Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The maturation of social media analytics

In the last post we discussed the pillars of social media and the questions a buyer should ask its vendors when buying.  This is useful because the language discussed levels the playing field a bit.  I have included these questions if you didn't read my last post.

The post is here...(link to post)
The pillars and their corresponding questions...

But how does this apply to the market itself?  That is a more interesting question and one that needs a historical perspective.  In many of my posts, I have often written about the time analogy.  To simplify it (you can find it in many of my other social media posts) one has to think about the maturation of the social media analytics market as a march to high noon.  When I started in this PULL part of the market it was midnight.  This was about 2006.  As different market events have occurred the sun has come up.  In fact most of my posts would suggest it is about 930AM now.  Dawn hit late last year when people actually went from arguing about even buying analytics tools to deciding which one they would buy.  As people have grown more savvy and bought various tools, we are seeing cycling.  930 arrived when people decided to move beyond simply worrying about features and working in silos to actually collaborating to have a social media analytics program.  But how is the market actually maturing.  I would argue it still is.  And by my account there is a long way to go.  Analytics is still trying to find its way and companies are still pondering the ROI of their investment.  It is an age old business question.  Below is a model that I use to think about the maturation of the market.

Below is a description of the 4 pillars listed above and view of how the market is maturing. 

As I have described how you can ask your vendor about the 4 key areas of development, we can also use these "pillars" to describe how the market is maturing.  I will actually discuss next how this applies to the sophistication of an organization social media analytics program, but today let's just discuss how those buying are speaking and where the majority of that market lies.

Before the FEATURES PERIOD:  Before 2009

In the early days of social media analytics, people literally laughed at this idea.  In fact, many couldn't even imagine garnering insight from this data.  The owner of the company that I recently worked at, in is old fashioned and often wrong wisdom,would call it a really dumb idea.  He swore that the companies were the only ones out there marketing their message to everyone.  It was a lie.  I used to smirk at him because that is the closed minded way to look at things.  The rise of data changed that...the rise of twitter and facebook brought about the need to look at what the data said. The question at hand is how would we pick what we used to see what the data was saying.

The FEATURES PERIOD:  2009 to Late 2011

With the rise in the amount of data, came the rise of tools.  In the first phase, or the Features phase, it was all about what you could measure and how much data you could measure. Companies who were new to this idea would buy whatever tool made sense in terms of its ability to "show" them things.  They didn't think about content or whether there was any data quality; it was all about tracking trends.  Radian 6 did an excellent job during this time, because they built an engine that showed the PR function what it needed to know.  When things go wrong, what is the movement of the data.  In fact, they mostly wanted to be able to engage.  I would argue actually that this use case had little to do with analytics and everything to do with "marketing" away the problems because you could know what they were saying and tell them it was going to be OK.  This seems a little harsh to say, but a recall based use case (meaning show a trend from every piece of data regardless of quality) is one that is basically unsophisticated.  The features period was important because it established the fact that trying to make sense of the content was an important part of building a broader social media program.  It is clearly the foundation of true analysis, but in the early phases people mistook the ability to measure something with the quantification of a action.  Unfortunately, if you focus on features you are missing the depth the data from both a completeness and accuracy perspective.  The features based organization doesn't ask questions about is it all the data or how good is the data...they simply care if you can see the numbers of some set of data.

The CONTENT PERIOD:  2012 to ????

Today we are in the midst of the content period.  The rise of this period is clearly refreshing because there has been a greater evolution of most companies social media programs.  This period is the admission that I need to know as much as I can about as much data as I can collect.  I need the Twitter firehose so I don't miss anything.  I need to be able to see what people are saying within this massive data.  And most importantly, the features of my solution have to help me separate the wheat from the chafe.  It brought about looking globally at the social data (what languages do you have). It is bringing about the expanded desire to segment and understand all channels (facebook, twitter, you tube...).  As far as the content period is concerned, companies are really testing their tools.  They are choosing.  They are regretting those choices.  They are fixing that problem, by choosing another.  But people are still looking for the elusive ROI from the social data.  They are still stymied as to how they should apply the data to more use cases within the organization.  They are still more interested in having their fingertips on all the data and ways to slice that data.  But to make informed decisions with the data, companies need two things.  They need to realize that tools don't solve the the problems, but the process by which you apply them does.  The second is that if you have poor data it is really hard to make a repeatable decision.  The content period is a great leap forward in social media analytics because it acknowledges that completeness and thoroughness are key factors is knowing.  The question remains is when the market will skew towards the need for accuracy.

