June 2007 Archives

SMAttering, 29 June 2007

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 28 June - London-based Reputica launched ReputicaRating, a social media analysis service with an emphasis on defensive monitoring and reputation management.

  • 22 June - The Nielsen Company completed its acquisition of NetRatings, moving a step closer to the announced combination of NetRatings and BuzzMetrics in a new Nielsen service unit.
People
New research and papers
  • "The Talk About Phones," CIC. An overview of community and content around mobile phones on Chinese BBS. The charts that go with this brief paper are the real find. Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Dopod should look over this free sample that focuses on their market.

  • Chinese blog search engine Blogool released its first report on blogs and consumer WOM (via Luyi Chen). This report focuses on domestic brands in China, or so I'm told (you'll need to read Chinese to get anything from the report).

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Putting the RSS in PR

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I subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds. Too many, really, so there's a constant tension between the desire to read everything and the reality of finite time. Still, feeds offer a big efficiency gain over other methods of tracking events. So last week I spent some time looking for PR feeds on company web sites (not blogs), with mixed results. A lot of companies still need to work on putting the RSS in their PR.

To keep things in perspective, note that all of the companies I checked are in social media businesses. We're not talking about companies who haven't heard of RSS. This is what I found:

  • Working feed
    You're in the game. Thank you.

  • No feed at all
    Feeds make it so much easier to follow your news. You want people to see your releases, don't you? Oh, well, at least there's Page2RSS.

  • Feed with no content
    The RSS icon is a head fake. Nobody's home.

  • Live feed that doesn't match web page
    Click, subscribe, and—wait, something's wrong here. If your feed is obsolete, subscribers won't find out unless they go back to your site, which defeats the purpose of subscribing to the feed. New subscribers may not notice the disconnect as they subscribe.
I also thought about blogs that keep giving me all of their content again. When a feed keeps showing up as "unread," I have to decide whether I really want to keep seeing the old items. A variation is the feed that keeps showing me the same one or two items, which has the effect of making the site seem fixated on that one topic.

Easy steps for RSS hygiene

  1. If you have a web page with company news or press releases, give it an RSS feed. If you want to get fancy, set up separate feeds for press releases, press coverage and white papers. Yes, this requires some technical work behind the scenes—it's worth it.

  2. Use FeedBurner for its insights into feed subscribers. Remember to configure the autodiscovery code to point to the FeedBurner version of your feed.

  3. Subscribe to your own feed. Check to confirm that the content of the feed matches the page. Notice if items in your feed keep showing up as unread, so you can fix things.

  4. If your feed moves, try to make the old address continue to work (easy with FeedBurner). Otherwise, post an address change message for subscribers to the old feed. The address change should always be the newest item on an obsolete feed.
Nothing to it. RSS: the easy way to get more people to read your PR. And that's the point, isn't it?

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I was listening to the presentation at this month's TIMA meeting—interesting stuff from this Internet company, Google—and I was struck by the labels we attach to the people we interact with. I kept hearing users, which has a very IT sound to it, and it took me back to my own IT days. But it got me thinking: what are the words we use to label the people we encounter in business, and how would it change our actions if we were to substitute person for, say, customer every once in a while?

So instead of doodling, I started a list of labels organizations use for outsiders with whom they have contact.

citizen
civilian
client
constituent
consumer
customer
employee
investor
listener
passenger
patient
parent
student
taxpayer
user
victim
voter
viewer
visitor

I realize that labels are useful, and these reflect the roles we play when we interact with various organizations. But does the use of labels like these in our business discussions tell us more about those people—or ourselves?

Tracking your product reviews

Today must be the day to think about online product reviews. With all the buzz about blog monitoring, it's important to remember other ways people share their opinions online. Monitoring product reviews is harder to automate than monitoring blogs, but their relevance is all but guaranteed.

Riva Richmond's article in today's Wall Street Journal points out the importance of online reviews to small business: Look Who's Talking. The key lesson here is that you don't have to have a high-profile brand to be reviewed online. Customers are reviewing local service businesses, too. The article includes practical advice on dealing with negative reviews (starting with fixing the problem).

Meanwhile, Greg Howlett relays key points from JC Whitney's Geoffrey Robertson in four things you should know about collecting user reviews:

  1. User reviews have a huge impact on sales.
  2. Companies need to aggressively solicit reviews.
  3. User reviews do not necessarily improve customer loyalty.
  4. User reviews do not necessarily drive more organic search traffic.
Go read Greg's post for the longer version of each point. The one that grabbed me was the part about JC Whitney measuring the sales impact of reviews—both positive and negative. In an environment with immature metrics standards, anything that correlates to sales is worth watching.

