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Do you remember way back to 2006-2007? What specifically do you remember about those two years? Where were you working and what were you working on? I remember working for a more traditional (I don’t even know what that means anymore) communications agency doing research for our media relations, crisis communications and investor relations teams. The primary focus then was on evaluating the performance of media campaigns and events using metrics like impressions, message resonance and number of mentions in key mainstream media outlets. There was some element of the role that required real-time analysis, but generally speaking we were evaluating those campaigns and events after the fact. It wasn’t bad. It is just what was common practice.

A funny thing happened as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube began to explode: The number of companies that were created to help brands and agencies understand what was happening on those networks also exploded. Companies like Radian6 and Sysomos were the industry leaders, and early pioneers of a new approach to gathering and analyzing stakeholder behavior online. They offered users the ability to track share of voice, keyword trends, volume trends, sentiment and influencers. If you were working in the digital marketing industry then and saw those tools you would have never guessed they would have grown to this point, or achieved the kinds of valuations that they now command. To be fair, both companies helped show us that there was more to learn about our stakeholders behaviors than we analytics pros were getting through the traditional tool set.

Fast forward six or seven years and the tool set has evolved tremendously. There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of tools out there that companies and agencies can use to gather online data about its key stakeholders. We have evolved beyond relying on a social media listening tool to answer every question, albeit not far enough. There have been great advances in search, content and audience analytics over that time. There have also been great strides toward the integration of traditional market research and digital/social research. As quickly as a new social channel pops up, so too does a new tool that gives analysts the ability to harvest and analyze that data.

Because the industry is moving so quickly, I don’t think we take enough time to document where we want it to go and what we need from the tools. So, beginning today, I am going to document in two parts where I think the industry needs to move and what we need from the tools. Part one, or what you are about to read, offers a point of view from the analyst perspective. Part two, what you will read later this week (I hope), will offer a point of view from the marketers/communicators perspective. Here is where I think we need to go from the analysts perspective:

  • Cleaner data – Anybody who uses a social media monitoring tool can tell you that a lot of the output from these tools is spam. Now, part of that is a function of how much spam there is on the Internet but going through a dataset that is 75%+ spam (and we have seen higher) is a time consuming task. It distracts from the real job of an analyst, which is to interpret the data. It also makes it very difficult to analyze behavioral trends over time because the analyst is constantly wondering if the dataset is clean or it has been biased by the introduction of more spam. What analysts really need is a tool with a smart spam filter system that learns over time as data is collected.
  • Integrating data sources – Social media listening can tell us a lot about how consumers are behaving, but it does not tell us everything. What were to happen if key stakeholders were talking in limited volume? Would you be able to develop insights based on a few hundred conversations in a 12 month period? That is a very likely scenario if you represent a niche B2B brand today. We analysts need to be better at pulling data from all aspects of the data supply chain (content, audience, social media monitoring, search and influencers) to understand the complete picture of how our stakeholders behave online.
  • Truly understanding PESO behaviors – At W2O Group we refer to the integrated media landscape as PESO — paid, earned, shared and owned. What the tool set allows us to do today is understand shared and owned media activities very well. Unfortunately, the integration with paid and earned media analytics platforms is lacking. Point #2 and #3 here are related, and it is something we need the tools to deliver desperately. In the meantime, though, approaching research projects with the mindset of understanding behaviors across PESO is a helpful place to start.
  • Assist colleagues in seeing the value of digital/social data beyond the communications context – Ken Burbary and I originally met in 2008 after we started a Twitter exchange about the value of digital and social data to the entire enterprise. Five years later we wrote a book together, and five years later we are still talking about the need to expand. It is one thing for the analysts among us to deliver insights on key communications questions, but is is another thing entirely to deliver insights that may help product development, customer service, HR or sales. Even if we aren’t asked for it, that is what we need to deliver more consistently.
  • Understanding audience segments at a deeper level – One of the questions analysts are often tasked in answering is understanding how a company’s social community is behaving. When we are asked that question we often approach it from the standpoint of understanding that behavior on the company’s shared and owned properties. That is only one part of the equation. The other part is understanding what ELSE those people care about. You, the analyst, already know that they have liked your page. Do you know what else they care about? At W2O Group we call this forensic analytics, and I think we analysts need to take the next step in understanding consumer behavior at a deeper level.
  • Training the next generation of analysts – Many of the people who work in digital and social analytics today came from the traditional research realm because they saw an opportunity to advance their career in a new, and interesting area. Because analytics has become so hot there are a number of people now entering the industry who don’t have as much context as they will need as their career unfolds. It is on us analysts who have been in the space for several years to develop a rigorous set of standards that can be followed by the next generation.

What else? What else do we analysts need to do to ensure the industry is evolving and keeping up with communicators’ needs? Again, later this week I will offer up a perspective on where the analytics industry needs to go from the marketer/communicator perspective, but in the meantime I look forward to hearing from you.

