March 2009 Archives

links for 2009-03-26

links for 2009-03-25

  • This series of posts offers a helpful take on the policy question based on a segmentation of the people involved, the virtual places they may interact, and the risks to be mitigated.

The entanglement of social media analysis (SMA) and customer relationship management (CRM) is moving right along. It was inevitable, really, as companies realized the need to interact with customers through social media. The interesting question becomes, will they want engagement features in an SMA platform or monitoring and analytics in a CRM platform?

Adding process to SMA
From an SMA perspective, process management is an obvious addition to social media monitoring capabilities—once you find a customer with a problem, you want to fix the problem. Scale that beyond a handful of customers, and you need a system that can track your progress. Pieces to consider:

  1. Discovery
    Finding relevant mentions of a company is a fundamental building block of SMA.

  2. Tagging
    While we're in an analytics platform, let's assign some metadata to the item for future analysis.

  3. Triage
    Decide which items require a response and prioritize. You might filter on sentiment, topic, or influence. Some items might receive an automated response at this stage.

  4. Assignment, delegation and reassignment
    Who owns the response? It's not just for accountability, ownership relieves others of spending time on an item. The system should be able to handle ownership changes to support escalation and assignment to specialists.

  5. Track to closure
    Classic customer service management—what's the status of an open item? Open-item analysis gives management a tool to manage workload and understand current incidents (the metadata from step 2 will be useful).

  6. Measure results
    Now, we're back in the analytics realm and can look at the results through customer-service and media-analysis lenses.
From a client perspective, the question becomes, which platform do you use as a base—SMA, CRM, or something else?

The workflow features in some SMA platforms support this type of process, which can also be used in media relations or other contexts (action items aren't just for customer service). Other vendors provide tagging that can be kludged into workflow features. So you could choose to build your processes on an SMA platform.

Adding social media to CRM
The heavyweights of CRM are beginning to add social media features to their products, creating new options. Their existing installations will help them, especially in more conservative customers.

You got peanut butter on my chocolate!
Larry Dignan says of SAP's Twitter demo,

...it does show an increasing amount of integration with social networking tools. If corporate data is merged with the anecdotal tips from customers and partners there could be real insight.

This Holy Grail of insight is what a lot of vendors–Salesforce, Oracle and SAP–are chasing.

A few SMA companies have been talking about integration with other enterprise systems for a while. It's time to think seriously about how things fit together when established enterprise software companies start adding features that are the core of more specialized systems.

links for 2009-03-24

Back Channel for SMA Vendors

I've been busy behind the scenes, but some of my contacts missed the news. If you saw the not-quite-announcement on my not-exactly-secret vendor mailing list, you know what's going on. If you didn't—and your company sells social media analysis products or services—let's get you on the list.

A better way to keep in touch
When I set out to find all of the companies that monitor or measure social media in 2006, I thought I was researching 20 or 30 companies. Today, the database includes more than 170 companies, and it's become impossible to stay in touch through individual emails. To better manage the volume, I set up a mailing list for my vendor contacts.

This is not a client newsletter (that's later). This is my tool for staying in better contact with over 200 vendor contacts around the world. I'm replacing scattershot conversations with a more systematic way to include everyone in what's going on at Social Target. I'll use this list to share:

  • New research projects to participate in
  • Requests for information for the Guide to Social Media Analysis
  • Case-study requests
  • Questions to support specific client projects
And, of course, I'll share some of what I'm working on. The plan is to make this a low-volume, high-value list; I won't overwhelm your inbox. Please sign up here (RSS subscribers may need to open the page):


The first big announcement went out three weeks ago. If you missed it, let me know, and I'll send you a personal copy.

The Conference Board's new report, Managing Reputation Risk and Reward (press release, via Leslie Gaines-Ross), reveals that intensive social media monitoring and engagement are still early-adopter activities. In order for these practices to move into the mainstream, business leaders must first be convinced of the relevance of social media to company reputation. Then comes the opportunity to apply metrics and modern tools to the perceived challenge of monitoring media activity.

Social media for early-adopter businesses
Almost two years after Business Week published Web Attack, the fear motivation hasn't made the rounds (greed is less prominent in a study on reputation). While 82% of respondents in the new report say their companies make substantial efforts to manage reputation risk, most don't think social media have a large impact on reputation.

As much as everyone inside the social media bubble is tired of hearing the same old stories, a significant population hasn't learned the lesson yet, and so shouldn't be a surprise that they're not doing much to manage their reputations online. Only a third of the companies in the survey have extensive social media monitoring programs in place, and 75% report little or no active participation in social media.

Monitoring media, but wanting more
Beyond the relevance of social media, many companies are stuck with dissatisfying, simplistic media monitoring models (replaying a hundred Katie Paine comments in my head as I write this). While most companies in the survey monitor traditional media, they were less likely to use automated systems in the effort, and simple metrics predominate.

Ironically, almost half listed "monitoring media coverage" as a very significant challenge.