I wrote about an unhappy example of what you can learn from product reviews last October. Hasbro discovered a serious product problem by monitoring reviews on Amazon. At the time, the social media analysis vendors I was talking to generally didn't track product reviews. I still don't know of any tools to automate the process for do-it-yourself monitoring (aside from web-to-RSS services), but a number of companies in the Guide will monitor them for you.

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SMAttering, 22 June 2007

News of social media analysis.

New companies & services


New research and papers

Doing something interesting? Tell me about it!

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Justifying the expense

Here's a question that goes straight to the point: How do you decide when to spring for social media measurement?

Scott Bauman poses the question on his blog:

It's still so damn expensive and is especially prohibitive for smaller companies who could benefit, but can't yet spring for formal measurement. So my question is when does it make sense to start? What "value" does a client expect before the investment is worth it?
Note that in this case, the question is coming from the agency side, so it's not a question of whether a client should have their agency track social media. It's a question of moving from free, do-it-yourself tools to more sophisticated tools and services.

For small companies with relatively low exposure (mine, for example), vanity feeds from free search tools are adequate. I deal with the redundant items and noise, because the overall volume is low. I don't worry about metrics, either. At the low volume, all I really want is to read everything that mentions or links to me. An agency can provide this service with off-the-shelf software and entry-level staff.

At the high end—major consumer brands—the volume is overwhelming. Metrics become interesting because (a) there's enough volume to generate interesting data, and (b) it's the only way to digest potentially thousands of daily mentions. You're a long way from free services in this category.

Somewhere in the middle, there's a decision to make. To complicate matters, there's a wide range of services, with a rough, inverse correlation between cost and the amount of effort required of the client/agency. Let's meet over at Scott's post for that discussion.

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Aggregating the revolution

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You say you want all the information overload without loading up on individual subscriptions? There's a trend to build aggregator sites from the feeds of individual blogs, especially in the social media/web 2.0 headspace. I usually prefer to subscribe to the individual blogs, but the aggregators can be useful for finding the individual bloggers who write on a topic.

Here are a few I know of. Even this short list generates a lot to read, until you get practiced at skimming titles.

  1. Enterprise Irregulars
  2. Media 2.0 Workgroup
  3. Planet Social Media Research
  4. Planet Web 2.0
  5. Social Media Today
And then there are the memetrackers, which is a separate category. I'm sure there are more, and probably another on the way in 15 minutes. What have I missed?

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This reminds me of a background display in the villain's office in a James Bond movie. A real-time view of blog posts on a spinning globe visualization. All that's missing is the holographic display that projects the globe above the coffee table.

This is a visualization of blog traffic from the Swedish social media analysis firm Primelabs, based on data from their Twingly blog search engine (via visualcomplexity). The real application for Twingly is discovering blog links for newspaper clients, but the visualization is fun (see the demo video).

As for the villain's lair—fire up Twingly, put a Digg visualization on another screen, add a real-time weather map, FlightAware and a few competing news channels (preferably international), and you've got Global Command Center 2.0.

Except Twingly doesn't run on my Mac. I guess world domination will have to wait.

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Along with her kind comments about my work, Havi Hoffman wondered if half the money is wasted in social media/word of mouth metrics, too.

What if we really need to throw out half our metrics, half our assumptions? Which half would you pitch?
Evaluating metrics is tough. Just Google IAB comscore netratings to see what's going on with online audience measurement. It's one thing to ask a vendor what services they provide; going under the hood to evaluate their methods is a bigger challenge, both technically and because of the obvious sensitivity issues.

At least audience metrics are generally defined. In the social media/WOM measurement discussion, the definitions of some important terms aren't quite settled (quick, what's influence, precisely?). So, for now, we have qualitative measures and intuitive definitions that may vary across vendors. It doesn't mean they're not useful, but they're not yet standard.

Alan Wilensky's post raises some thought-provoking questions on the usefulness of social media metrics (read the related posts while you're there and at BlogWhine). Be sure to see Matt Hurst's response, including the comments.

Evaluating the current state of this young industry and its practices is an interesting topic, but for client decisions, three steps really matter:

  1. Understand what you're trying to accomplish. What information do you want to collect, and what do you want to do with it?

  2. Look at the existing companies and what they actually offer—services, analysis, deliverables and applications. That's what the Guide to Social Media Analysis is all about.

  3. Look for potential matches between available services and your objectives. Those are the companies to ask for more information.
I think the intersection of social media and business is going to be interesting for a while. That's what I spend so much time there.

