March 2008 Archives

links for 2008-03-30

links for 2008-03-29

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 26 March - Networked Insights announced an updated version of their software, featuring a redesigned user interface and a new influence metric based on engagement. press release (DOC)
  • 17 March - Additions at Monitor110: Brian Roberti joins as head of sales from EdgeTrade; Terry James, former head of global hosting operations at Radianz, joins as head of service delivery and operations. press release
New research and papers
  • Nielsen Online is presenting a free webinar, Greenwashing: Who’s Winning the Green Race Online, 1 April at 2:00 PM EDT (GMT -4). Nielsen's Jessica Hogue will discuss the Internet's role in increasing awareness of sustainability issues and what sustainability bloggers have to say about company efforts.

  • Benedict Koehler is planning a discussion of social media research (and a possible working group) at re:publica, 3 April in Berlin. via David Nelles

  • The next round of the discussion on open source standards for measuring social media will take place at The Coach & Horses in London, 8 April. Details on the MeasurementCamp wiki.


links for 2008-03-25

links for 2008-03-19

If it's in your drafts folder, someone else is about to post it.

Let's say you want to follow someone on Twitter without letting them know. Maybe it's a competitor, and you're interested in what they have to say, but maybe they don't yet know you're competing with them. How can you follow them without broadcasting your interest? If they're protecting their tweets, you can't. But in most cases, it's easy. All you need is social media's universal solvent: RSS.

If you want to be stealthy, you can't just click follow, because that sends a notification to the person you're following. Not stealthy. Instead, load up the Twitter page of the person you want to track, and look for the link to the RSS feed at the bottom. Subscribe to the feed, and you'll see the person's tweets without notifying them.

Update: RSS feeds no longer appear on individual profile pages, but you can still use RSS to follow people with Twitter's advanced search. The feed URL looks like this:

Seeing both sides
If you want to see the other side of your target's conversations, set up a search feed on Tweet Scan. Search for the target's handle in the first box to see public responses to that user, and then subscribe to the feed for that search. (It's not a bad idea to subscribe to that search on your own account, in case you miss an @ reply.)

Not community-approved
Using RSS like this means you lose some of the communications benefits of following and being followed, and it's not really in keeping with the community vibe on Twitter. In most cases, it's better to follow the people who interest you and be a part of the community. But if want to see what someone says without announcing your presence, or if you really don't want to use a separate client for monitoring Twitter, RSS does the trick.

If you tolerate the lower signal:noise of Twitter and want to follow me, I'm @gilliatt. Original, I know.

links for 2008-03-14

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 10 March - Attenalert launched its online monitoring service and, at 27 minutes, set the record for quick response to my RFI. (via Charlie Anzman)

  • 11 March - Cape Town-based Quirk eMarketing launched its BrandsEye online reputation monitoring tool. Priced at $750/month, BrandsEye incorporates manual content scoring, a proprietary reputation score and reporting capabilities.


links for 2008-03-13

"Listen" is a cliché of social media—perhaps the cliché of social media. If you've been exposed to any Social Media 101 discussion, you've heard about listening. There's a reason for that: everyone who's thought about it concluded that listening is fundamental to success in social media. But what does it mean? More than you probably think.

First, listen.
Listening is a metaphor, of course. We're usually talking about reading, along with watching a little video and—maybe—some actual listening. But listen goes along with the Cluetrain-inspired conversation metaphor that's also ubiquitous in the field, so listen it is. But what do you listen for?

The obvious answer is that you listen for discussion of your company and its markets. You pay attention in case someone says something that's relevant to your business, and then you can act on it. That's where a lot of talk about listening ends.

There's more.
But listening is more than the simple gathering of facts from online sources. Listening is the beginning of social media strategy, because it's how you learn—not just facts, but the landscape. It's the continuing foundation of strategy, because it's how you detect changes in the environment. Listening is learning from the market. If you do it right, you can learn a lot.

Listen to your market
Following conversations about your market—what people are saying about your company, its products and its people—should be your first step in social media. Before you try to engage your market in social media, find out what is already happening. Then, don't stop. You need to know...