The boss agrees, reputation is critical
CEOs agree on the importance of corporate reputation, though most think they don't have enough information about it. In the PriceWaterhouseCoopers 12th Annual Global CEO Study (via Jennifer Rice), 63% of CEOs surveyed rated strength of the company's brand and reputation as a critical source of long-term competitive advantage, while only 31% think they have the information they need about them. A similar gap exists between CEOs' knowledge and the importance of customer preferences and needs in the market.

Applied listening strategies
I see three related challenges here: lack of understanding of the impact of online activity, inadequate media analysis practices, and a need for new sources of market insight. Especially as social and traditional media become indistinguishable, I see these as closely linked. Listening strategies will help with each.

  • Understand the reputation risk potential in social media.
    Review the oft-told tales of reputation crises that started or developed online. Notice how many online crises ended up in traditional media news coverage. Perform an initial audit to discover the company's current online reputation and its impact on company reputation in general.

  • Upgrade monitoring of traditional media to measurement of all media types.
    The media monitoring and measurement market is evolving rapidly. If your current methods don't deliver useful and timely information, look at new options. Pay attention to the types of media sources they track to ensure that you find current developments that affect your company.

  • Evaluate online sources for customer/market insight.
    Social media blur the boundary between media and social activity; evaluation of social media provides insight for both sides of the disappearing line. Measure online content for what your customers are saying to each other online, not just for general sentiment but for discovery of important topics.
Inside the social media crowd, some of the buzzwords are in danger of wearing out. This new report from the Conference Board tells me we're going to be teaching the basics for a long while.

Thanks to Frank Tortorici at the Conference Board for sharing the report with me.

links for 2009-03-20

I'm starting to think that matrix management is a critical skill for corporate social media efforts. That's not to suggest that companies have to start with their reorg boots on, but the combination of low budgets and cross-functional impacts suggests that a little matrix thinking could be constructive. For companies where the social media team taps the resources of multiple functional groups, you're already there.

Two data points in today's information flood reminded me of the ad hoc approach I've seen before:

  • Forrester (via RWW) found that three quarters of marketers in their recent survey have $100,000 or less budgeted for social media.

  • During today's Blogwell recap call, Lizzie Schreier of Allstate answered a question about team size by saying, "The social media team is Marcia." Others are involved, but it's not a full-time assignment.
UPS provides another data point—they've enlisted receptionists and administrative assistants in their online listening effort. The other end of the spectrum would appear to be Dell, whose well-documented strategic shift put online engagement and community at the center of a new organization. But I suspect that the Allstate example is more typical.

It makes sense, really. The challenges—and benefits—of social media touch the company across functional silos, and no one group is likely to own responsibility for all of it. If you shift from an ownership mindset to a leadership mindset, you start creating a form of matrix management, working with people who aren't assigned to the project full-time.

Look at these matrix management challenges and decide if any of them sound familiar. It strikes me as another opportunity to apply lessons learned from earlier experiences.

Update: The Allstate call is now available as a free audio download. I recommend it.

links for 2009-03-17

On-topic message volume and its comparative derivative, share of voice, always show up in metrics and graphs of social media activity. When the media being measured were print and broadcast, the units were reasonably consistent—articles and mentions aren't too hard to figure out in newspapers and broadcast news. Social media complicates the units with new forms that are less comparable. So what do volume and share mean in this environment?

I started thinking about this as I read Bill Ives's review of Techrigy SM2. He pointed out a chart that breaks down mentions by channel:

You can also sort the mentions by their channel to see where the conversations are occurring. The screen shot below shows an example where Twitter leads the pack for this brand with 190 mentions. Following are a number of blog tools (LiveJournal, Word Press, Blogger, Typepad that in aggregate total more than Twitter. Next in order are: Ning, Wikipedia, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook.
I don't want to pick on Techrigy, but this made me think a little about how items are counted in general.

Measuring corn
Think about how you might measure corn. On a small scale, you could count ears or kernels. On a large scale, you could use weight (tons) or volume (bushels). If you're going to compare it to wheat, you need to use the same units. If you're going to compare it to beef, you need to back up and understand the question clearly before proceeding.

Used carelessly, a comparison of raw message counts across platforms might be more distracting than useful. A conversation in the form of back-and-forth one-liners on Twitter might show up as many items, while a longer conversation in the comments of a blog post might show up as one item. Even if you count comments individually, one long comment might contain more content—more statements of fact or opinion—than half a dozen tweets.

Direction, not evaluation
Again, not to pick on Techrigy—message volume is a standard metric—but the profusion of new forms is changing the meaning of some of our metrics. Volume, in particular, needs to be considered in the context of how specific online media work. Frequency distribution by media type can be helpful in suggesting areas for further exploration, but when comparing raw volumes across fundamentally different forms, the actual numbers probably don't matter.

links for 2009-03-12

links for 2009-03-06

Brand Name Obfuscation

Here's an interesting challenge from the twitterstream. Can you spot mentions of a brand when the writer makes an effort to disguise the brand name?

Brandname obfuscation (e.g. St*rb*cks) is a recognition that twitter has tipped and that the data will be mined. #hardlife for #twanalytics
—Casper Davies (@drepsac)
Thanks to Simon McDermott (@simonmc) for spotting it.

links for 2009-03-01

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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