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Monitoring & Analyzing Social Media

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

Category: Reputation

Sep 23, 2008 1 Comment

Why Social Media is a Different Marketing Paradigm

The Internet and traditional media are about information and solutions. Web sites enable both of these activities: Finding answers and associating buying decisions with those answers. Conventional push advertising, once relevance is established, can be an important aspect of the search for information and solutions. When advertising started moving to the web it had to change, to become less brand-focused and more intent-focused. However it still fit the broadcast or network model once intent and relevance were added as criteria for acceptance by users.

Social media is a completely different layer that has been added to the web, hence the web 2.0 moniker. Social media is about communication. It is an ongoing, fluid public conversation in which users exchange all kinds of information and experience, often as it takes place. This fluid nature means that attempting to take a traditional broadcast approach to advertising, even with relevance and intent, not only won’t work but can actually have a negative impact as users spread the word about what they don’t like about an ad or brand. If an ad interrupts a conversation it will make people mad.

Conventional media buying relies on reach or authority to determine where to buy ads because higher trafficked and/or respected sites will reach more users. Authority in social media is just one piece because any social media site can break a story, impugn a reputation or slam a brand experience and if the story is compelling it will get picked up and spread out, often in minutes. The challenge in social media is not to search out information, it is to monitor and listen to these conversations, identify opportunities to participate and then carefully engage. This can’t be done with an ad network or ‘push’ model.

Engagement is a new way to build a brand or reputation, a different marketing paradigm. It requires new roles for marketers (Community Managers), new means of listening and reaching out (Social media monitoring tools) and a shift in our understanding of marketing. When you engage in conversations in social media it may seem overly labor-intensive compared to launching an ad campaign. An individual effort is required to be taken seriously. The good news ids that there is an exponential effect: When you comment on a blog, connect with a Tweet or respond to a review, your response has the potential to be seen by thousands or even millions of others. As you build a reputation in social media your authority rises and your brand becomes highly valued. This is the new model emerging in marketing communications. Those who embrace it and refine it will be the market leaders of the future.

Sep 17, 2008 0 Comments

Social media measurement business models: Human Resources and Recruiting

First in a series on building business around social media monitoring and analysis:

As I talk to people all day about social media and monitoring I’m spending a lot of time thinking about business models, ways companies can use these tools to build their business. One application I have thought is the concept of a vetting service for checking out potential new hires. If you’re in HR or recruiting this could be a valuable service to add to things like background checks and drug testing. Using a service like SM2 you’d enter the candidate’s name and location(s), former employers, etc., into Sm2’s keyword set-up and then parse the results for any troubling (or exemplary) behavior. Kind of like Googling them only seeking responses from social media.

Hiring the wrong person can be very costly in terms of training time, exposure to risk, time to rehire for the position, etc. This service could save employers a lot of time and money.

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Aug 25, 2008 0 Comments

The wave is breaking

Crossing the ChasmImage via Wikipedia

As we start into fall and summer wanes the wave that has been building in social media is about to break and flood us all. To beat the metaphor, the flood is the realization that social media is a critically important business communication tool that isn’t going away. More and more senior marketing people are stating that social strategies are becoming mainstream marketing communications tools for brand development, PR, customer support and satisfaction, and community-building. Companies like Dell are making it central to their marketing efforts. The key word here is ‘central’. This is not a tactic to be delegated to the hinterlands, it is the next iteration of global business communications.

What does this mean?

It means that there is the beginning of a move out of the early adoption phase. In that famous bell curve detailed in Crossing the Chasm new ideas have to break out of the early adopter phase to begin growth into the mainstream. Social media started as something used by an elite few bloggers and nascent social networks created for students. In business the adoption was very slow to take root as many simply questioned the reasons for doing a corporate blog or building an online user-community.

It took some well-publicized PR disasters to wake up the first of the big mainstream businesses to dive into blogging. Dell had well-publicized customer support problems that spread around the blogosphere long before they realized they had a problem. Their response, though belated, was a real turnaround and they now are fully engaged with social media.

