December 2006 Archives



I've been enjoying the blog tag game in recent days, wondering which of the people I know might send it my way. I met Marianne at the bloggers' wonk before the WOMMA Summit, and we crossed paths almost hourly at the conference. She's one of the conference buddies that helped me feel like I knew someone in the crowd. Onward...

Five things you didn't know about me:

  1. I lived in Charlotte when Hurricane Hugo came through and in Durham when Fran hit. We did leave LA before the Northridge quake took out our apartment building, though.

  2. When I was a kid, I was occasionally responsible for feeding a steer that would spend the next year in our freezers. We named one of them Hamburger.

  3. I got very serious about radio in college. I still have a production demo around here, somewhere.

  4. I once had a job that came with a security clearance. The only secret I ever knew was the password to check email to the help desk account.

  5. I have a weakness for popsicles, even in winter.
Let's see, how can I mix this up? I wanted to tag CK, but apparently that's already out of fashion. I'm tagging James Governor, Harry Joiner, Jerry Bowles, Jim Durbin, and Sam Flemming.


Social media researchalytics


I've taken a real interest in companies that monitor and analyze social media lately. I met some of them at the WOMMA Summit, and one of the fun topics was trying to figure out what to call their new industry.

It seems a little strange to call it an industry already, but the New York Times called it a "promising new industry" in yesterday's story on Nielsen BuzzMetrics. I guess that makes it official. Part of what makes this little industry interesting is the different backgrounds of the companies and what that difference means for their approach to analyzing social media. It also leads to confusing terminology.

Here are some of the terms I've come across. They all mean roughly the same thing:

  • Blog monitoring
  • Brand monitoring (Forrester)
  • Consumer-generated media measurement (Nielsen BuzzMetrics)
  • Conversation mining (Converseon)
  • Internet word of mouth and competitive intelligence research (CIC Data)
  • Market influence analytics (Cymfony)
  • Online market intelligence (Attentio)
  • Online reputation monitoring (search marketers)
  • Public image monitoring (Nstein)
  • Social media analysis (Matt Hurst)
  • Social media analytics
  • Social media measurement (Constantin Basturea)
  • Social media research
Now, I realize that companies need to differentiate their services, so we're going to have service marks and vendor-speciific terminology. But wouldn't it help everyone if we had a consistent, generic term for clients to wrap their heads around? After all, many companies still don't monitor blogs. When they figure out the need for blog brand social media monitoring measurement analytics (BBSMMMA), how do they refer to it? (Yeah, yeah, by your company's name. Sure.)

I have my opinions, but I'd like to hear yours. Is it possible to find a common term? What's your favorite?

Tags: buzz

Catching up from WOMMA


womma_sign.jpgI'm back from Washington and the WOMMA Summit (photo by Josh Hallett). The good news is that many of the people I've been corresponding with were also at the conference, so I'm already caught up on email—or, at least, I'm caught on up reading email. The messages-to-send queue is longer than ever.

I originally hoped to score one of the blogger passes to the event, but having seen Josh and Marianne struggling to capture the mass of information and insights (not to mention photos), I'm glad I wasn't one of the official bloggers. Live-blogging an event like this is a full-time effort. My results from the conference were easily worth the price of admission.

Random notes:

  • The blogger dinner—excuse me, wonk—was a great way to start off. In addition to meeting some of the people I've been reading (such as Constantin—pictured on the left), I met some very interesting new folks. The wonk gave me conference buddies to see everywhere before the conference even started.

  • When I hear sirens at home, it's usually the fire department or EMS going to help someone. In downtown Washington it was always a motorcade for Someone Important.

  • There's a reason people carry around big, digital SLRs. My pictures of the national Christmas tree with the Washington Monument and White House (two different shots) came out so poorly that I hardly want to keep them, much less share them. Josh, on the other hand, got great pictures from the blogger dinner and conference.

  • When I heard John Moore say, "I take my work seriously and myself lightly," I realized I should have been collecting quotes for a post. Oh, well.

  • Did anyone else notice that "RPS" sounds a lot like "our BS"? It was fun, though. Six ties in a row really get the adrenaline going.
By the end of the conference, I had good momentum for my current project and an idea from a new friend that might lead to ICWSM. If your company competes with companies like Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Cymfony and BuzzLogic, you'll want to know about this.