This morning, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel titled “On the Location-Based Services Horizon” at the second annual Foodservice Social Media Universe (FSMU for short). Joining me on the panel were three of the smartest folks not only in the restaurant industry but also in the world of location-based services. This group included Rick Wion, director of social media at McDonalds, BJ Emerson, VP of Technology at Tasti D-lite and Lauren Barash, director of corporate communications at Moe’s Southwest Grill.

  • During the hour long conversation, I kicked us off with a few relevant mobile/location-based facts including:
  • Smart phone penetration has reached 50% in the U.S. (mobithinking.com)
  • As of May 2012, 74% of smart phone users claimed having used a location-based service. This includes things like Google Maps. (Pew Internet Study)
  • According that same report, 18% of smart phone users claimed to have checked into a venue like a movie theater using a service like foursquare. That number is up from 12% year over year. (Pew Internet Study)
  • The leading location-based service, foursquare, has approximately 24 million users (LBMA September, 2012)
  • Photo sharing service, Instagram (now part of Facebook), has grown to 80 million users in just 18 months (C|Net)

Following the industry stats, each panelist took some time to talk about what their companies were doing on the location-based marketing front. Here are a few of the key take aways from each:

McDonalds: 1) during key pilots, they have gotten good traction with foursquare in driving increased checkins. 1) After analyzing their mobile web traffic, they realized that a) store locations with details about drive thrus and playscapes b) nutritional information and c) job applications are the top three most visited areas of their site. Their mobile app features those three items. 3) In order to train franchise owners, they have used location-based scavenger hunts (check into a bar/get a tip/complete an action). This has worked well in helping their franchisees understand foursquare and how it works better).

Moes: 1) They have a check-in club that allows customers to connect their foursquare accounts to Moe’s loyalty program. Customers earn points through check-ins and can achieve “rock star” status on Moe’s leaderboard. 2) Changing offers requires a lot of training for staff which sometimes slows the pace of innovation at many retail locations. 3) Moe’s is also working together with their cheese vendor to sponsor a free queso day tomorrow.

Tasti Dlite: 1) BJ and this CEO just wrote/published a book called The Tasti D-lite Way that document’s the companies location-based and social media journey. 2) An early innovator in the location-based space, Tasti D has created a way to connect foursquare, Facebook and Twitter to their loyalty card. When the card is swiped, it auto posts across the customer’s social networks and gives the customer points for each purchase/check-in. 3) BJ thinks that one way retail stores/restaurants can create higher engagement/check-in activity with their customers is to put a customer-facing camera at each register that would capture any willing customers as they checked in.

There were a lot of great tweets from our session as well as from the conference. You can see them here.

  • I said that I believed that Google would ultimately win the race given the recent UI change it made by allowing users from the mobile Google.com page to “use your current location” and then suggest nearby bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
  • BJ thought that a great focus on value exchange from brands and more “celebrating” of mayorships should take place
  • Lauren disagreed with me that Google would win (while agreeing that having one’s place page(s) correct was critical. For her, it’s about more check-ins and better offers/value.
  • Rick suggested that based on activity they are seeing from Radian6 whether or not photos are the new check-ins (McDonalds sees far more customer photo uploads than checkins — to the tune of thousands/day)

Last but not least, here is a list of some resources that I’ve pulled together for the last few LBM sessions I’ve done. Included on that list are links to BJ’s book and a few of the reports referenced in the report. Enjoy!

 

I do not think I have seen anyone run any kind of correlation between the explosion of social media and the subsequent explosion of social media listening tools, but I think it’s safe to assume that the two are related in some way. From 2007 (when I was first exposed to the tools) until the present day, the application of listening tools has also evolved. At first companies were using tools like Radian6 and Sysomos much like they were using Factiva and Cision — to read and respond during a time of crisis. That’s a perfectly fine application, but it is only about 1/10th of the power these tools posses.

It is only over the last two years that we have truly seen listening tools used to its full potential by brands, and even that adoption is limited to the usual suspects. What do I mean by using tools to the full potential? I mean gathering conversation data in real time to change content to meet the community’s needs. I mean gathering real-time feedback on your product(s) and feeding it to the product development team. I also mean using listening data for proactive customer service outreach. How many of those applications are you currently undertaking today? Granted, not everyone of them will make sense, but the bottom line is if you are using a listening tool for only corporate reputation you are not getting your money’s worth.

So how do you turn your existing listening program into something that offers much more value to your organization? At last week’s Explore Social Media in Minneapolis I outlined seven steps. Here they are:

  1. Think toolbox, not tool – There is not a data capture tool on the market today that will serve all of your needs. Listening tools are powerful, to be sure, but they do not capture everything. Think about what combination of tools — customer service, web analytics, search analytics, conversation analytics — you need to be successful.
  2. Develop a social intelligence supply chain – Using the toolbox above, how do you route and display information within the organization? This is a critical step that is most often overlooked.
  3. Institutionalize standard metrics and models – Presenting the same metrics and using the same approach to data gathering is essential to delivering actionable insights and ensuring overall credibility.
  4. Determine the right reporting cadence – There are different models for different audiences. For example, if you are presenting to an executive audience then it makes the most sense to roll up data every quarter. If you are using the data for real-time content, though, it may make more sense to present findings every week.
  5. Using analysts to hand code data – While the tools are becoming more sophisticated, nothing yet replaces the analyst who understands the business and the tools.
  6. Protocols for crises – If you are familiar with your issues, know what drives share of conversation, know who the influencers are, know who you would talk to in crisis, know the top search words people use then you are in good shape. Do you know all of those?
  7. Build a team who understands the business – This goes hand-in-hand with #5, but having analysts who understand the tools and the business is absolutely essential. It’s the only way you will develop actionable insights.

