Google real time search – The start of a game changer?

December 8, 2009 3 comments

I think this is a big one! Google announced yesterday that they will   launch real-time search within days. They will integrate the full   Twitter firehose feed, as first mentioned by Mashable back in October, Myspace , Yahoo Answers, Jaiku and the plethora of blogs they already crawl. They will also have public pages from Facebook. There is a question over exactly how much access they will have here  and it is safe to assume they won’t get the same love that Microsoft will, given their investment in Facebook back in 2007.

Many in the industry saw this one coming. At the MSM09 Conference last month, there was talk of Google buying one of the incumbent vendors (I was one of the talkers) and I guess it may have come down to price – cheaper to do a deal with the data sources than to buy a Radian6? Not sure, but it certainly throws up some interesting questions for the many, many players in the realtime / social media monitoring space:-

When will the data be plugged into Google Analytics?

How much will Google charge?

Will Google produce a sentiment engine to accompany the data streams?

Are we screwed?

I also think this is good news for agencies, consultants and coaches who have been struggling to get their prospective clients to see the benefit or need to be involved in social media, to join the conversation. This should make it easier! Get them to watch the video below and then ask again if they think they should be involved.

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Do the tools mask what social media really is?

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

I have a ridiculous amount of godparents. My mother says she didn’t want any of her friends to be left out so my brother and I have around eight each! This, of course, has many benefits. In my early years it ensured a high yield of gifts on birthdays and at Christmas, and this week I was invited by one of my godfathers to a Livery Dinner held by the The Worshipful Company of Salters. Oh yes!

Out of my league

I wasn’t too sure what to expect. My godfather was a solicitor and having Googled the Livery Companies, I had an idea of the company I would be in plus there had been talk of having to wear white tie and tails…and I am still not really sure what that is. Anyway, I found myself amongst diplomats, MP’s, chairmen of some massive corporations and high ranking chemists, with some of the wearing robes, medals and animal hide! It was patently clear I was way out of my league on so many levels and when I explained I was in the social media, emerging technology ‘field’ there were various glazed expressions and one “…how funny!”. Awesome.

Very minor epiphany

During the dinner I, again, found myself trying to ‘pitch’ the industry to Dr. Gordon, a chemist from Geneva who knew way too much about wine. He was fascinated by the theories and possibilities of social media that I was attempting to explain, but couldn’t see any practical purpose for himself. He used email to stay in touch with his family and had heard of Facebook and Twitter but certainly wouldn’t consider himself a social media ‘user’. Reaching for examples or case studies that I could launch at him, I asked what his favourite pastime was? “Easy, wine.”

“Cool”, I replied, “there are loads of ways to use social media for wine …” And then the minor epiphany happened. He cut me off and said, the only thing he had really done online was buy wine at an auction through a live feed. He went on to say how amazing it was to feel so connected to the actual event and could bid in realtime, see the auctioneer, other bidders etc. “And you said you have never used social media?” I said. “What, that was social media was it?” was the answer!

Look past the tools

My point is that it is so easy to see social media as the tools or platforms that grab the headlines rather than a wider capability to connect you to people and places, which is where the real magic is. Dr Gordon had a ‘real’ human experience using social media for what it is meant to be…and he apparently got a good deal on the wine!

Mix your wine with social media

November 19, 2009 Leave a comment

I spotted an article in the FT a couple of  days ago about the success Majestic Wine have been having in the UK. You can read  the article here and here. This is coming at  a time when First Quench, owners of  Threshers, a former leader in the UK booze  market have gone into administration .

No doubt, the fact that all the major  supermarkets are now stocking the full  range of alcohol has been the main driver in  First Quench’s downfall, but it was  interesting to  hear Steve Lewis (CEO at  Majestic)  champion social media as the key  driver to  their 24.6% increase in online sales.

“We’ve unleashed the potential of the twenty-somethings in our business, improving the blog written by staff and selling parcels of wine which are too small to send to stores as online exclusives to create a sense of urgency. They sell out within hours.”

We all know the success story that is Gary Vaynerchuk and how he took his family owned wine business from (a pretty healthy) $5m per year operation to a $50m beast and in the process made himself a star of the social media world.

So, I think we can assume that social media and wine mix very well!

Report from Monitoring Social Media 09

November 18, 2009 2 comments

Yesterday I was at the inaugural Monitoring Social Media 09 conference. We had representatives from leading brands, agencies, monitoring vendors, bloggers, researchers…and probably a few social media gurus (although I didn’t actually meet any with the title on their name badge, which was a shame!), all coming together to share knowledge and experience on social media monitoring and measurement – one of the current buzz topics in the tech/media space.

Luke Brynley-Jones (CEO of Our Social Times), did a great job in putting the conference together and managed to attract a good range of speakers and panellists. The hall was almost full up until around 4.45pm, which is pretty good going and it was good to see a mix of nationalities and a decent gender ratio. One complaint from a few delegates (via the twitter stream) was that there was only one woman on the panels. This was a little strange especially as, in my opinion, some of the best presentations were from Katy Howell, (Immediate Future), Anne Longley (Mediaedge) and Celia Pronto, (STA travel).