  • Who is talking about you, and who is paying attention to them? You must understand the people.

  • What are they saying (You knew this one)? Individually and collectively, what are they talking about?

  • Where do the conversations happen? Is it in blogs? Communities or social networks? Product reviews? Which sites, specifically? What are the norms on those sites? What else is happening there?

  • How do they talk about you? What's the tone of the conversation?

  • Why are they talking? Based on what you learn about the people, what motivates them? If there's a complaint, is it someone looking for help, or is it just a rant from a critic who will not be satisfied? Can you tell the difference?
These are basic questions you should be able to answer for your company. But don't stop with your company. Think about competitors, partners and customers the same way. You're listening to a vocal segment of the market; what do you want to know?

Learn the environment
Listening before speaking gives you time to learn the social media environment before you begin to participate in visible ways. During the initial information-gathering phase, take the time to develop the skills and understanding that will serve you later.

  • Learn the tools. Social media is not primarily about technology, but there are some required tools. You wouldn't expect to monitor television without a TV, and you need a basic skill level to participate online. Fortunately, it's not that hard to figure out—all you need at the beginning is your web browser.

  • Learn the rules, written and unwritten. They vary by online neighborhood, and if you want to participate, it helps to know them. Online communities can be rough on newcomers who barge in to sell; it's better to join in on their terms. Focus on the specific environments you discover when you ask where relevant conversations are happening.

  • Find the experts in your own function, and read what they say. Whether it's marketing, PR or something else, someone has put real effort into figuring out useful lessons for you.

  • Learn from the experience of others, both positive and negative. Pioneers have already tried things that might work for you, and they've certainly discovered some that won't. There's no excuse for repeating well-publicized blunders in an environment where everything is saved, discussed and searchable. If you're going to fail, at least have the creativity to discover a new way.
Rinse, repeat
I suggest a simple, Listen - Engage - Speak framework for companies getting started in social media. The steps are in chronological order, but it's not a linear progression. Once you start listening, you never stop. Everything changes, from the topic of the day to who's talking where. Even the rules change, and the only way to keep up is to pay attention.

When you think about it, that's not so different from what you've always known. It's just that so much of the activity is on the Internet, and everyone in the world can share their opinions with everyone in the world now.

And that's my version of Listening 101. From there, it gets into the management layer of social media—organization, processes, tools and practices.

TNS creates media research unit

Just nine days after their acquisition of Compete, Inc., TNS (LON:TNS) announced the consolidation of its North American research units into the newly created TNS Media (via MediaWeek), with Dean DeBiase (formerly Chairman and CEO of Fathom Online) as CEO.

TNS Media combines four types of research:

  • Ad tracking and marketing analytics (TNS Media Intelligence)

  • Internet and broadcast audience measurement (TNS Media Research)

  • Social media analysis (Cymfony)

  • Panel-based web analytics (Compete)

The comparison with Nielsen is obvious (and getting more interesting). Is there anyone else who combines social media analysis, web metrics and traditional media research?

Blogging for experts


I hesitate before posting about the blog, because blogging about blogging is the poster child of Internet navel-gazing, and, well, I never wanted to be a poster child. But I keep having variations on the same conversation, so here we are. Specifically, here you are, which is proof that something interesting happened along the way.

I started this blog with the idea of explaining social media and online intelligence concepts to a non-technical audience, but the content shifted. I ended up with a more expert audience, too, which works for me. It turns out that I enjoy exploring more specialized topics, and I lack the Cosmo/Men's Health talent for writing the same articles every month (Abs! Exercise! Diet! Sex!).

So the blog gradually became a blog for experts, featuring a mix of news and insight. Conveniently, insight posts represent one of the more difficult styles of blogging. Oh, well. My parents read it, which helps them understand what I do.

All quiet in the comments
Watching subscriber numbers go up is always good for the ego, but there's another metric that isn't so encouraging: the Conversational Index, which is the ratio of comments and trackbacks to posts. I welcome your comments, but most days, you don't leave any.