On the road


I'm off to Washington through Wednesday for the WOMMA Summit. Look for me at the blogger wonk tonight, too.

I'm travelling light—no computer—so I won't be posting updates until I get home. I'll share stories when I get back.

Have a great week!


Flemming Madsen isn't much interested in buzz. He says buzz—the volume of the conversation—doesn't correlate to sales, but influence does. His London-based company, Onalytica, analyzes online media and influence for clients in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia.

Correlating buzz and word of mouth to influence is a major piece of Onalytica's work, which includes monitoring and measuring online media and word of mouth. Distinguishing influence from popularity is the critical step in the process. Flemming talked about the history of influence measurement, going back to the work of Wassily Leontief and his input/output model. The established technique for analyzing media is citation analysis, which follows references upstream to identify influential sources.

Onalytica illustrates the distinction between popularity and influence in a paper on sources of information about avian flu (PDF). If you were to look up flu-related keywords on Google or Technorati, you would find popular sources, such as Google News and Engadget. Factor in citation analysis to measure influence and you'll find sources like the World Health Organization, OIE (World organization for animal health), the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, and the US Centers for Disease Control.

The popular sites rank highly in the results because of their many inbound links on every topic. The influential sites are cited more often on this topic. Influence analysis makes it possible to identify appropriate contacts along a chain of influence on the topic of interest. Stakeholders who are disproportionately influential vis à vis their popularity provide a particularly attractive opportunity, since they may be easier to approach than more popular stakeholders.

"Clients want as little data as possible, but they do want all the relevant information."

Onalytica began with government clients and still works on initiatives on topics like childhood obesity, youth crime, and child support, though a majority of their work is for corporate and agency clients. A typical engagement might focus on identifying influential stakeholders to prioritize PR efforts, or on identifying brand perceptions, challenges and opportunities. One of the major benefits of this kind of analysis is relief from information overload. Flemming also noted that social media analysis can serve as a substitute for surveys—in one example, Onalytica identified customer decision drivers for a financial services client.

What else have clients done with Onalytica research? One used influence analysis to determine the value of celebrity endorsements. Others have created key performance indicators (KPIs) for their PR agencies based on increasing influence. There's more here than defensively monitoring blogs for emerging issues, although they'll do that for you, too.

You can hear more from Flemming Madsen on the Onalytica blog and in interviews with Neville Hobson (July 2006) and Eric Mattson (September 2006).


Chinese blog growth

The growth of Chinese blogs is a popular story. People's Daily reports today on the new blog search service from Chinese search engine Baidu (via Search Engine Land). Look at the growth numbers they include:

A report released by Baidu earlier this week showed the number of bloggers who use Chinese had reached 19.87 million, a 24-percent rise over the same time last year, producing 52.6 million blogs.

The number of blog service providers rose nearly 55 percent in the past year to 1,460. Qzone, run by Tencent, had the most bloggers and visitors. It was followed by, MSN Spaces and

Also today, Matthew Hurst used varying estimates of Chinese blog growth for an example of an idea he's exploring, the Data Web. It's an interesting change of pace from the usual focus on text on the Web.

Want more on social media and China? Look up the Technorati/Edelman relationship, Richard Edelman's observations on China and Korea, Technorati's State of the Blogosphere, Sam's China Word of Mouth Blog, and, of course, my post on CIC Data.


Blog influence in Europe

Looking for interesting numbers for your next briefing? A recent Ipsos MORI poll on European attitudes toward blogs and their influence on buying decisions may help.

Some of their conclusions:

  • Blogs are now a near second to newspapers as the most trusted information source.
  • High spenders are most trusting of blogs.
  • France leads European blogging; the British are the least blog-aware.
  • Blogs are now driving purchase decisions.
  • They also block purchases.
Emmanuel Parody notes some concerns about the survey's conclusions—including content differences between the English (PDF) and French (PDF via Loïc Le Meur) presentations (the automatic translation was quite amusing—boy, I need to refresh my French).


Market Sentinel

Forget I ever mentioned an international theme week. With three conversations just yesterday, it's not about to end. This post takes the virtual world tour back to London for an informative conversation with Market Sentinel CEO Mark Rogers.