The ACCURACY PERIOD:  When will it come?

This is the question on my mind.  When will this period truly start?  I see the seeds of in the major partners I work with.  They are showing signs of thinking very comprehensively about their platforms now.  But how will this period of analytics be defined?  For one, it will be about creating meaningful correlations within the data to truly know you are making good decisions. It will help validate the value of social data.  I believe companies will be thinking harder about pulling content rather that simply creating it.  The rise of application and solution based thinking will overrule a single tool or dashboard to give you the answer.  Accuracy is what analytics requires and as we move into this phase the power of social can be tapped.  The questions I have for anyone reading this are these?

1.  Do you believe having every tweet is more important that accurately knowing the emotion behind it?
2.  Are you looking for solutions that accurate help you understand what the data says rather than that you have all the data?
3.  Are you considering whether your talent is more interested in creating content or accurate informing those who create content what content they should be creating?
4.  Do you consider solution based social analytics to be bigger than any single tool?
5.  How are you challenging your company to consider all the angles of how to build a holistic use case library that really impacts your bottom line?

The market is still evolving.  I challenge myself everyday to understand it more.  The greatest thing about emerging ideas is they are rife with the seeds of learning.  The more we challenge ourselves to think broadly about a problem, the faster we can invent ways to leverage the opportunity.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A view of the social media PULL marketplace

Over the last several months, I have had many epiphanies about the social media market place.  What I find amazing is how if we keep searching we never stop learning about things.  And simply put, just when you think you can't come up with something more interesting we usually do.  It just goes to show a person, that if we focus we can learn every moment if we so choose.

Why write about this?  Because humility is the mother of learning.  Why?  Because if we think we know everything then we are paying attention to how things connect together and ultimately we miss things we don't know.

For years, I spent time thinking a great deal about creating insight from social media data.  When I first came across the idea in 2006, it just made sense.  I stumbled upon this cool form of data and a new way to think about it.  To have the world's largest focus group at your fingers tips makes sense.  And off I went trying to find ways to PULL social data to learn.  Way back then I used it to help my company understand the consumer in a 2 week acquisition cycle. Social data was used to help enable a 900 million dollar acquisition. I used to help bring clarity to the launch of 150 million dollar new brand.  We were able to find out things a team of 40 couldn't using traditional methods.  And the list goes on an on until I became one of the many voices championing social data as a means of understanding.

In a post a few back I talked a lot about the idea of social media push and pull.  Essentially, I realized that most of the market is pushing content out into the social data maelstrom while a smaller group is pulling it first to understand what it means before they push.  The slide below highlights this breakdown and idea.

Those who push are mostly driving engagement, message and interaction.  This is e-marketing.  It is building your brand online.  But as I have written, why don't people think about pulling first before they push.  If they pulled and understood what people were saying, then they could create new insights, really probe for ROI and try to track and correlate the social data to their message.  And while most would say, "I do pull!".  I would question it.  For instance, I check everyday whether people read what I write.  And when I get 150 people in a day I am happy.  But do I really know if you are actually reading this or simply come by for a glance.  The metrics are too light and not deep enough.  This is were understanding is key.

We all know there are many companies (mine included) in trying to convince you they are the best at understanding.  I won't argue that point today.  What I want to discuss is how to think about the tools you are considering buying.  Everyone is a salesman and as someone who helps sell new ideas, I have learned one thing.  Stay on the balcony.  As I think about all tools that are claiming that they are the best at understanding the intent of consumers in social data, I realized there had to be a way to discuss any tool that was out there to help people think through how to compare them.  My job is to think about how social can change the business landscape.  It is my first priority...as I say change is my business and business is good.

How do I think about social media analytics' tools?  The slide below includes 4 pillar of social media tools.  They include FEATURES, CONTENT, ACCURACY and INFRASTRUCTURE.  Each pillar is accompanied by a series of questions that one might ask about the solutions they are thinking of buying.