I can think of four reasons for the silence that follows any particular post.

  1. The post was stupid. I really hope that's not it (and I don't think it is).
  2. It was obvious. Better than stupid, but not much.
  3. It was brilliant and insightful, but you don't want to point that out to your competitors who also read the blog but may have missed the point.
  4. You're just not the comment-writing type.
OK, there's a fifth possibility—you're subscribed but not actually reading—but I don't want to consider that one. Naturally, I like #3, and as long as you're keeping quiet, I'll just tell myself that's what's going on. :-)

But if it stays quiet, I just might start making obvious mistakes to bate you. Would that be better?

links for 2008-03-08

Rival armies terrorized bystanders when a playground war broke out in Club Penguin after school Thursday. Pink, blue and orange penguins fled as green and black armies exchanged snowballs and trash talk in a series of battles on the popular children's site... Somewhere in there is a worthwhile insight, and while I'm looking for it, you can enjoy these images from the scene.

If you're the right age—and the little big boy in my house is right there—Club Penguin is a fun site that combines games and social features in a virtual world. Word on the playground is that CP has better games and inter-user interactions than WebKinz, though the plush WebKinz can be really cute, and the in-world accessories in WebKinz are more interesting. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) liked Club Penguin, too, buying it last year for up to $700 million.

Part of what makes CP fun is the interaction among members via their penguin avatars. The entire experience is based in the virtual world, where kids can see and interact with other members. Many of the games are competitive (inner tube races down ski slopes, for example), and kids can type messages that are visible to others in the same area. (Site moderators watch to avoid the kinds of problems that make parents worry about their kids on the Internet.)

Oh, and they can throw snowballs any time they want. That part turns out to be relevant to today's events.

Virtual world, real social dynamics
In the course of some routine after-school research, my Junior Associate reported that CP wasn't fun today, because a bunch of kids had formed armies and were fighting a war. Usually, CP is populated with penguins of every color and accessory milling about, chatting (text) and playing games. Today, semi-organized groups of black and green penguins had a "war" (their term, not mine) that took over parts of the world. The usual, innocent chatter was mostly missing.

Everywhere Junior Associate went on the island, he found the war, and he didn't like it. He didn't like seeing all the snowballs being thrown, and he didn't like the trash talk. It was just like a real playground—the kids had self-organized around an activity that excluded some of the kids (possibly the younger kids?).

Of course, there are no real consequences when virtual snowballs are thrown. All that happens is that users see a lot of snowballs flying, but the kids know what those snowballs represent. My son's reaction wasn't too far from what you might expect from a real brawl. He reported some kids for bad language, and he wanted the "war" to stop. It's interesting that the virtual play-fight had virtually the same effect on him as a real one (yeah, I worked on that sentence).

So we had a fun little chat about online vs. real world, and then we had a little fun looking for a good picture of the action. Naturally, the big battle ended before I thought to grab an image, kind of like the perfect comeback line that pops into your head once the opportunity has passed.

Kids will be kids
Oh, wait, I promised some sort of insight, but all I'm coming up with is this: If you want to understand how people will interact online, first look at how they interact in the real world. True, online is different, and it's important to understand the differences. But human nature is the same. Group dynamics and behaviors from the real world shouldn't be a surprise when they show up online. Whether it's a play-fight in Club Penguin, in-crowd politics on Wikipedia or hateful gossip on Juicy Campus, you've seen it all before.

Recruiting in social media

| 1 Comment

Rather than tag one of his posts for the second time in a week, let me just recommend that you check out Jim Durbin's new blog, Social Media Headhunter. More companies are creating social media specialist positions (whatever the title), and Jim's combining his experience in both recruiting and social media in a way that promises to be valuable. It's something we're going to see more of.

Today's post is a list of social media interview questions for employers to ask. It reminds me of John Bell's social media score from a little over a year ago, but with a new set of questions that assume a clue. I won't steal Jim's thunder by copying them here, but question #3 made me pause—it's definitely not one of the usual suspects:

Name two social media sites/softwares/tools that have no business value.
That'll get you past the inside-the-bubble happytalk, won't it? But it's a good question that invites a lengthier discussion on how you would determine whether a new toy has business value for different types of companies. And remember, it's hard to prove a negative proposition—a single counterexample disproves it.

