April 2008 Archives

links for 2008-04-30

links for 2008-04-29

A study published by the (US) National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that email, at least, follows a meandering path to large audiences, rather than a short path via online influencers. Tracing information flow on a global scale using Internet chain-letter data, by David Liben-Nowell and Jon Kleinberg (via IntelFusion). The choice of email as the channel guarantees the deep and narrow result.

Although information, news, and opinions continuously circulate in the worldwide social network, the actual mechanics of how any single piece of information spreads on a global scale have been a mystery. Here, we trace such information-spreading processes at a person-by-person level using methods to reconstruct the propagation of massively circulated Internet chain letters. We find that rather than fanning out widely, reaching many people in very few steps according to "small-world" principles, the progress of these chain letters proceeds in a narrow but very deep tree-like pattern, continuing for several hundred steps. This suggests a new and more complex picture for the spread of information through a social network. We describe a probabilistic model based on network clustering and asynchronous response times that produces trees with this characteristic structure on social-network data.
For anyone who's received chain email from family and friends, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Many of those who forward chain letters don't know to prune email headers, so the path taken by incoming chain letters is frequently plain to see. Somebody's friend's cousin's neighbor's daughter received this and thought a few close people really should know about it, and before you know it, I get a copy in my inbox.

Deep and Wide
The more interesting question—and the more challenging—is to track the spread of information and opinions across the many channels people use, both online and offline. If you think about the interaction between mass media and offline word of mouth, it's clear that dissemination can alternate between wide (mass media) and narrow (interpersonal). Online media work the same way, with some sources reaching large audiences while other channels move information among friends.

The transition from wide to narrow can happen at any time in the process and can go in either direction:

  • Narrow –> Wide
    Email to blogger, low readership blog to A-list blog, blog post picked up by mass media, interpersonal to media (conversation with a reporter)

  • Wide –> Narrow
    Mass media to blogs, online media to email, media to interpersonal
Picture water flowing downhill. If there's a wide channel available, water will use it. If there's a narrow channel, it will use that. Where both are available, it uses both. Information works the same way. The key is that water wants to flow downhill. To make this work with ideas, you need ideas that people want to communicate.

Suddenly, I want to go play in the creek. I'll call it work-related.

Financial Week on Info-Arbitrage

Penny Herscher points out an interesting article from Financial Week, There's info-arbitrage in cyberchatter. The article features investor-oriented social media analysis services from FirstRain and SkyGrid, with some new quotes and examples of the value of both fact-based market intelligence and sentiment analysis for investors. Most social media analysis services targeting investors have focused on finding information before it is widely known. The article provides some examples of the value in that approach, based on FirstRain's experiences.
FirstRain recently ran an item indicating that Netflix might be expanding its offerings. It culled the info from a blogger who had posted details about his experimentation with game downloads for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 that he’d pulled off Netflix. A large mutual fund manager in New York City who had a stake in Netflix read the piece in his FirstRain news feed—and immediately called Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. The investor hadn’t known that the movie rental service was developing a game console strategy...

David Rosenfeld, the director of research at New York-based William Jones Investment Management, is a FirstRain client. “We try to get information from [a company’s] management, but they are...restricted on what they can actually say,” he said. “So that makes secondary information that much more important.”
The less common approach is to apply sentiment analysis to a selected list of influential sources. SkyGrid is one of three companies I'm aware of applying sentiment analysis to investment decisions.
Greg Parsons of CP Capital, a SkyGrid client, said the sentiment tracker can prove invaluable. A number of times, he noted, “a shift in sentiment has preceded negative news” coming from companies.
In addition to the featured companies, the article points out similar activities from ClearForest, Connotate Technologies, Dow Jones, Instant Information (InfoNgen) and Reuters. Notably missing from the article are Collective Intellect, Jodange and Monitor110. As I was saying, social media aren't just for PR, and the financial sector will be well represented in the second edition of the Guide to Social Media Analysis. If your company is in this space and we haven't talked yet, now would be a good time to get in touch.

Related posts:

As the Schwag Turns

Does it mean something that buying corporate schwag has been replaced by donating unwanted schwag?

ValleySchwag sold grab bags as recently as three weeks ago, when the last bags featured stuff from SXSW. If you missed the party, you could at least get some of the bag, I guess. But the challenge of sourcing enough stuff to fill the orders became too much, and the realities of running VS inspired Get Satisfaction, a community-driven customer service site that should appeal to a much broader audience.