Why break it up this way?  To make it easier to think about how to break down someone selling to you.  While they are high level, they do represent a way that you can ask your potential partner how they handle the things that are important you.  Each pillar can be dug into further.  You can, for instance,write down how you want your solutions to present the information.  These questions are what I face each day selling and when I can thoroughly answer these questions for perspective customers I can win the day.

Do you think about all of these or merely one of them.  If you are buying social media software that helps you understand all that content, thinking about only one pillar is not enough.  You need to think about all of them.  If you have a solution that has great features but nothing else, how can you make good decisions of you don't have all the data you need, the data isn't accurate or they don't have the infrastructure to change at a pace that is sufficient to keep up with your needs over time.  As I sell if I am thinking how to answer any question that one may pose to me, then I cannot thoroughly do my job.  The same goes for you.  If your vendor can't convince you they have all the bases covered or a plan to do so, then you are doing your job either.

As you think about buying new social tools?  Do the 4 pillars help you???

More to come on this model...as I shared...it is helping me think about you too....because turn about is fair play.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Does the consumer pundit rule over the real ones?

In that last 3-6 months, I have had the pleasure of working with many folks in the public relations groups.  Having spent most of my time in the product development area among other places in the organization, it is always a pleasure to learn new things from new people.  To this end, bringing the concept of social media understanding to the public relations process is a thrill.

Why?  Because when you can impact a process and show others how to do their job in a different way, great things happen.  And those changes are not only focused on improving their process, but finding new ideas that are totally groundbreaking.  As a change agent nerd (really...if you saw what I put together on the plane recently it would cause you to run from pure geekyness), it is the essence of the change point that is most exciting, because beyond the impact to the business lies the insight that drives many other ideas that are of value.

Today what caught my fancy is the idea that in real time understanding, is the virality more important that the story it is linked to?  What do I mean by this?  Well, in traditional news (as a layman looks at it), an event is reported on by someone and everyone reacts to that report or expresses how they feel about it.

A great example of this happened last week during the debates.  As I sat in a New York hotel room listening to them, I frankly was bored to tears.  It really felt like trench warfare.  Two guys sitting there quoting stats, essentially trying to win style points clarifying their political positions on why they are better.  It was painful.  I really couldn't take much from it.  And while I was suffering waiting for the President to simply ask his opponent which guys was standing there on the stage (the right winger of the fall or the left winger of the moment), I have to admit Romney's vigor was higher.  And while I try to be non-partisan, this debate to me was more of a tie.  And not because Romney was not showing spark, conviction or even out energized the president, but because I was bored to tears hearing details that I knew were potentially bullshit all around.  And as I sit there with my layman's hat on, I couldn't make heads nor tails of it.

Then it ended and as always I flash to CNN to hear my favorite pundit in the world weigh in.  Who is it?  David Gergen.  He is my political reporting hero.  He is by far the most neutral, insightful and tell it like it is kind of guy.  He is ALWAYS be my barometer.  He speaks the truth in a non-partisan way and he is someone of high integrity in his analysis (a guy I want to have lunch with...because that type of passionate neutrality is gone from politics...hello Hannity and Maddow).

And boy did he weigh in...he took it to the president.  He called him listless and said he blew his opportunity.  The pundits piled it on.  And on and on.  Then the poll came out.  And as usual I sat there wondering, what was going on in the real time world of unfiltered social.  Before the pundits spoke, what was really happening.

Below is a look at the BEHAVIORS expressed by people on line on Twitter during the debate.  You will see that according to data below, Obama won with this crowd.  Which surprised me based on the pundits language is that Obama actually won (at least as expressed during the debate).

Why is this interesting?  If you take your political hat off for a moment, it suggests something way more profound in my opinion.  Typically, we watch a group of 20 swing voters powerpressing a button as we watch the debate.  Or we quickly get the results of a scientific poll conducted through the phone right after the debate.  And while these are both interesting methods, we are actually look at 6 million comments that happened in real time and are unfiltered other than sorted and classified by their sentiment.  Which is a more scientific method.  Sure you could say that there are more liberals online...but that is bullshit.  I have watched the net sentiment for both candidates for weeks and I can tell you that after the republican convention, Romney got a huge bump.  And for the past several weeks, Obama has been kicking his ass UNTIL people saw the debates AND watched the news.

