June 2009 Archives

What is it with marketing and the letter P? I was just going through Maggie Fox's new post on digital crisis communications, and as I started to summarize it on Delicious, it all came out in P-words.

First, Maggie's points, summarized:

  1. You don’t have to have all the answers.
  2. You don’t need to respond to everyone.
  3. Social media doesn’t always matter.
  4. Mainstream media are dramatically inflating digital crises.
Read the full post and see if these preposterously plosive points summarize it for you:
  • Prepare
    Set up your online channels before you need them, so you're ready to respond when your crisis hits (then apply Maggie's point 1).

  • Prioritize
    Triage will get you through the day.

  • Perspective
    Keep it, despite the social media hype.
Yeah, I know, two verbs and a noun. Alert the style manual police.

Photo by Leo Reynolds.

I've said that opposing viewpoints over human vs. computer analysis of social media content don't constitute a debate, because I've never heard both sides at the same time and place. Now, thanks to an email exchange between Mike Daniels (Report International) and Mark Westaby (Spectrum) for Research magazine, I have to stop using that little observation. It's now—finally—a debate.

Tracking online word-of-mouth: The people vs machines debate

After an exchange of the usual points and counterpoints (speed, accuracy, sarcasm, synonyms...), the discussion really gets going in the comments. Mark makes a point that may summarize why I find this stuff interesting:

Automated analysis should not be viewed as a replacement for human analysis. Rather, it is a different method that is opening up entirely new and tremendously exciting ways of analysing data.
(One of Mark's current projects, Fin-buzz, provides a hint about his meaning.)

The usual debate: a closed question
If you're looking at it from a media analysis perspective, this question comes down to quantity and quality. How much media can you analyze in a way that you will trust? The new technologies will let you analyze more media sources faster, if you accept the results. In a world bursting with new publishers, that could be a good thing, and that's where we find the usual—reminding myself to use the word now—debate.

Moving to an open-ended question
Speed and scale benefits come from the application of new tools to old questions—not a bad thing, but not terribly interesting. Coming at it from another angle, the rise of automated analysis suggests a question about the removal of obstacles: What would you do with online information if you could "read" all of it? We're seeing some early ideas; what else is it good for?

Which question are you thinking about? Is "good enough for media analysis" your standard, or does the prospect of a different set of capabilities (with new tradeoffs, yes) inspire new ideas?

Update: T.R. Fitz-Gibbon picks up the discussion on the Networked Insights blog: Social Media Analytics, Humans vs. Machines.

Photo by Narisa.

links for 2009-06-19

Is listening creepy? I'm seeing that word more lately. As much as we tell companies that The Right Way to do social media is to listen and engage, some people just don't want to hear back from companies they talk about. Somehow, they've developed an expectation of privacy in public communication channels.

They're mistaken. But it's in your company's interest to avoid creeping out the customers, anyway.

The party metaphor for social media describes a social approach to entering existing conversations, but partygoers need to remember that we don't have loud music or quiet corners here. Unless they pick a private spot, their conversation is public, and modern search tools make it available to everyone. Conversations about a company—especially complaints—are going to catch the company's attention.

Think of the executive who overhears a conversation about his company at the party. He'd listen and find a way to enter the conversation if needed.

Avoid the trench coat
Companies can do everything right, and some people will find it creepy, anyway. They're not thinking about what it means when companies don't pay attention. We have plenty of examples where the lack of a response (or an insufficiently speedy response—*cough* Motrin) becomes the basis for a new round of complaints—I don't have to convince you that silence is not usually the best response, do I?

So what can we do to minimize the creep factor?

  • Don't stalk everyone who casually mentions your business. We've all had to shake a hungry salesman, and nobody likes it. Twitter follows may be especially likely to trigger a shudder.

  • Work on your approach; avoid language that falls on the floor like a bad pickup line. Clear, open and helpful are a good start.

  • When you respond publicly to a public complaint, offer to take the follow-up discussion to a private channel, such as email or phone. Expect anything you say or do in the private channel to become public, because it might.

  • Be very careful about using everything you know about a customer when you respond. People probably aren't ready to learn that you can map their social media activity to their account at your company (with all of their personal contact information). Give them time.

  • Expect some people to react badly to the most well-intentioned contact. Apologize, recover and move along. You can't win 'em all.
Some people aren't going to like it, and some will complain when you try to do the right thing (being wrong never stopped them before, why would it now?). More will complain if you don't.

Tales from the trenches?
What are you doing to avoid that uncomfortable response to your online engagement? How's it working for you? Has anyone called you creepy for responding to them yet?

If teenagers think Twitter is creepy, they're not going to like company responses in Twitter, either.

Photo by byungkyupark.

links for 2009-06-10

I'm not even going to ask if it's happened to you. If you have a blog, it has. You work on a big idea and a great blog post, and while it's stuck in the drafts folder, someone else posts on the same topic. Man, I hate when that happens. It makes it look like the other guy thought of it first and I'm just echoing. So let's do something about it.

Would it help to have a little extra motivation? A challenge, perhaps? Here's the plan:

  1. Pick the two best topics spending too much time in your draft folder and give us the quick version in a new post.

  2. Tweet your post and tag it with #stuckindraft so we can find it and encourage you.

  3. Commit to finish that post! within a week.

  4. When you finish the completed version, update your StuckInDraft post to link to the completed posts.

  5. Tweet it again to let us know you've finished.
How easy is that? Sure, you run the risk of tipping off the world to your big idea when you post the short version, but how many times has someone scooped you while you kept it quiet? If you're thinking about it, there's a big chance that someone else is, too, so you might as well be able to take credit for the early post.

Now, you know where he is. Go! Confront the problem! Fight! Win! And call me when you get back, darling. I enjoy our visits.
—"Edna Mode," The Incredibles
Let's get those drafts unstuck!

Oh, yeah, my list.

  • Questions to ask before shopping for listening tools and services
    I've heard from social media analysis vendors that clients are issuing RFPs before knowing enough to ask the right questions. This is a list of questions that clients should ask themselves to discover their own requirements.

  • Opportunities in the intersections of analytics
    What value is hiding in the overlaps between social media analysis, web analytics, text analytics, business intelligence, customer relationship management...? What are the important connections in business processes and at a systems level?
Yup, I'm working on the easy posts that should write themselves. :-) What are you going to finish?

No, actually, this post didn't spend much time in the draft folder. Why do you ask?

links for 2009-06-04

About Nathan Gilliatt

  • ng.jpg
  • 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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