About the same time that VS was ending, Michael Liskin and David Preciado were working on the opposite problem—what to do with the excess (hmm, is it a market failure when excess demand and excess supply don't find each other?). The result is Schwaggin’ Wagon, which kicked off by collecting unwanted shirts and stuff at this week's Web 2.0 Expo (via Valleywag).

What does it mean? Is it an economic indicator, or is it the green thing? Does anyone want my Nortel shirts?

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 22 April - BuzzLogic announced that it has acquired Activeweave, developer of the BlogRovR add-on for helping Web users find related content as they browse. BuzzLogic will incorporate aggregated user behavior data from BlogRovR into its influence analysis, which targets both PR outreach and interactive advertising applications. Discussion on BlogRovR blog, bub.blicio.us, Marketing Pilgrim, TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb.

  • 14 April - dna13 launched dnaMonitor, the company's media monitoring and measuring dashboard. dnaMonitor combines coverage of print, broadcast and Internet-based media.

  • 21 April - Attentio's Trendpedia, a free blog search and graphing dashboard, is out of beta. Compare to Nielsen's BlogPulse, but also note the general trend toward free comparison charts across emerging social media. Discussion on Attentio blog, Being Peter Kim, The Next Web.

  • 22 April - Primelabs has changed its name to Twingly to reflect the company's focus on its blog search engine. Twingly is not to be confused with Twing, the online community search engine recently launched by Accoona.
People
  • As part of the acquisition of Activeweave by BuzzLogic, Marc Meyer joins BuzzLogic as SVP of Products, and Jean Sini becomes BuzzLogic's new CTO.
Events

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links for 2008-04-24

links for 2008-04-18

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 16 April - Collective Intellect closed its second round of institutional funding at $6 million. Grotech Capital Group led the round, which includes existing investors Appian Ventures and Croghan Investments and new investor Crawley Hatfield Capital, LP. press release, coverage on TechCrunch and Paid Content

  • 16 April - Cold Blue Labs is offering Attenalert for sale at auction site Sitepoint. The service, launched in March, has no paying customers. Attenalert domains and source code are included in the offer.

  • 17 April - Dow Jones & Company announced that it has acquired Generate Inc. Generate combines web mining, relationship mapping and event detection to give clients a view of competitive moves and business opportunities in changing environments.
    I'm spending too much time with PR bloggers—I immediately translated the company name to "generate ink."
New research and papers
  • Metrica released Metrica Numbers 2007, examining media trends based on meta-data from over 3 million articles mentioning 700 organizations since 1997. In addition to 10-year trends, this first report focuses on 2007 to establish benchmarks for PR in the UK. Metrica plans to update the report annually.

  • The IAB released User-Generated Content and Social Media Advertising Overview (PDF). If you were wondering how advertising people think about social media, here's your chance. press release
I'm about halfway through writing new profiles for the second edition of the Guide to Social Media Analysis. If you responded to the RFI and we haven't done your briefing yet, we need to schedule it soon.

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Work on the second edition of the Guide to Social Media Analysis has kept me busy in the office lately. I really enjoy the conversations with people all over the world, but I do need to get out more. Next month, I get to escape the office to speak at two very different events: Executing Social Media and Blog Carolinas. I hope to meet some of you there.

Executing Social Media
On 21–22 May, meet me in Los Angeles for Executing Social Media. This one comes well recommended from last year, and I'm excited to be part of it this year. The speaker list includes a healthy selection of people on my "need to meet" list, and the client-side stories are a break from the usual suspects. The only problem is that the few times the conference splits into smaller groups, I want to go with all of them.

For my part, I get to lead a roundtable discussion on organizational issues, and I join Jake McKee and Michael Terpin in Ways to Ease the Social Media Comfort Zone—For You and Your Bosses. If you've been reading here long, you won't be surprised by my theme: Lead with Information. We'll set the big visions and sweetened beverage aside and focus on developing fact-based arguments for creating a social media strategy before you have a budget.

You can save $300 by using the discount code la08ng when you register. Hope to see you there.

Blog Carolinas
If you've heard of Josh Hallett's BlogOrlando or any of the other BlogCity conferences it inspired, you understand what we're doing with Blog Carolinas, 9 May in Research Triangle Park, NC (near Raleigh). The free conference will focus on the intersection of social media and business, with the intent of providing a constructive learning opportunity for business types who want to figure out how social media is relevant to them.

Part of the fun of the regional event is seeing local experts. Andy Beal, Jim Tobin and Rob Humphrey will be there. I'm scheduled to lead a session on monitoring and measurement. I've posted an outline, but it's an unconference. Anything can happen.