Two reminders in one day
On the same day, I get an alert that one of my posts is in Jim Stroud's list of articles on social media recruiting. If you haven't thought about how recruiters may view and use social media in their work, there's good material there.

Using social media for intelligence gathering in my job search is how I got into this stuff, and I used to keep up with the recruitosphere. I've known that some recruiters use social media. As more companies start looking for people to run their own social media programs, it shouldn't be a surprise that the same recruiters would take the lead on helping clients find their own social media people.

Speaking of recruiting
My schedule doesn't permit me to attend ICWSM, but I did join the network, and I have to say, there are a bunch of researchers affiliated with universities attending. If I were looking for research staff for a social media analysis company, I think I'd send my CTO to Seattle at the end of the month to meet people.

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 5 March - Dow Jones & Company introduced a text-to-speech capability to its Factiva service. The new feature, provided by VoiceCorp, converts text to spoken English, French, German, Italian or Spanish, based on users' existing preferences. press release
New research and papers
  • BrandIntel released "Collective intelligence: Understanding the mindset of the online consumer through predictive insight," a new paper by Co-CEO Bradley Silver (PDF).

  • TNS MI/Cymfony is presenting a free webinar on generating business results from social media, 12 March at 1:00 PM EDT (GMT -4). Cymfony's Jim Nail and Aberdeen Group's Jeff Zabin will discuss the recent Aberdeen report on corporate adoption of social media monitoring and analysis.


The British spelling is a reminder that the thinking about social media and its practices doesn't always come from California and New York. Consider the state of social media measurement, which means different things depending on who's talking. Will McInnes, of Brighton-based social media agency NixonMcInnes, has kicked off an attempt to develop open source standards for measuring social media.

Will describes some of the problems of the current situation. Does any of this sound familiar?

The problems we have in measuring social media is that the current ways of measuring are:
  • not well recognised (not the 'how we measure' but the 'what to measure'
  • not agreed on (it seems each provider has their way)
  • not helpful to everyone that uses them (this is what I've heard from clients)
  • aren't robust - there are substantial question marks over methods and proof (this is what I've heard from researchy people)
  • are closed and proprietary
His post continues with a vision of how things could be, if only...

First proposed during the discussion of social media measurement at Chinwag Live a couple of weeks ago, the project is getting started with a wiki, MeasurementCamp, and will continue in a follow-up discussion "coming very soon" in London. It's early, and the wiki is more promise than substance, but it should be interesting to see what a cross-section of the social media crowd comes up with.

Of course, this isn't the first wiki on measurement, so here's a question for you: where else is the discussion about metrics and potential standards taking place? I can think of three sites, not counting all of the blog posts on the topic.

This reminds me, we should add the recent papers and posts (pick a wiki, any wiki...).

links for 2008-03-05

TNS buys Compete, Inc.


Taylor Nelson Sofres (LON:TNS) announced the acquisition of Compete, Inc. today (press release, via Marshall Sponder). Today's announcement, combined with last year's acquisition of Cymfony, puts TNS on the short list of companies that offer both social media analysis and panel-based online audience measurement.

Since its consolidation of BuzzMetrics and NetRatings into Nielsen Online, The Nielsen Company has made a point of demonstrating the breadth of its media and market measurement capabilities. It's going to be interesting to see the TNS version of combining different types of research. Today's announcement gives just a hint of how the company plans to combine online and offline measurement data:

TNS will apply Compete’s ability to profile, measure and segment the online behaviour of consumers to its own 6th dimension access panels. This will start in the US, where TNS has a fully managed access panel of more than one million people and will then be extended across its network. This will give TNS an unmatched ability to provide insight based on online and offline behaviour and on consumer attitudes.
Note that Compete and Cymfony are located a few minutes apart in the Boston area, which should make collaboration/integration meetings easier and more frequent.

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