Those are the primary building blocks to building an effective social media listening program at your organization. If you would like to see more of my presentation to Explore Social Media the deck is below.

 

 

Matthew Snodgrass speaks with Marshal Sponder who has authored a new book, Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Intrepreting, and Using Metrics. He shares with us the requirement for effective social media analytics and the tools to use.

As published in the O’Dwyer’s PR Report September, 2009 issue

It’s called social media for a good reason.  Never have we had a better opportunity to listen, learn and speak directly with our customers, and what this new phenomenon really represents is an amazing opportunity to build a more valuable relationship with the people we serve.

As a result, the communications profession is going through its most intense transformation in decades.  In the period that follows, the followers will remain “communicators” and the leaders will become “conversation architects”.  Here’s why.

The sheer size of this change is mind-boggling.  Approximately 500,000 people go online everyday for the first time in their lives.  Moreover, the location and habits of our audiences are changing, particularly in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.  China is now the leading online country by a wide margin over the United States.

Facebook is the community of choice and is now equal in size to Indonesia, which has the fourth largest population in the world.  YouTube is now the third largest search engine.

Consumers are in the driver’s seat.  Using social media, customers decide how they will  receive information and where and when they will review a product before buying it.  Before making key purchasing decisions, three out of four customers ask their peers for advice.  The age of self-sufficiency is emerging.

Smart communicators already see this change and the opportunity it represents.  This is where I draw the line between a conversation architect and a communicator.

Communicators often share content they have expertly prepared in the hope that coverage will somehow lead to good things.  It might; but increasingly, it might not.

Conversation architects understand how to enter the conversation with their customer and become a valuable partner to share ideas, product knowledge and solutions, and empower that customer to share the story.

The conversation architect realizes that the following trends are important.

Customers are actually co-shaping the reputation of our brands without us.   As a result, companies need to become part of the discussion to influence the reputation of those brands.  In other words, we have to actually participate or we are unwittingly outsourcing the reputation of our brand.  Companies such as Radian6 and Visible Technologies are helping communicators identify, with precision, who is talking about their company.

It’s possible to identify issues before they become highly public via strong online monitoring.  Communicators are trained to deal with an issue once it hits the press.  Conversation architects, on the other hand, realize they can see trends earlier and plan, sometimes weeks in advance, for the same issue.

Customers are part of their own “liquid network”. This means that they are loyal to the content they want and they will morph their habits to find what they need.  It’s subtle.   The shifts are like an ocean’s currents.  Communicators believe they can plan for the year against a set list of influencers.  Conversation architects know that influencers shift with time and they watch it happen in real time.   This is why being part of the community is so important.  Intuit is a perfect example of a company that participates with its customers in their communities of choice.  Microsoft does a terrific job of reaching developers via www.channel9.msdn.com.

Customers spend less than one percent of their lifetime purchasing products online.  The real influence occurs during browsing and socialization.  Conversation architects know where their customers go to learn before purchase.  Communicators try to drive traffic to a transactional site.  Conversation architects introduce themselves to their customers in social environments, ensure their reviews and related product content are ready for browsing and do a great job in the transactional space.  They see the big picture.  Here is an easy test for you  Think of your web site traffic and then remember that 1.6 billion people are online.  How many visit your site each day?

Customers like to do three thing as long as it helps their peers: share ideas, share product knowledge and share solutions.  Customers don’t care about your company, they care about their community.  Communicators try to convince them to take actions they want them to take.  Conversation architects empower customers to share their expertise with their peers.

How we are consuming content is changing.  YouTube, for example, is becoming a key location for learning.  Communicators create slick videos to tell their story.  Conversation architects provide a combination of their story, customer’s insights and how to’s geared to what people want to learn about online.

The media world isn’t changing, it has already fundamentally changed.  Bloggers often drive as much or more share of conversation online as reporters.  Communicators resist this change.  Conversation architects focus on who drives their share of conversation, regardless of the outlet.  Two great examples of this are Pfizer’s presence on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfizer_news and GE’s approach to sharing its news via GE Reports at www.gereports.com. Note: Pfizer is a WeissComm client.

Finally, we know that ethical behavior is key to maintaining trust.  Nothing has changed.  There are no short cuts to success in social media.  Flogs, splogs or sponsored conversations are not the answer.  Real conversations with real customers provide value.  That is what works.

  1. It’s a great time to be in the communications profession – a time when we can all participate in reshaping the importance of our jobs to build value for our clients and their brands.

Bob Pearson, Chief Technology & Media Officer, WeissComm Group and President, Social Media Business Council