September 2008 Archives

links for 2008-09-25

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 22 September - Jodange released an iGoogle gadget that tracks sentiment on energy-related topics. press release

  • 23 September - CyberAlert announced the opening of applications for its 2009 grants to not-for-profit organizations. At least 15 companies will receive one year of free news monitoring services.
  • 22 September - Kate Niederhoffer joins the unnamed startup. Niederhoffer was previously VP, Measurement Science at Nielsen Online.
Call for papersCurrent posts on the job board


So What If It's Rocket Science?

You know how a rocket works. You point it where you want it to go, light the fuse and stand back. If it's a big rocket, you stand farther back.

You know what a rocket is good for. It moves stuff really fast, around the world or into space. It burns lots of fuel and money in the process.

You know that a rocket would be helpful if you wanted to put a satellite in orbit or explore the planets.

You know to hire a rocket scientist when it's time to design your rocket and plan the flight to take a specific load to a specific point in space.

What else do you need to know?

Don't let the underlying complexity of something useful stand in the way of learning its value. You don't have to know how to build it to understand how to use it.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson.

links for 2008-09-22

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 15 September - Michael Smith joins Digital Influence Group as President. Smith was previously western region president at Publicis Modem. press release
New research and papers
  • Metrica announced the results of its new UKPulse survey, which found increasing trust of traditional media and low trust of social media:
    While 29% of respondents felt they could trust an online customer review site only 5% said that they trusted blogs and not even 1% of respondents trust online forums.
    There's an interesting discussion of the meaning and usefulness of the survey starting at Roy Greenslade's blog.

  • Twingly released their report on the Swedish Internet-surveillance debate (PDF).
Call for papersCurrent posts on the job board


Following the announcement of the Lexalytics merger, I wrote that the availability of off-the-shelf text analytics and custom software development suggested some questions about technology strategy for social media analysis vendors. The main question is an old one in software: Build or buy? The follow-up flows from a value chain analysis, and it sets up a series of decision points for the build/buy decision. It turns out that a social media analysis platform is built from a few, basic building blocks, and a decision to build a custom system doesn't imply a decision to build every part.

Three basic building blocks
The technology behind monitoring and analyzing social media content fits into three basic categories: content sourcing, analytics, and the software application that provides end-user features, such as dashboards, reports, and alerts. Many service providers add value beyond what is baked into their software, of course, but these are the basic technology building blocks. What makes them interesting is that each generates a potential product that can be offered as the "buy" option to other companies.

  • Content sourcing
    The first step in analyzing social media content, sourcing includes source discovery, content aggregation, filtering and metadata tagging. The result is a feed of relevant content data, with duplicates, spam and other noise removed. Feeds of traditional media sources have been available for years; syndicated content sourcing is available for social media types now. (See a list of social media aggregators)

  • Analytics
    The next step is analysis of the content, also known as text analytics. The system extracts key words, concepts and sentiment from individual messages; depending on the vendor, it may also evaluate messages and sources for influence, demographics, location, audience size, and more. This is the hard part, which inspires the question of whether computer analysis is good enough.

    Perhaps assuming that text analytics must be homegrown, many vendors skip the analytics entirely, using human analysts or leaving metrics out of their product. But text analytics has its own build or buy decision. The technology is available from software companies in the business intelligence market, and at least two companies focusing on social media, Lexalytics and Leximancer. (See a list of text analytics options)

  • Application
    Content sourcing and analytics constitute checklist features in a social media analysis platform: "Sentiment? Check!" They represent a lot of work, but it's hard to tell whose works better. The application software, on the other hand, is what clients see, and it provides many opportunities for evaluation. Is the user interface dated and clunky or sleek and current? How is content presented? What can users do with it? How easy is it to explore the data or create reports?

    The once clear line between dashboards and social media analysis platforms for workgroups has blurred over the past year. Outside sofware development services will tend to increase the capabilities of dashboards from less traditionally technical vendors.

Room for differention
Syndicated and licensed components don't lead directly to commmoditization, but the threat is there for vendors who fall behind in capabilities. There's still room for differentiation, especially in application features, not to mention the research and consulting services many vendors offer in addition to their systems. But separating the build or buy decision into at least three discrete decisions does have effects:

  • Lower barriers to entry. New entrants—startups or established players in adjacent markets—can launch social media analysis tools without building everything from the ground up.

  • Higher baseline expectations. Dashboards from companies without strong technology traditions will soon include advanced technologies. Basic monitoring dashboards are becoming commodities (witness the $5/month entry pricing).

  • Fewer reinvented wheels. Vendors can compete on their strengths in content sourcing, analytics or application development. External sources remove the need to develop their own capabilities in areas outside of their core strengths.
This should be good news for customers: the tools continue to improve, and vendors will compete on what really adds value. For vendors, the question is back to basics: which parts of your system are really special, and which might be better outsourced? It's a question to reconsider from time to time as the market for building blocks matures.

More posts in the "Build or Buy?" series:

links for 2008-09-15

links for 2008-09-12

links for 2008-09-11

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 5 September - Naspers (JNB:NPN) acquired a majority stake in social media aggregator Afrigator. via RWW

  • 8 September - FirstRain announced that they've signed their 100th institutional client.
  • 9 September - Jim Schroer joined the board of Networked Insights (PDF).
New research and papers
Call for papers
Current posts on the job board


links for 2008-09-09

links for 2008-09-06

links for 2008-09-05

News from the companies of social media analysis. The calendar may say September, but the level of activity says, "it's August—come back in September."


Current posts on the job board


links for 2008-09-03

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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