1000 Heads

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Posts Tagged ‘social media monitoring’

Social media serendipity

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

There was a great story on the radio the other morning about the Serendipity Awards. These are given to researchers who have spotted and seized unexpected opportunities for economic and/or societal impact arising from research.

hands1The story went as follows. It was an open day at the University of Nottingham and a group of researchers in body representation were showcasing their latest MIRAGE technology which creates body distortion illusions. Apparently the technology takes a real-time video capture image of a hand and then fools the brain into believing the hand is stretching or shrinking.

One of the people visiting the University that day was the grandmother of a prospective student. She suffered from osteoarthritis in her finger. Being inquisitive and open to new ideas, she requested a demonstration of the technology.

Amazingly, during the demonstration the grandmother realised that her finger didn’t hurt anymore. The illusion of her finger being distorted triggered something in her brain that meant she no longer felt the pain.

This led the researchers to contact experts in arthristis to notify them of their discovery. They then tested this technology on a number of volunteers diagnosed with arthritic pain in their hands. The results showed a notable reduction in pain, on average halving the discomfort for 85% of volunteers. This obviously has huge potential and further research is now being conducted by both the Nottingham team and by specialists in arthritis.

Independent of anything else, I just love this story.

However, it does also make me think a little bit about what we do.

Most clients are now doing some form of ‘buzz monitoring’ either in-house or with an agency. I wonder, however, how many are actually doing it in a way that would allow them to uncover unexpected opportunities like the above. My suspicion from the conversations I have had is that too many are being too prescriptive or metrics led with what they are looking at – they are looking to prove what they already know, rather than allowing room for surprising discoveries that might disrupt the status quo.

What isn’t happening? Where else is interesting stuff going on? What are the anomalies, the bits that don’t fit?

For me, as opposed to focusing too hard on the what, the how much and the who, we should all be using conversations to uncover the what ifs.

That’s what will drive great insights, and lead to true progress.

Large-scale brand WOM monitoring is more than a one-man job

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Richard Stacy is having doubts about the way some companies use sophisticated tools to gather online consumer conversation about brands:

“When I look at all these impressive reports I can’t work out how they help me design and run a social media strategy. They could help me craft a one-to-many message (but that’s called advertising not social media) and the sentiment / volume metrics might help in measurement – we did x and the volume / sentiment needle moved x per cent in this direction. But that’s about it. And in any case all of this intelligence I would be getting through using my homemade tool anyway – albeit the intelligence would be in my head, not in a chart.”

He’s obviously been subjected to some pretty pants reports, but his suggestion that large-scale or more sophisticated social media monitoring is therefore obsolete is a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Yes, it’s true that many companies won’t have the resources to employ an agency such as ourselves to undertake comprehensive WOM listening work, and in that case it’s a great start to use the free tools out there to keep an eye on what’s being said out there. And he’s spot on when he says that the value of the resulting data lies in the human insight applied to it. But apply his one-man model to a brand with more than a dribble of WOM, and that insight will be severly limited, and possibly dangerously skewed.

Conversation is nothing without context. Volumes and trends are important, but unless you have the ability to not only identify relevant conversation from all the different platforms online, but drill down into what’s going on in those conversations, you can make the pretty patterns mean whatever you like. At 1000heads we use proprietary software that has evolved over ten years to gather seriously comprehensive amounts of WOM, but we also have a specialist team of human researchers trained to examine what that data means. They can rate the polarity of each unit – it’s relative positivity, neutrality or negativity on a scale of -10 to + 10, something no computer or single person could do with any effectiveness – but that’s just the start.

What about emotional engagement? Exactly what sorts of emotions are being expressed in relation to the brand – anticipation, trust, passion etc – and how strongly are they felt? WHO is having these conversations – is it the same few advocates or dectrators ranting in different venues, or a large number of consumers only commenting once? Do the conversations tend to snowball or quickly lose steam? What are the WOM triggers – what issues or emotional connections are inspiring these guys to talk? What are their stated intentions? And what about competitor benchmarking? Sure, a brand might have a low volume of chiefly negative WOM, but how does that compare to others in the industry? Getting a true impression of a brand landscape is much more complex than checking out a few threads and ‘getting a general idea’. And I have doubts that any single person can truly stay on top of these complexities.

Stacy is of course also spot on when he warns against unactionable WOM reports. Every observation in the data needs to be accompanied by a recommendation, shown why it is important and how it feeds into a larger WOM strategy. It is essential not to reactively jump at every fluctuation or negative comment, but also to have some mechanism whereby burgeoning problems can be identified early and pre-empted, and crises dealt with immediately.

Stacy talks a lot of sense. I agree that much of social media monitoring IS snake oil. But that’s exactly why, when done properly, it takes time and resource. Word of mouth research too often suffers from the impression that it is a ‘cheap’ or ‘easy’ option: no other specialist discipline would be assumed to be covered by a few free tools and the (no doubt capacious) brain of one guy. As I said, many companies will only be able to start with that one guy, and that’s great. But it’s important that they are aware that it will give a limited impression of their true conversational landscape.

Social media monitoring needs human insight

Monday, April 20th, 2009

We’re always banging on about ongoing listening being the key to word of mouth marketing, so I read ReadWriteWeb’s post on The Future of Social Media Monitoring with interest, in which Marshall Fitzpatrick looks at the host of affordable tools available to track online conversations, but also considers their limitations and what needs to emerge in the future to make this monitoring of genuine use to brands.

Thing is, we’re already there. Our ‘listening’ team combine the proprietary software we’ve developed over the past 10 years with a thorough process of human tagging, interpreting and insight to give a seriously thorough picture of a brand’s current conversational landscape. It helps us fulfill all the elements on Fitzpatrick’s wish-list: wider source coverage (we cover the full spectrum of blogs, forums, microblogs, social networks, media sharing sites and more, not just Twitter or Facebook, say); source analysis (our dedicated voices and venues team know what spread and resonance each voice and conversation has – the context, sentiment, triggers and implications behind the WOM); conversation discovery (we prioritise which existing conversations and individuals brands should be engaging with, but also where they’re not being talked about and should be) and real-time threshold management (we call it reactive listening – we’ll ping across any conversations gaining particular ground or urgent issues and help brands develop a mechanism for engaging with them as well as developing internally in response to the feedback).

This isn’t just intended as a Monday morning back-slapping session – well, OK, maybe a bit –  it’s also a good opportunity to reiterate our belief that listening to conversations takes time, effort and yes, maybe more then a few dollars thrown at a machine to crank out a pretty graph, something that’s ever more important to keep in mind as monitoring start-ups vie for marketing budget. The human insight integral to our listening mechanism is essential to mine the motivations and opportunities behind WOM: people know people. It’s as simple (and complex!) as that.