For today’s post, here are a few articles on social media.
The first one, “Decoding Social Media” in the November/December 2011 issue of Technology Review, explains how discovering patterns in tweets will affect TV, ads and even politics. An example of “social-media analytics firm that attempts to track comments on shows and ads”, including comparing amount of tweets with Nielsen ratings, is Bluefin Labs. While traditional surveys only represent respondents’ opinion at specific times, social-media data can be analyzed continuously, which represents a fascinating opportunity for start-ups.
This has piqued the interest not only of TV companies such as CBS, but also of conglomerates such as Procter & Gamble, which oversees brands such as Tide, Duracell and Pringles. The journalist comments: “While Procter & Gamble carefully vets ads with consumers before airing them, it has never known whether the same viewers would respond differently to an ad depending on what show surrounded it.” Bluefin Labs hopes to elucidate precisely that sort of issue. This would allow the placement of TV ads to be tailored to viewers’ responses, similarly to what is happening to online ads today. Other companies tracking social-media conversations include:
- Radian6, (from their website: "[Radian6's] social media listening, tracking, monitoring and engagement tools allow organizations to successfully employ a social media strategy and understand the impact the Social Graph and Social CRM have on their success." They also say that half of all Fortune 100 companies use their software.)
- General Sentiment, (they seem good too, but I found Radian6's website more compelling.)
- Sysomos, (also offers a demo video on its website, has more details than General Sentiment on what it is offering customers, states on its website that customers include Microsoft, Coca-Cola, IBM and Reebok.)
- Converseon, ("an award-winning, full-service social media agency that helps brands harness the power of social to meet business objectives." Was founded in 2001, long before Facebook, Twitter or even Myspace existed.)
- Trendrr, (Catchy slogan: "Unlock the true potential of the real-time web", also the only site with a "We're hiring" banner prominently displayed on top, but a little light on the discussion of its products' features, which can be said of many other sites above. Hence, it is hard to determine what distinguishes these companies from each other.)
The TR article really focuses on Bluefin, which is headquartered in the Kendall Square section of Cambridge, MA near MIT. The company was co-founded by MIT professor Deb Roy, currently on leave from the famed Media Lab, and his former doctoral student Michael Fleischman. (Among many things, the article provides a great background story on how analyzing TV-related social media came about for the company.) Today, Bluefin’s clients include Pepsi, Mars, Comcast, CBS, Fox Sports, A+E Networks and about ten others. Its business model hinges on selling subscriptions to its custom analytics, generated by uploading raw TV data obtained from their data center to Amazon’s cloud computing service. (This also seems to be the business model of the companies listed above.)
Bluefin generates two key metrics based on all the social-media responses: response level and response share, which refer to the number of tweets or public Facebook posts on a given TV show and the share of these tweets compared to the total volume of TV-related tweets and public FB posts. Much remains to be done to extract as much information as possible from this social-media goldmine, maybe generating one day the social-media equivalent to the Nielsen ratings.
Another interesting article is “What’s your social media strategy?” in the July-August 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review. It reveals that companies’ social media strategies can be divided into four groups: the “predictive practitioner” (connecting with customers to ask them what feature they’d like to see included in a new product, for instance), the “creative experimenter” (listening to customers on Facebook and Twitter in a less scripted way than the predictive practitioner), the “social media champion” (involves joint efforts of various functions at a company, for instance asking customers with large social-media following to discuss their experiences with a new car) and the “social media transformer” (allowing large-scale interactions extending to external stakeholders).
The HBR special report on “Social Media and the New Rules of Branding” in the December 2010 issue was particularly fascinating. It consisted of four articles:
- “Branding in the digital age”, which builds upon the fact that “customers today connect with brands in fundamentally new ways” and the “funnel metaphor” of buying (first researching many brands, then fewer and fewer until only one is left) has been replaced by a “consumer decision journey.” As a result, marketers now have to “target stages [rather than allocating across media] in the decision journey”, taking into consideration when customers are best influenced. The article has convincing examples and also discusses new roles for marketing.
- “Reputation warfare”, about small-scale antagonists targeting the business of a larger company. Advice includes “empower your team to help tell your organization’s side of the story” and “find sympathetic third parties to serve as “force multipliers”.
- “Why you need a new-media ringmaster”: here, “ringmaster” refers to “a new type of executive who has digital savvy and is skilled at coordinating a variety of marketing and customer-facing activities.”
- “The one thing you must get right when building a brand”, which is “deliver[ing] on four basics: offering and communicating a clear customer promise; building trust by delivering on it; continually improving the promise; and innovating beyond the familiar.”
But my favorite article of the lot remains the Technology Review one. Extracting insights from the enormous, shapeless mass of tweets and Facebook posts is one more reason the field of analytics has a bright future ahead.
This will be my last post for 2011. Look for a new post on January 9, 2012. Happy New Year!