August 2008 Archives

BackType Tracks Blog Comments


BackType.pngAdd BackType to the list of useful, free tools for monitoring social media (via IntelFusion). BackType, which launched this week, is a search engine for blog comments. The web site provides a convenient mechanism for finding comments by an individual or on a topic, with a social network-style "follow" feature and the now-standard RSS feeds for any search. This looks like a solid addition to the toolkit, useful for tracking your own mentions and for developing an understanding of interesting individuals.

Some ideas for first steps with BackType:

  1. Search for comments about your company and products. Subscribe to the feeds.

  2. Create an account with your usual handle and complete the profile. You want to give the right impression to people who search for your comments (and use the link to send them to your blog/site).

  3. Develop a better understanding of individuals by searching for their comments. What blogs are they reading? What other topics do they find interesting? Influencer profiling is one application; hiring is another.

  4. Follow a thought leader (subscribe to the RSS feed if you want to be stealthy) to discover new sources.
It's unclear, so far, how thorough BackType's search is, but this looks like a tool with interesting possibilities, especially in source discovery and profiling. It's also a reminder that everything is searchable online, and your contributions in different venues will eventually be rolled up into one big profile.

links for 2008-08-28

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services



Cross-Pollinating Analytics

With the big project completed, I finally have time to start catching up on my reading pile, and the first book was a winner: Super Crunchers, by Yale Law professor Ian Ayres. If you're interested in analytics—and face it, you're reading this blog—you should read this one. Ayres looks at analytics across multiple fields, so virtually everyone will learn something. And if you hold strong opinions on the human vs. computer analysis question, the results in these other fields might challenge you.

If we've talked, you probably noticed that I'm a big fan of cross-pollination—looking for lessons in advances in other fields (such as the hospitals who learned process improvement from racing teams). Super Crunchers tells how analytics are helping companies make more effective decisions, and in the process, changing the role of expert opinion.

The examples are all over the place: e-commerce recommendation systems, individualized offers and price discrimination, evidence-based medicine, social programs, dog racing. Example after example of how analytics create new opportunities and challenge the experts in the predicting game.

The nice thing about the book is that you don't need to understand any of the underlying technology going in. Ayres writes for a non-technical audience, and if it's entirely new to you, he won't leave you in the dust. Still, he's a law prof, so if you want documentation, you'll find plenty in the notes. Either way, I recommend reading it to the end, as he eventually switches from examples to explanation—and yes, he explores the risks to privacy and individual freedom, too.

Teaching the machine to read
Analyzing media content—online or otherwise—requires extracting meaning from unstructured text, and that's not in Super Crunchers. Text analytics are just a bit bleeding edge. For now, we can still argue about whether automated analysis is good enough to use. But the success of the algorithms against the experts in purchasing, sports, medicine and law suggests where text analysis is going.

As for the cross-pollination angle, a book this full of examples should be able to inspire some ideas in the reader, whether for your business or your career. For me, the big takeaway was the confirmation of my new favorite question.

links for 2008-08-26

Initial Response to the Guide

When Delicious rolled out version 2.0, the part of the system that generates my link posts forgot the password. Before I fixed that, I found some posts that mentioned the Guide to Social Media Analysis, and I wanted to acknowledge them here.

Thanks to all for the kind words!

links for 2008-08-21

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 12 August - KDPaine & Partners announced MarketFramer, a tool for analyzing conversations in social media and planning marketing messages.
  • 11 August - Frank LaRosa has been promoted to VP of Development at Networked Insights.

links for 2008-08-15

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

New research and papers

Measuring Olympic Social Media

Major events create prime opportunities for social media analysis companies to show their stuff. The election coverage continues, but this week everyone's looking at the Olympic Games in Beijing. In keeping with the competitive spirit of the event, we've even had an analytic thumb-wrestling match (Cymfony vs. Collective Intellect).

(Most recent first)

Who will be next to enter the ring?

A key component of listening to social media involves knowing where to listen. Monitoring blogs is an important step, but what if the real action around your company is in product reviews? Your listening plan needs to include the types of media that are relevant in your market. If you use an external social media analysis provider, they need to cover the relevant media types for you.