Blog Carolinas started as the marketing track that wasn't at BarCampRDU last summer. After I started planning and set up a Facebook group, Lee White took over when the project started to consume more time than I could spare. I'm happy to say that he's made the event real, and I can't wait to be there.

Blog Carolinas is free, but attendance is limited. Register now if you want to join us.

Twits: Follow @esmLA08 and @blogcarolinas for your attention-deficit updates.

links for 2008-04-15

I've been thinking about the management issues involved in social media for some time, and I enjoyed David Churbuck's posts on Social Media 201—taking the discussion past freshman level. So here's an organizational question for companies getting serious about social media: Where's IT? I talk with people who manage their companies' social media engagement efforts, but I haven't heard much (if anything) about their corporate IT departments' involvement. As processes mature and the use of tools gets more sophisticated, that needs to change.

The View from Across the Table
The topic came up when I saw John Soat's article in InformationWeek, Don't Let Tech-Savvy Business Execs Do An End Run Around IT. More of us outside IT have some level of computer skills, and IT managers have learned to be concerned about "rogue" technology purchases and projects. The growth of web-based technology services makes it easier than ever for a reasonably tech-savvy manager to buy needed services without dealing with an IT department that may have different priorities.

When the topic of rogue IT projects comes up, I would normally assume we're talking about databases or critical operations-support systems (such as customer relationship management or sales-force automation systems). But one of the examples was a "digital age boot camp" for a marketing group at Heinz North America, and that sounds a lot like a social media workshop. The CIO was concerned that IT barely found out in time to send a representative.

Hmm. Apparently, IT's sensitivity toward digital/ online/ technology topics extends well beyond custom software deployments. I wonder what they think of social media analysis services, or whether they think about them at all?

IT and Social Media Analysis
Media monitoring and measurement are services that marketing and communications groups have bought for years, and it's natural to assume that their extension into online sources shouldn't change that. If we look at the range of available tools and services, I think that's correct as a starting point, but it depends on what you buy and how you use it.

The services you might buy to monitor or measure social media activity are delivered in a variety of formats. Your choice of delivery will suggest how much involvement IT should have. In increasing order of technology integration with a client's own systems, delivery options include:

  • Analyst reports and briefings delivered by any method
  • Single-user online dashboard
  • Automated alerts and reports delivered by email
  • Web-based dashboard used by a workgroup
  • Web-based social media analysis platform with workgroup and collaboration features
  • Installed social media analysis software on enterprise server
  • Social media analysis system with links to CRM, intelligence or collaboration systems
  • Custom social media monitoring and analysis platform linked to other enterprise systems
Starting at the top, it's easy to keep IT out of the discussion of traditional consulting-style services. The technology is entirely at the vendor, and deliverables are in executive-ready format (typically PDF or Microsoft Office formats). At the end of the list, we're deeply into IT territory, with custom-built systems using high-end tools and components. The extremes are fairly easy to decide, because IT won't be interested at the low-tech end and will be essential at the high-tech end.

What about dashboards and the more involved web-delivered services? Where does it become something IT will want to know about? The line will vary by company, but in general, IT leaders should start paying attention early, because the maturation of processes around social media monitoring and analysis will lead to integration with other systems and processes.

Processes will drive integration
Listening to social media is useless in a vaccuum. The value comes from what a company does with the information it develops, from customer opinions to new market opportunities. Making effective use of the information requires connecting across functional silos and with existing processes, even if the initial integration is essentially manual.

When monitoring uncovers customer problems, the information needs to go into a customer service function, which has its own tracking systems. Market insights might feed into other business intelligence or collaboration environments. Reports may roll up to broader executive dashboards. As social media proves its value as a source of intelligence, companies will be motivated to integrate it with other enterprise systems, which is where IT involvement is essential.

Some of the available options already live at the intersection of social media and enterprise applications. Web-based services from companies like Visible Technologies and Radian6 support billable work in agencies that sell social media services. A direct link between a new technology and revenue is a good definition of mission critical, which should get CIOs' attention. A manually-created buzz report that goes directly to the CEO of a product company (a real example) should be equally attention-getting.

Steps for CIOs
As companies set up social media listening capabilities, CIOs should be part of the process. At a minimum, IT leadership should understand the goals behind social media listening and engagement initiatives, even if functional groups select services with low technology demands. As practices mature, IT needs to be prepared to lead the company to extract more value from these services and should begin thinking about how to use the insights from social media analysis in other enterprise systems.