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First review of the Guide

Today marked the first feedback on the Guide to Social Media Analysis. Havi Hoffman made my day with her summary— "immersed" is such a nice way to say that she's reading it. We haven't even met, but I think I have a new best friend.

Here's a little information overload for you. Links to blogs associated with social media analysis companies. Most are linked to companies in the the Guide to Social Media Analysis. Some are more work-oriented than others, but there are some good sources in here.

(This is not a ranked list—it's alphabetical by blog title. The entries are numbered for convenience.)

  1. 1000heads, Staff, 1000heads
  2. Andiamo Word of Mouth Marketing, John Hingley, Andiamo Systems
  3. Applied Disruption, Jeffrey Stewart, Monitor110
  4. Attentio, Simon McDermott, Attentio
  5. Beyond Dante, Tim Wolters, Collective Intellect
  6. BlogPulse Newswire, Sue MacDonald, Nielsen BuzzMetrics
  7. Blogs et IE, Tarik Mousselmal, Scanblog (French)
  8. Buzzcentric, Severin Wilson, Buzzcentric
  9. BuzzLogic, Todd Parsons, BuzzLogic
  10. CGM, Pete Blackshaw, Nielsen BuzzMetrics
  11. China IWOM Blog, Sam Flemming, CIC
  12. Collective Intellect, Staff, Collective Intellect
  13. Converseon, Staff, Converseon
  14. Customer Listening, Laurent Florès, CRMMetrix
  15. CustomScoop, Staff, CustomScoop
  16. Data Mining, Matthew Hurst, Microsoft Live Labs
  17. Data World, Paul Alexander, Wigborough
  18. DK the Business Guru, Darren Kelly, Collective Intellect
  19. Converseon, Staff, Converseon
  20. DIGtrends, Staff, Digital Influence Group
  21. Distilled, Will Critchlow and Duncan Morris, Distilled
  22. dna13, Staff, dna13
  23. The Dooley Complex, Kevin Dooley, Crawdad Technologies
  24. EmPower Research, Staff, EmPower Research
  25. ethority, Sten Franke, ethority
  26. filtrbox, Ari Newman, filtrbox
  27. GottaQuirk, Staff, Quirk eMarketing
  28. A Human Voice, Tom O’Brien, MotiveQuest
  29. Implementing Web 2.0 in the Enterprise, Adam Steinberg, Techrigy
  30. Influence 2.0, Staff, Cymfony
  31. Information Arbitrage, Roger Ehrenberg, Monitor110
  32. LexaBlog, Staff, Lexalytics
  33. Market Sentinel, Mark Rogers, Market Sentinel
  34. MarketIQ, Staff, Biz360
  35. MediaMeter, Staff, BlogMeter
  36. Media Philosopher, Marcel LeBrun, Radian6
  37. Mouthpiece, Jonathan Carson, Nielsen BuzzMetrics
  38. Musical Entrepreneur, Rob Crumpler, BuzzLogic
  39. New Media Strategies, Staff, New Media Strategies
  40. Observatoire Présidentielle 2007, Guilhem Fouetillou, RTGI (French)
  41. On Innovation, Michael Osofsky, Accelovation
  42. Onalytica, Flemming Madsen, Onalytica
  43. Ondernemer in Gent, Bart De Waele, MetaTale
  44. Own Your Buzz, Al del Castillo, NetEquity
  45. Pardon the Disruption, Chip Griffin, CustomScoop
  46. The Power of News, Matthias Hoffmann, Dow Jones & Company (German)
  47. Power Shift, Staff, Radian6
  48. PR Measurement Blog, Katie Paine, KDPaine & Partners
  49. PR meets the WWW Constantin Basturea, Converseon
  50. Primelabs (also Swedish blog)
  51. Read Between the Mines, Glenn Fannick, Dow Jones & Company
  52. RelevantNoise, Staff, RelevantNoise
  53. RepuMetrix, Joseph Fiore, RepuMetrix
  54. Reputation World, Andrew Jordan, Reputica
  55. RepuTrack, Joseph Fiore, CoreX Technologies
  56. Scanblog (French)
  57. Scout Labs, Staff, Scout Labs
  58. see i see, Staff, CIC (Chinese)
  59. SentimentMetrics, Staff, SentimentMetrics
  60. A Surplice of Spin, Melanie Surplice, Dow Jones & Company
  61. Turning News Into Knowledge, Brett Serjeantson, MediaMiser
  62. tweetpr, David Alston, Radian6
  63. unstruc..., Daniela Barbosa, Dow Jones & Company
  64. Veille2Com, Cyrille Chaudoit, Scanblog (French)
  65. VICO Research, Staff, VICO Research
  66. VisInsights, Staff, Visible Technologies
  67. Young PR, Paull Young, Converseon
OPML file to import into your feed reader.