Last year, it was easy to assume that blog monitoring was social media analysis—the discussion was all about what consumers were saying on blogs. Almost all of the vendors tracked blogs, but there was a question about measuring blog comments. This year, things are different. New types of social media have emerged, and vendors have increased their coverage.

As I collected information for the new edition of the Guide to Social Media Analysis, I asked vendors specifically about the media types they cover in their monitoring or analysis. 58 companies answered the question. Here's a summary of their responses:

Media type (examples)*Coverage
Blog posts100%
Blog comments97%
Discussion boards97%
Product reviews93%
Social networks (Facebook, MySpace, Ning)88%
Client-provided data (CRM data, customer email or chat sessions, private message boards)83%
Social news (Delicious, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon)81%
Video sharing (YouTube)74%
Microblogging (Friendfeed, Plurk, Twitter)74%
Usenet newsgroups64%
Print media62%
Photo sharing (Flickr)60%

*A few companies listed other sources, such as transcripts of analyst calls, price-comparison sites and proprietary research sources.

The details—along with 63 vendor profiles—are in the second edition of the Guide to Social Media Analysis.

The second edition of the Guide to Social Media Analysis is finished and available on the Social Target web site. The new edition weighs in at 145 pages and includes more than double the profiles of the original. If you're ready to track social media discussions that are relevant to your business, this reference will help you find the tools and services that fit your needs.

These 63 companies are profiled in the second edition:

Andiamo Systems
Beyond Analysis
CIC Business Consulting
Collective Intellect
Digital Influence Group
Digital PR
Dow Jones & Company
EmPower Research
Intelligence Technologies
J.D. Power and Associates (formerly Umbria)
KDPaine & Partners
Market Sentinel
Millward Brown Precis
MotiveQuest LLC
New Media Strategies
Nielsen Online
Quirk eMarketing
Report International
Reputation Institute
Sentiment Metrics
Techrigy, Inc.
TNS Cymfony
VICO Research & Consulting
Visible Technologies
Waggener Edstrom Worldwide

Investors and companies in the space have been known to use the Guide, too. Where else can you find 62 competitor profiles?

Is this your first time here? You'll get more insights from Social Target research, plus weekly industry news highlights, when you subscribe by RSS or email.

If you're building an in-house social media capability—whether in an agency or corporate environment—your needs for social media monitoring and analysis are a bit different from other companies. The basics of collecting data and generating metrics and reports are the same, but hands-on workgroups have special requirements.

On some level, many social media analysis companies can help you build your own capabilities. The nearly ubiquitous interactive dashboard is a hands-on tool for clients who want to interact with the data, but they're a better fit for individual analysts. Some companies really focus on developing platforms for companies building their own capabilities.

What's different
On top of the core analytical and reporting capabilities, social media analysis platforms for workgroups tend to include features like these:

  • Multi-user environment
  • User account management
  • Multi-client awareness (for agencies)
  • Delegation and tracking features
There's more, of course—especially when you get into the secret sauce that these companies cook up. Features vary wildly, and even the basic philosophies differ, but those are the basics that set workgroup platforms apart from the more numerous dashboards.

The other distinction is harder to see, because it's embedded in the business: these companies are oriented toward supporting in-house social media capabilities. Many dashboards, on the other hand, are a secondary service from companies whose clients typically want finished reports from their vendors.

The list
Vendors with monitoring and analysis platforms for the in-house social media team:

You'll find profiles of most of these companies (and a lot more) in the second edition of the Guide to Social Media Analysis, which is now available.

Update: I've published a review of 21 Social Media Analysis Platforms for Workgroups to help you find the right choice for your needs without months of research.

I can just hear people shouting, "you missed us!" Go ahead, leave a comment, and I'll add you to the list.

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 5 August - SkyGrid announced the close of $11 million in Series B funding led by RRE Ventures. BlackRock and other investors also participated in the round.