It was at this point that the sentiment really changed as driven by the news.  Does this mean I am saying that the news swung folks as to who won?  No.  I am not.  I believe that Romney did win because of the reasons stated.  But what I am questioning is how the purity of real time expression during a crisis, event or other is becoming a really unbiased barometer of something going on.  I used the political example because this is a case where emotion is expressed in real time.

But what happens in a business situation when something happens first that is not emotionally charged?  What happens when your business nemesis goes public with something and the news picks it up?  What if you you know the news is going to report something and you want to see whether it is an issue.  When you can't see the news because the social response is faster.  What am I saying?

I have started witnessing events where the latency of processing news is slower than the public response of  Twitter.  We saw this during the Osama bin Laden raid (my favorite tweet of all).  Meet Sohaib Ahtar...the man who beat the news.  While this is an extreme case of someone truly beating the news.

So what is the point?

I guess I am asking...which response is real?  The response that is pure or the one that is influenced.   Either way the game is changing and we need to figure out who is controlling who.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In your facebook! you social media demographic is staring you in the face

As I continue to espouse the need to think about how social media pull needs to become part of the dialogue, I figured I would continue to create some thought starters around social media pull and how it relates to doing  a better job with your social media program.

In my last post, I created a "scenario" to think about changing how social media campaign management could look if folks were more interested in understanding content along the way towards doing a better job of "pushing" the right stuff to the right places and to the right people.

I thought I would tackle a different way to think about Facebook.

Typcially every company prides itself on its community management efforts when creating and maintaining their FACEBOOK FANPAGE.  In fact, there is great debate about how important this is to a successful social media program.  There is tons of evidence that each fan is worth some amount of money and how important interacting with you community is to making your business run.

I won't call bull shit on this thought...I think it is valid, but I would have to argue that in my adventures around the social media landscape people really have no clue as to what value this really provides.  In fact every single metrics tool I have seen for Facebook is really just a lot of cool stats with little to no depth behind them.

For instance, I have been quoted the social media riot act by many digital people when they talk about their PTAT scores. And I have to ask, "they may be talking about this, but do you know what they are really saying and whether it is positive or negative?".  The answer is usually a deflate no we don't but they are talking about it.  How can you truly measure the impact of something if you have no idea what the nuance is.  Statistics that move when you do something is definitely a response, I won't disagree with that, but insight comes from understanding not movement.

So what if you could "understand" not only that they were talking about it or commenting about it, but really know overall whether your captive audience was speaking positively or negatively?  Wouldn't that bring the insight you need to do a few important things?

#1 - understand your audience
 If you can tease out what they like or dislike within this conversation, you can really start to think about the cause and effect of you creating content for your community. Instead of driving an unstructured dialogue you can listen better so you can know what they want to talk about or are responsive to.  Knowledge is power and understanding is part of that equation

#2 - Control the dialogue
If you could understand your audience you can actually now "drive the discussion" in an informed way.  This is the value of pulling from this captive audience gets more valuable when you can start a "listen and learn loop" with your community.  By pulling (and understanding your audience) you can better push to drive the messages you want and then learn and loop from there.

#3 - Know your consumer target
This is an important one.  There is a ton of discussion around using social media to make sure you are talking to your target audience (or consumer demographic in business).  If you can actually make sense of and then control your fan audience you are actually talking to your consumer.  Couldn't it be argued that your Facebook Fanpage audience is your target demographic.  It doesn't matter what their age is or where they come from...the point of a fanpage is to talk to people who love your brand.  And this may be the biggest secret...your fanpage is your demographic and understand the captive dialogue is the path to a real time understanding of your consumer all the time.

Now this brings me to the point of this post.  As a use case, many companies are trying to figure out how to better sell to their customers.  So you have a sales team and the are responsible to sell products or services to these customers.  I used to be the customer and I had many suppliers come to me telling me they understood my consumer and I used to laugh.  With social media understanding and the ability to look at a FanPage, a sales team can easily study their potential clients core consumers to be better prepared to sell.  It is the ability to look at a meandering demographic day by day to really track what is most important to the consumers of your customer.  This is a sort of slam dunk way to be better prepared to sell using social media pull as a method.

The question is who hast he technology to really understand what is in that captive audience.

Stay tuned....the answer might come soon.....