I suspect that the turning point is upon us based on my admittedly parochial view of things. 99% of Techrigy’s marketing is social and much of it has been taking place for the first time during this summer when our target markets are typically in vacation mode. Yet, I’m seeing a strong response that is growing as we swing back into fall work mode. Our free community users are increasingly coming to us for professional accounts and service. Agencies are building us into pitches and the brands we’re tracking are growing in stature. Our recent crossing of the half billion mark for results in our social media warehouse is another clue that there is a lot of activity out there.

May we live in interesting times…

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Aug 14, 2008 0 Comments

It’s not Big Brother, It’s public and recorded

When I tell people we monitor conversations in social media the more idealistic ones scrunch up their face and give me the big brother look as in ‘Big Brother Is Watching’. The implication is that there is something unsavory about peering into people’s private thoughts…wait a minute. Social media that is not password protected is not private.

Let me repeat that:

Social media that is not password protected is not private.

When you post, Tweet, comment, write on a wall, etc. you are essentially standing on that proverbial soapbox in the park and shouting to a crowd with one big difference:

What you are saying is being recorded, preserved and, presumably, indexed for future reference.

This is a big differentiator from private correspondence like email or phone calls that require a warrant to be monitored and/or recorded (though this administration apparently thinks otherwise for those conversations too- another subject for another place).

Social media is social and, as such, not private. So if you’re saying something you don’t want to be reminded of forever don’t say it here and cry later.

There are no take-backs in social media.

Aug 14, 2008 2 Comments

Twitter backfire

I’m not a big Twitter user nor do I follow a lot of people. However I’m noticing that those who are out there Twittering like crazy might want to rethink things a bit. Just as Googling a person became a requirement for HR people vetting resumes a few years ago, following a prospect on Twitter is surely the next reference source.

There’s a lot of Twittering going on- as I mentioned recently we collected over 45 million Tweets in the last few months and those were only Tweets with keyword phrases our SM2 users were searching on. I think that having a record of constant and often mindless Twittering could be something that could come back to haunt one in the future.

The important consideration are frequency (if he has time to do this all day, is he unemployed or wasting his employer’s time?) and subject matter (if he is doing this all day is he actually doing something productive or simply killing time?). Either negative would be a red flag for me if I was considering a candidate.

Before we had monitoring and search tools tools like our SM2 and Twitter’s own Summize, you could Tweet along all day without considering these real world consequences. Now, as micro-blogs start to have real world impact and attract analytical scrutiny, we need to consider the long term affects of telling the world that it’s Tuesday afternoon and you’re throwing them back in the neighborhood watering hole…

Social media is a public conversation that is being recorded. More on that in my next post…

Aug 7, 2008 0 Comments

Is your brand being hijacked in social media?

Exxon Mobil’s was…

Thanks to Andrew from Newsvetter. BTW, if you haven’t checked out Newsvetter you should!

Jul 31, 2008 1 Comment

Three months in the social

While I’ve been a participant in social media for a long time including a personal blog over three years old, I only started thinking about it as a marketing tool when I did a product launch a few years ago- and found that reaching out to relevant blogs was the most effective activity I pursued, more effective than any of the traditional PR and advertising we did at the same time. It didn’t hurt that it was a software as a service product right at the onset of web 2.0.

Fast forward a few years and social media is my primary marketing tool but in ways that have evolved considerably. When I started working with Techrigy three months ago I was still in SEM/SEO mode. That went away fast though we do use these techniques quite effectively (please don’t send me SEO analyses of our sites- we’re quite aware of where they stand). I simply dove in to start learning about the wonderful world of social media monitoring and how people were trying to use it. I intentionally use the word ‘trying’ because it rapidly became apparent that we’re all in a continuous learning curve (and will be forever I think).

Those who dropped pre-conceptions the earliest have, IMHO, become the default thought leaders. I’ve gotten so I laugh when I read about social media ‘campaigns’, products to automate pushing messages out to social media and other broadcast mentality approaches to spreading the word or effecting change in social media. This is not the model, again IMHO!

The reason we constantly see and talk to people trying to retain this model is that the available alternatives are freaking them out:

” I’m supposed to read blogs and twitter all day and add-in stuff?”

“I don’t don’t have the time or the bandwidth for that!”

“What good is this stuff? What’s the ROI?”

Etc.

