and their interests were more focused on the ability to extract data out of SM2 so they could apply their own analysis tools to it in addition to the extensive reporting and analysis options the application offers. Several of their feature requests were already in the pipeline and the timeline for the most complex was only two months.

As noted in the title of this post moving quickly is not an option, it’s a necessity, especially in social media where speed is intrinsic to the environment.

Thanks to ReadWriteWeb and Tom Duterme of Google for the Murdoch quote.