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Be concise and specific

I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.
—Mark Twain
I've just written 31 concise—short—company profiles. It's amazingly difficult to capture what's interesting and different about a company in two pages, especially for companies whose services are typical of the industry. That's why it took so long to write the Guide to Social Media Analysis, and it gets at the value I wanted to provide for readers.

I imagined a marketing executive, interested in the value of following the online conversation, assigning a staff member to investigate the available services. The Guide is the finished report that staffer could deliver—if the company wanted to spend 5 months of staff time to collect the information.

The core of the Guide is the company profiles, which collect information beyond what's available on vendor web sites in a convenient package. It's meant to accelerate the initial information gathering steps for a company looking for a vendor.

Each profile includes:

  • A brief statement of the company's business and 4–5 highlights for quick scanning.
  • An overview of the company's services, including a discussion of what analysis they provide and how they do it.
  • A checklist of which of the typical services the vendor offers (also summarized across all vendors in the overview section).
  • A closer look at the deliverables and, when provided, pricing.
  • Investor information: identifies ownership and announced investments in the company.
  • Player stats: company size, when it was founded, how long they've offered social media analysis, percentage of revenue from social media analysis, geographical scope, language capabilities and company bloggers.
  • Contact information, including office locations and direct contact for potential clients.
A sample profile is available on the product page. I went through an RFI process and extensive interviews with these companies. The Guide condenses those months of effort into 31 brief profiles. I wrote a book ten years ago, and at 300+ pages, that was easier.

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It's ready. After 5 months and I really don't want to know how many hours, the Guide to Social Media Analysis is complete. This is my guide to the companies who monitor, measure and analyze social media for business worldwide. It's the most complete reference available, and it's available for download today. Finally!

The Guide to Social Media Analysis is geared toward answering three questions:

  1. Who offers social media analysis services?
  2. What do they really offer?
  3. What makes one vendor different from the others?
The result is an independent look at the options for clients and agencies who are looking for social media monitoring, measurement and research. Vendors are included based on meeting the selection criteria: they offer social media analysis services or software using their own technology. They did not pay to be included. The Guide covers vendors with applications for marketing, PR, customer service, security, investors and more.

What's in it:

  • Profiles of 31 vendors based in 9 countries. Each profile includes a description of the vendor's services, investor information, company stats and full contact details.

  • An overview of industry services and trends.

  • A table summarizing which services each vendor offers.

  • A matrix of vendors' language capabilities across 37 languages.

  • Over 30 sample graphics and screenshots.
The 75-page Guide to Social Media Analysis is a PDF download, available for $500 at http://www.socialtarget.com/research/. You heard it here first.

Update: I posted more details on what's in the profiles. A sample profile is available on the product page.

18 August 2008: The Guide to Social Media Analysis, Second Edition is now available. The new edition includes 63 vendor profiles, observations on trends since last year, and a new table summarizing vendor coverage of different types of social media.

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Does your organization have more time (and technical chops) than money? The World Bank today launched The BuzzMonitor, an open-source social media aggregator that provides a platform for monitoring and participating in social media in multi-user environments (via Pierre-Guillaume Wielezynski). The catch is, you have to install and run it yourself.

The Buzzmonitor promises some handy features:

  • Elimination of duplicate items from multiple search feeds.
  • Automated keyword extraction & tag cloud generation.
  • Embedded Alexa and Technorati rank information.
  • Digg-style voting within your user base.
  • User tagging and bookmarking.
  • Internal commenting (visible only to other users on your system).
  • Internal tag and search feeds.
If your needs center on blog monitoring, this feature list is pretty good. It doesn't offer the advanced analytics and other features that commercial social media analysis services provide, but it raises the bar significantly from the other free options. The multi-user tagging, voting and internal commenting, in particular, will be helpful in larger organizations.

The Buzzmonitor's sponsors at the World Bank suggest the program for "non-profit organizations, NGOs, foundations and think-tanks to see and hear what people are saying about them, their programs and understand the perception around important issues." Its GNU General Public License makes it free for anyone who wants to try it.

Now, here's the catch. The platform requirements put The Buzzmonitor out of reach for marketing managers who want something quick and easy. You'll need a server (preferably Linux) and someone to configure it, so this is a do-it-yourself job only for the technically skilled. More likely, this is something for your IT department to experiment with before you roll it out to users.

If all you want to do is see how it works, take the tour, which offers limited access to a live demo. I'd post a screenshot here, but if you really care, you'll go through the demo, anyway.

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Studying complexity and futures.
  • Principal, Social Target

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