  • 7 August - Filtrbox released web and desktop widgets for tracking coverage of the Olympic Games.
  • Bill Baker will join Visible Technologies as Chief Technology Officer. Baker previously directed Microsoft's SQL Server Business Intelligent Unit and was general manager of Business Intelligence (BI) applications for the Microsoft Office Business Platform. press release

BarCampRDU was Saturday, and as usual, it was great for meeting bright and interesting people who don't live so far away (and yes, I wore the tweetworthy shirt). I get a small thrill out of my international conversations, but it's hard to beat the wandering conversations that happen in person. Just one ranged from mobile augmented reality systems and science classes for home schoolers to n-dimensional space and current theories about the shape of the universe. In keeping with the general tone of the day, I went with a more technical session this year, sharing some of the tools I use for manipulating and repurposing RSS feeds.

I'm not a programmer, but I do like playing with data, so tools that let me play without having to learn real programming skills are a big help. When it comes to RSS, these tools fit perfectly:

  • FeedBurner
    Beyond the statistics that people usually like, FeedBurner is great for insulating your subscribers from behind-the-scenes changes. I've been using FeedBurner since the beginning of this blog, so when I moved it from Blogspot, I was able to make the change transparent to subscribers by having them on the FeedBurner feed instead of the blog's native feed.

  • Feed Informer
    Formerly FeedDigest, this is my workhorse tool for combining and reformatting feeds. When I moved the blog, I used FeedDigest to combine the old and new feeds until I had ten posts on the new site. Feed Informer is also my tool for adding blog feeds and Delicious tag feeds to web pages (for example, the entry page on shows recent posts from two blogs, including excerpts stripped of their HTML). Delicious provides a similar capability with its link rolls feature, but Feed Informer gives more formatting flexibility with its ability to edit the HTML and pick up existing styles using CSS.

    For the session, I made a quick and dirty dashboard that pulled BarCampRDU content from Google Blog Search, Flickr and Twitter, all using Feed Informer. If you know enough HTML to make a web page, Feed Informer gives you everything else you need to incorporate feeds into web sites. It has lots of output options, but for the non-programmer, the Javascript option is easiest.

  • Dapper
    Similar to Feed Informer in its ability to manipulate and repurpose feed content, Dapper can also pull content directly from web sites (yes, they talk about getting permission when you do this). It has different output options, including pre-built widgets and straight HTML, so it may be the tool for somewhat different scenarios. I haven't had time to play with Dapper yet, but it looks promising.

  • AideRSS
    Filter feeds based on what other people think of its contents. Comments, delicious tags and links contribute to a score that rates each post against others from the same feed. AideRSS creates new feeds with different levels of selectivity; its dashboard is also a quick way to see which posts of your own blog are being tagged, etc.

  • FeedBlitz
    RSS to email with visibility into subscribers and subscriber management.
What I didn't cover:
  • Yahoo Pipes
    I talked with a few folks about presenting it, but they said it was really too complicated for my theme. The consensus was that Pipes benefits from a programmer mindset, and it's harder to use than the tools I showed.

  • Feeds from sites that don't offer feeds
    Feedwhip or Page2RSS monitor web sites and generate feeds of the changes. I'm sure there are a lot more, but how many do you need?

  • ZapTXT
    RSS to IM, text or email. Optional keyword filtering makes this primarily an alerting service.
All of these services take RSS as an input. The beauty of the feed manipulation sites is that they also offer RSS outputs, so you can build interesting applications by running feeds through several of them on the way to their destination. It's important to think about the order, though. Merging feeds and filtering the result with AideRSS gives a different result than merging filtered feeds from AideRSS.

For a more detailed example of how you might combine these tools, read Marshall Kirkpatrick's description of how he built a conference dashboard from feeds. If you want to try Yahoo Pipes, try Marshall's introduction to Yahoo Pipes video, too.

From my perspective, the whole point of these services is that they're easy to use. If you know a little HTML and you're comfortable poking around at new software, you'll be able to use these in minutes. And if you build something cool based on what you picked up in this session—mention it in the comments so we can see it.

Translation on the fly?
Speaking of working with RSS, has anyone found a solid solution for translating feeds yet? I subscribe to some blogs in languages I don't know, which can be a bit comical.

Update: Mloovi uses Google Translate to translate feeds (via RWW, TechCrunch). The free version includes ads, or you can pay to remove them. I'm giving it a try.

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


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