Leaders in adopting social media practices are already making the connection between, for example, online communication and customer service. Integration at the systems level is only a question of timing and leadership.

links for 2008-04-14

Fun with language skills

Wait a minute—it's Friday, and here I am, working on a long, serious post. Let's save that in the drafts folder for Monday and find something fun, instead. Like, f'rinstance, what happens when people try to type the expressions they use.

  • Salary $60-80K, commiserate with experience.
    If you take this job, you'll have plenty of experienced, miserable colleagues to talk with.

  • War on talent
    Recruiting strategy for filling those "commiserate" positions.

  • ...strategic or tactile media relations...
    Hands-on tactics are no substitute for a good strategy.

  • Silicone Valley
    Must be the one just north of Hollywood...

  • yolk of marketing
    When you're yoked to the chicken wagon, you get egg on your face.
Found here and there on the web. I don't suppose these people will mind if I refrain from naming and linking to them this time.

Happy weekend, all.

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • Infegy recently started selling SocialRadar. The web-based social media monitoring service has been in development since 2006.

  • 28 March - Buzzdetector launched Buzz Politico, an election tracker for the Italian election.
New research and papers

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Reputation by Technical Committee

For a word that's so concerned with appearances, reputation sure gets around. In an online context, it plays with PR, search and e-commerce, showing different personalities in each setting. So when someone says "reputation," it's not always clear what they mean. But now, there's an effort to define standards around reputation metrics and their use in online interactions. Depending on how the project's scope shapes up, social media analysis companies might want to pay attention.

Defining reputation
You know what your reputation is. It's what people think of you. Which is actually very close to the dictionary definition and close enough to how corporate reputation specialists in PR describe it. You can aggregate reputation into a metric, but it doesn't fundamentally change the definition. Your reputation is what people think of you.

Throw it on the Web, though, and reputation shows different personalities. Search guys will talk about search engine or online reputation, meaning what shows up in the search results for your name. Auction sites and, apparently, peer-to-peer networks have their own systems based on your track record of good behavior in their specific contexts.

Like social media measurement, reputation is an interesting and useful concept that has different meanings depending on context. So the first thing I wonder is which version(s) people are talking about when they suggest creating standards.

TLA Soup: OASIS ORMS TC
Last week, OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) announced a new Technical Committee (TC) on Open Reputation Management Systems (ORMS).

OASIS, the international open standards consortium, has formed a new technical committee to make it easier to validate the trustworthiness of businesses, projects, and people working and socializing in electronic communities. The new OASIS Open Reputation Management Systems (ORMS) Technical Committee will define common data formats for consistently and reliably representing reputation scores. ORMS will be relevant for a variety of applications including validating the trustworthiness of sellers and buyers in online auctions, detecting free riders in peer-to-peer networks, and helping to ensure the authenticity of signature keys in a web of trust. ORMS will also help enable smarter searching of web sites, blogs, events, products, companies, and individuals."
At first glance, the specific examples are transactional, suggesting that this effort won't affect social media analysis companies. The emphasis on trustworthiness isn't the major point of listening to social media, either.
That last line, though, comes a lot closer to social media analysis. Notice the specific inclusion of blogs. That's getting out of the transactional context and closer to more general definitions of reputation.

Depending on how the TC defines its scope, this project could turn out to be relevant to social media analysis companies. The first meeting is on 1 May in Santa Clara, with a dial-in option for those too far away to attend.

A Better Influence?
I don't usually see reputation as a metric in social media analysis, but influence analysis is common. It's helpful for weighting and prioritization, so it's not going away (though it could do with some agreement on definition, itself). A readily available reputation metric could figure into an improved influence metric, and it could be an important part of site/participant profiles.

Gartner says that ORMS is worth watching, but don't expect it to lead to anything for a while (via Dion Hinchcliffe).

Thanks to Joseph Fiore at Repumetrix for the tip.

links for 2008-04-09

links for 2008-04-08

links for 2008-04-05

links for 2008-04-04

J.D. Power buys Umbria

J.D. Power and Associates, a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE:MHP) announced the acquisition of Umbria, Inc. this morning.

So much of the early interest in social media is based on defensive monitoring of customer complaints online. It's interesting to see Umbria's capabilities explicitly linked to J.D. Power's "voice of the customer-based studies on quality and customer satisfaction."

You can find a complete roundup of mergers and acquisitions in the industry in SMA's acquisitions scorecard.

links for 2008-04-02

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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