I am going to regurgitate some of my notes below and try and pick out some of the highlights.

Morning Session

Alan Moore kicked things off with a good one on how social data is changing the game. He touched on the movement towards a VRM model, something I have recently been reading about and am hoping to get more involved in.

He explained how different business models need to evolve based on networked economics. Towards the end he talked about how are a t the back end of the industrial revolution,  which dehumanised us and made us ‘mass consumers’ and targets of mass media – social technology gives us our individuality back. Nice!

Next up was Neville Hobson (Head of Social Media for WeissComm Group) who co-chaired the event, he spoke about some of the trends he has spotted regarding monitoring for some major brands and what is turning them on such as:-

–          Achieve more for less cost

–          Increased accountability

–          Direct Access to customers

He also made the point that people search for content, not web pages.

Antony Mayfield of icrossing spoke about the importance of activity in networks and not in individual conversations and the need to combine data analysis with storytellers/insights. I agree.

The Girls show us how it’s done

After the break, Ann Longley covered off the business case for social media monitoring. Lots of good insights here to use as ammo next time you are in the boardroom pitching, such as:-

–          Earned media is now more influential than paid

–          Monitor to identify problems. Examples used were kryptonite locks,  and Dominos

–          To identify fans, advocates – examples included Coca-Cola

–          Brand audits – historical as well as future

Anne also touched on that we are beginning to see integration with CRM systems and this will be a big trend in 2010.

Katy Howell put in one of the more engaging presentations while explaining some of the problems with social media adoption in big organisations. Some key takeaways from this were:

–          Introduce social media via stealth!

–          Monitoring is just Step 1. It is a good way to get C-level buy in, but it is essential to overlay other metrics to get a full picture of brand health, business intelligence etc

–          Create a corporate policy for social media. This is so important and a service which many organisations and agencies are neglecting at the moment.

Next Celia Pronto gave the best case study of the day, detailing how STA Travel has been trailblazing. It was useful for everyone to see the theory and buzzwords (don’t broadcast, try to connect, it takes time etc etc) actually put into practice. STA have done a great job with STA travelbuzz, recruiting customers to become reporters and producing some quality content.

The results – Sentiment, up, intent to purchase/recommend, up.

Afternoon Session

After lunch Giles Palmer, (CEO of Brandwatch), took the stage complete with his movember offering on his upper lip! He, animatedly, explained the numerous problems with extracting the meaningful data from the social web. I don’t envy him, and some of the key points were:-

–          Getting the right data is a pain in the arse!

–          Many vendors will buy in the data from aggregators (boardreader, backtype etc)

–          The amount of filtering needed to actively monitor a generic brand name (he used Shell as the eg) is huge.

Giles also thought that the price for the data will increase as access becomes less ie Twitter and Facebook will charge more for access in the future. This was the only point I disagreed with as I believe one of the big boys (Google or Microsoft) will provide the data much, much cheaper once they acquire one of the incumbent vendors.

Brad Little ( Nielsen) was up next discussing Free vs Paid tools.

I enjoyed this one as Brad encouraged everyone to ask the difficult questions of clients before jumping in feet first with tactics and tools. For example:

–          Do they really want to know what is going on, collaborate, be human?

–          What are their objectives? Coverage, save time, give control?

Other key takeaways were:-

–          advocacy will become a key metric

–          good analysis needs big resources in people

–          combine monitoring  with other research methodologies – buzz isn’t enough

–          You need active client participation for success – (Yes and double Yes!)

–          Monitoring – Research – Strategy  – these are different disciplines

A good panel discussion followed on, what was wrong with social media monitoring , including Asi Sharabi, who’s blog post on the same topic, inspired the conference. Some of the main issues discussed were:-

–          60% of UGC is spam. Spam detection needs to be better

–          Sentiment analysis is currently very hit and miss without humans

–          Price can’t be based on volume – has to be a license

–          Workflow & collaboration is a key feature

–          Much of the blame can be placed at procurements door. Clients buying solutions aren’t asking the right questions.

Robin Grant (We Are Social) gave a good case study on the work his agency have done with Skype. I especially liked his Netvibes dashboard which was built in house. My only question here would be how effective that would be for a generic brand name like Shell?

Last up and a late replacement for Chris Thomas was Marshall Sponder (Webmetricsguru) talking about the future and some of his issues with the monitoring vendors such as, they all differ in terms of data output for the same keywords and there is a need for meme clustering for the client (questions, customer service, sales leads etc).

The final panel focussed on the future with Matthaus Krzykowski throwing in that he has seen some industry specific monitoring tools which have up to 90% sentiment accuracy. Plus, more debate on if and when we will start to see some agreed measurement metrics which we can all abide with.

All in all, a success. It will be interesting to see how far we have come at MSM10

More news, pics, links etc from the event can be found here.