Market Sentinel is a social media monitoring and analysis company serving primarily UK-based, Europe-focused companies (they also do some work in the US market). They maintain a clear focus on research and analysis, leaving the solutions to the clients and PR partners they work with.

As Mark described the history of Market Sentinel, I heard a progression that probably mirrors the lifecycle of client-side attitudes toward social media. Market Sentinel grew out of a service that generated RSS feeds to track updates of web sites that didn't offer feeds. When a major US technology vendor asked to use it, the company entered the monitoring business. Their services matured from monitoring to analysis, and now the company has a real focus on identifying influencers online to support clients' interactions with them.

When we discussed the parallels with how a client may approach social media, Mark suggested some stages of client motivation:

  1. Awareness/fear
  2. Listening/monitoring
  3. Indentifying influencers
  4. Focused engagement
Market Sentinel uses social network analysis and link analysis (citation analysis) to build a database of stakeholders for its clients. Mark says, "any topic can define a social network," so the company generates a table of authorities for topics of interest. The result is a filter that refines the monitoring process, allowing clients to focus their attention on influential speakers.

Mark mentioned that in the last six months, he's noticed clients moving beyond reactive strategies. Now they're becoming interested in identifying problems before they become acute. While many companies are not yet monitoring social media, those that have started monitoring are quickly becoming more sophisticated in their approach to online engagement.

You can hear more from Mark Rogers on the Market Sentinel blog and in interviews with Nicole Simon (November 2005) and Guillaume du Gardier (September 2005).


Keeping track of the trackers

One word I keep hearing from companies that monitor and analyze conversations in social media is busy. Everyone seems to have lots of client activity lately, and several company founders expressed an expectation of more companies entering the market.

If all the companies you know are from Forrester's report, you'll want a longer list. The NewPR Wiki now has a page with that list and more information on social media measurement.

Here's what you'll find:

  • What to monitor?
  • Upcoming Events
  • Companies offering monitoring/measurement services
  • Interviews
  • Blog analytics research
As with any wiki, the page will become a better resource as people add to it. Unlike another well-known wiki, this one's password-protected, which should help the signal/noise ratio.

Katie Paine predicts, "blog monitoring/analysis/measurement will show up on to-do lists everywhere" in 2007 (New Communications Review). Sounds like busy will continue to be a much-used word for companies offering those services.


CIC Data

cicdata.gifWhat makes social media companies outside the US different? Language and familiarity with local cultures are the obvious answers, and my conversation with Sam Flemming tomorrow morning (fun with time zones!) really brought that home. Sam's Shanghai-based company, CIC Data, delivers Internet word of mouth and competitive intelligence research for China.

CIC Data focuses exclusively on China, typically working with the China headquarters of multinational clients. They have also worked with other social media research firms to provide Chinese market coverage. The services they offer are similar to the services you'd find in other countries: social media monitoring, trend analysis, and identifying influencers. The big differences are—surprise—language and culture.

It turns out that the work on analyzing Western-language social media doesn't help much with analyzing Chinese-language media. But beyond the technical challenges of the language is the importance of cultural awareness. It turns out that Chinese consumers are creative producers of slang, such as the 10–12 different ways to refer to "Bluetooth." Imagine instant-messaging-style abbreviations, with specific slang and abbreviations for different industries. Add mobile phone terms that vary by the user's phone and market-specific slang for some of the industries CIC Data watches (such as automobiles), and the text analysis becomes a worthy challenge.

And then there's the choice of technology. According to Technorati, Chinese language represents 10% of blogs. The real action, though, is on message boards (but call it BBS); that's where Chinese consumers share their opinions of companies, brands, products... the stuff that shows up on blogs in the US. If you've seen online message boards, you get the idea, but add to your mental picture longer, bloglike articles and mainstream adoption. CIC Data tracks 4 million messages each month from automobile-related boards alone.

China is awash in marketing messages—ads are everywhere (including escalator handrails). Consumers who trust other people more than marketers are heavy users of social media to share information and opinions about companies and products. If China is an important market for you, you'll see the value in a China specialist's knowledge of the language and culture.


About Nathan Gilliatt

  • ng.jpg
  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
  • Principal, Social Target
  • Profile
  • Highlights from the archive


Monthly Archives

New on SMA