With broadcast you reach millions of people, 99.999% of whom frankly don’t give a sh*t. You spend money to reach that fragment who do. With search you focus more but you’re still seeking true intent through relevant placement. A lot better.

In social media, if you do your job and participate and carefully build a reputation you become a member of the inner circle. This membership is precarious and precious but incredibly egalalitarian. An ambitious or enthusiastic intern or career-changer can join if they prove themselves and affect the positioning of their product or service in game-changing ways- because that inner circle is incredibly influential.

Why are they so powerful? Because of the network effect. It used to be said that an angry consumer would tell ten others about their negative experience while a happy one would only tell three. With social media both can reach hundreds or thousands who in turn can influence untold thousands more. So, IMHO (again), you cannot afford to ignore or minimalize social media as a marketing tool. It’s word of mouth on steroids.

That my lesson from three months of working to build awareness of a brand and product in social media. The potential is explosively more powerful than what came before.

And equally risk-laden for those venture away from 100% honesty and transparency. Why? Because it is self-regulated by those who you are marketing to. That’s another game-changing element in this new world.

Jul 28, 2008 0 Comments

What social media sources do we index?

I’ve been asked several times for a list of what SM2 covers in its social media discovery process. The problem (and it’s not really a problem) is that we are constantly adding new sources. For example we recently added FriendFeed, Identi.ca, Pownce and Plurk.

Here’s a quick overview of what we index:

  • blogs
  • comments
  • wikis
  • forums
  • public content on social networks
  • meta-content on user-generated media like YouTube, Flickr, etc.
  • micro-blogs like Twitter and those mentioned above

Pretty much everything we can hook into in social media. We respect end-user license agreements (EULAs) unlike some of the aggregation sites that appear to monitor social media (I am not referring to any of our legit competitors).

We also provide analysis tools to help sort through the results including:

  • Sentiment- an indicator only but you can drill down to read and mark a result for accuracy
  • Gender
  • Age
  • location
  • trends and trend comparisons by date ranges, keywords and categories
  • author categories- how did a social media participant categorize their conversation?
  • themes- cool charts that show relationships between people, ideas and your brands and reputations
  • Authority Rank
  • results from Top 100 and Top 1000 blog

All of these things can be customized with rules, we offer extensive chart customization capabilities, we do exports with user-configurable fields, offer custom reporting via email and RSS and more.

I’ll be updating this list frequently as we are on a constant improvement path with SM2.

Jul 25, 2008 0 Comments

Rules of Engagement V.1, social media style

The Times today has an article about Comcast’s social media monitoring and engagement guy, Frank Eliason. Frank apparently follows comments, mostly negative, and actively responds to complaints, usually surprising people in the process. The piece is a bit overly cheery but it brings out some basic points for an engagement plan:

  • You have to dedicate resources, in this case a full time community manager who is practically 24/7
  • They have to be empowered to make promises and successfully execute on them
  • There will be negative responses to being monitored, in this case some found it creepy
  • People warm up considerably when they realize a real human is listening to their rants
  • This is a very time-consuming role that requires a commitment of resources

The ROI for this kind of thing is not easily quantifiable. In this case a relatively positive article in the Times seems a pretty big win on its own.

Jul 24, 2008 0 Comments

The Brushfire Effect and Reputation Management

When I was a kid we used to build fires in a nearby wood. One dry summer some sparks from the fire started a brushfire. We ran around stomping out little blazes as they started but they kept popping up in other places. Eventually a neighbor came by with a shovel and we were able to stop our little conflagration. No damage done but things could have turned out very differently.

In social media this reflects something I’m calling the Brushfire Effect. It’s not the Groundswell, instead it is the fact that a small spark can spread extremely fast, possibly turning into a big problem- or opportunity. This brushfire effect is probably the primary reason for diving into social media if you manage brands or reputations.

It’s relatively easy to monitor what people are saying on the high-traffic sites with existing tools. However it’s out there in the long tail of social media that brushfires start and spread until the big guys take notice. And the time you need to be aware of a nascent brushfire is while its still out there in that long tail because that’s where you can address things early on- before they get out of control. You might even be able to change things with shovel instead of a fleet of planes dropping tons of water.