Measuring success in social media

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

measuring_success I have been thinking for a while about what constitutes success in social media  and are we still caught up in the old metrics that served display, CPC and before  that, broadcast media? By all accounts (unfortunately I couldn’t make it across  the Atlantic to be there in  person) Katie Paine’s Social Media Measurement:  Establishing ROI (Full  slidedeck is here) was an  excellent presentation and  highlighted how some,  socially optimized,  companies are measuring the hard,    financial metrics that  will directly impact their bottom line. About time too!  She also brings to light  the old metrics which simply won’t (or shouldn’t) cut it  anymore.

Social media measurement has to start web metrics and these non-financial impacts are certainly important. However, as Olivier Blanchard put it, they are like hugs – everyone likes them but they won’t pay the bills! (Olivier also has a pretty awesome slidedeck on social media  ROI here). Impressions, fans, followers, retweets, views etc  don’t, and never will equal success in social media. That only comes with sales, donations, efficiencies, the ability to change sentiment and opinion towards your company. And these can all be measured with a combination of web analytics, social media monitoring, human sweat, corporate financial information…and time.

We, as agencies, consultants, planners or analysts, may have to get ready to be kicked out of a few meetings and turn down the quick money on offer from doing a social media ‘campaign’ or broadcast message. We should focus on the clients who are in it for the long haul, who want social media fully integrated into the marketing strategy, who want their departments (sales, customer service, PR, marketing)  tapping into the same knowledge base and data insights gleaned from social media.

Measurement will always be imperfect when trying tie it squarely back to a purchasing decision but we don’t have to hide behind that and use it as an excuse for not focusing on the difficult problems. Just because the client doesn’t ask for ROI to be measured properly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We all know if we can show financial and brand building value to an organization then social media will gain a bigger slice of the budgets, which is nice! But, this will also lead to something much more impressive – businesses will become more customer centric.

Let’s face it, no one is curing cancer here, but to think the purpose and value of social media activity is to put the next ‘cool’ video or app in front of as many unsuspecting people as we can is really depressing. If we are in this for one thing that could be considered valuable or ‘game changing’, it has to be the humanizing of business again (Chris Brogan blogs, talks about this all the time). Certainly, that is why I am in this. If we can help businesses care more about their customers and give the consumer a better, more personal, more informative experience with brands then that has to be  a good thing. The only where we are going to get there is if we measure and prove success.

 

The End of the Gag?

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

My very first post on this blog proclaimed – “The day new media overtook traditional media”. I saw the Iran Election as the clearest example of how, in today’s world, using the technology available, it is nearly impossible to (easily) control the spread of news or incidents if people care enough.

Last week, the Trafigura – Guardian fiasco broke …not in the traditional press, they had already been gagged from reporting it, but via journalist Alan Rusbridger’s tweet . The result was the Twitterverse went into overdrive and soon, Trafigura was one of the top search terms throughout Europe. The company realized they couldn’t control the spread of the message, pulled their ridiculous gagging order and everyone was free to report the facts.

One conculsion and one question.

Conclusion – Social media is not a joke or fad anymore. Those familiar with the space have known this for a long time, but the sneers and jokes regarding Twitter persist. Alan Rusbridger summed it up best himself,

“Twitter’s detractors are used to sneering that nothing of value can be said in 140 characters. My 104 characters did just fine” .

As with the Iran Election, the Sichaun Earthquake, Obama’s election campaign and now Trafigura we are seeing examples of the power of social media and how cumbersome it can make  traditional media look.

Question – Will companies keep issuing gagging orders against traditional media now they know that there are plently of ways to get the message out using social media? Will cases like this nudge us towards greater freedom for the press and old school journalism?

Sorry, that was two questions!

Are Facebook and Nielsen missing the point?

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Having finally decided to put Beacon into the deadpool, Facebook have announced that they will partner with Neilsen for analytics measurement of advertising on the site. The first product, Brandlift, “measures aided awareness, ad recall, message association, brand favorability, and purchase consideration via a set of short one- or two-question online surveys.”

I am slightly confused by this approach. Nielsen is a big, big research player and they have some very cool tools to monitor social media (BuzzMetrics) in real time, so why would they focus on conducting polls to see what users think of the display ads. Let me save you some time – “I don’t notice them…” , “I only click on them by a mistake…”, “I have disabled the ads on Firefox…”, “ They are irrelevant…” “they piss me off…” etc..

If Facebook have made $500m this year from display, surely they are doing a good job already in convincing advertisers that FB is a viable platform? Or is this a play for the bigger, more precious brands to convince them that they should move or increase their spend with Facebook?

I am not keen on display advertising. I agree it still has a role to play in the awareness part of the ‘sales funnel’ but that is about it and it certainly is largely ineffective in social communities. I can’t help thinking Nielsen and FB have missed an opportunity here. Rather than flogging the dead horse that is display advertising, why not focus on gleaning actionable insight into the conversations on FB and peddling that to the big brands?

Because the monitoring software can only access public pages and Facebook would never get away with giving Nielsen access to private pages or conversations, where the real value is?

Is this why Twitter and comments and forums will always be better for real time commercial engagement than Facebook?

Is being a walled garden going to ultimately harm Facebook’s revenue potential as users will never allow brands into their private world and will not engage with display ads?

Interesting times?