SoDash: bringing artificial intelligence to social media monitoring

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Screenshot of SoDash - social media monitoring tool with artificial intelligenceKeeping track of discussions surrounding your brand or competitors is crucial for successful social media monitoring and listening. One challenge is the sheer range and volume of conversations that take place online, and determining what to do with them.

Sentiment analysis is a difficult task to automate as irony and sarcasm can generate false results, affecting accuracy. Being able to identify what action a posting needs, if any, is also difficult, as spam or bot messages might drown out genuine users.

We spoke to Simon Campbell about the exciting approach SoDash has taken to social media monitoring. SoDash uses artificial intelligence which means the tool can be “trained” into determining the sentiment and category of a social media posting. This advanced approach to social media monitoring can potentially result in greater effectiveness at gathering intelligence from online conversations, and reacting to them appropriately.

What do you feel is the most accurate definition of a social media management tool?
I think the key is how you define “management”. There are a lot of social media monitoring and reporting tools, but I think the real value comes from engagement, which is something the traditional offerings in the market do quite poorly. I think the most accurate definition for the perfect social media management tool would be: A tool that helps you “monitor”, “filter”, “engage with” and “report on” social media in the most efficient way by automatically identifying opportunities and reducing workload through improved workflow.

Why do you think they are valuable to brands or businesses (ie, time savers etc)?

Tools by definition are there to make life easier and the good ones will cleverly filter all of the noise out there in social media, deliver just the relevant messages and provide a much improved work flow so that social media can be managed with minimal resource and maximum efficiency. Businesses need to be able to simply monitor and engage with their customers and prospects within social media as this represents how their brand is viewed and can relate directly to the bottom line.

What do you think is the most accurate way of tracking social media activity without using a tool?

It is a fairly laborious task without using any tools at all as it involved creating individual searches in things like Twitter and manually monitoring them, and setting up Google Alerts for numerous phrases and again, manually checking them all in the different places. There are some free tools that go some of the way to help monitor (such as TweetDeck) but they still rely on someone sitting in front of it all the time and it does not do anything especially clever except for pulling in the information to one place.

Explain how SoDash works and why it is an effective tool for social media management.

SoDash is a social media dashboard for brands and organisations to monitor and interact with the market. The reason it is unique owes to its artificial intelligence algorithms that learn what is important to your business through tagging. Once trained, it will automatically tag messages that are sales leads, positive or negative comments about your brand or competitors, deliver market information, ghost write and send responses and much more. Whilst some tools out there are good for monitoring social media, SoDash enables you to take control of social media and make it work for you with minimal resources.

What platforms does SoDash cover?

SoDash currently covers Twitter and Facebook with full monitoring of blogs, forums, YouTube, LinkedIn and others coming in September. We can currently also link to any specific source if requested. It is important to understand about engagement in the different platforms. Twitter is by far the most engaging, as it is an open platform. Facebook is great if you have a page with lots of fans that you need to manage but you cannot access and engage with private profiles.

How are you different from other social media management tools on the market?

SoDash is unique because it has in-built artificial intelligence which enables it to be trained to filter, recognise and tag messages based upon the criteria that is important to your business. Due to the artificial intelligence algorithms, it is also much more accurate when looking at things like sentiment analysis as again it is trained in relation to all aspects of the messages, including the structure, punctuation and person messaging, not just positive or negative words as with other tools. Essentially, other tools on the market have been developed to focus on monitoring whereas SoDash is built for engagement with monitoring as a given.

Who do you see as your main competitors?

Companies that use SoDash might also look at Radian6 or CoTweet. Both were built initially with monitoring and reporting in mind and, as with other tools on the market, they do not incorporate artificial intelligence so are reliant on manual filtering and responses. We have come across agencies who might continue to use something like Radian6 alongside SoDash although SoDash will soon be able to offer the full breadth of monitoring and reporting to cover all angles. Another of the features that customers are highlighting as a strong aspect of SoDash in comparison to other tools is the ease of use.

What sort of future developments can we expect to see from SoDash?

With the core functionality in place, the SoDash roadmap now focuses upon bringing on more channels/platforms and the automation of more specific reporting, especially to cover internal factors such as response times to messages (all of which can be provided now if requested). There are also some really cool advances that no one else has on the radar right now, but you will have to wait to see those!

Professional social networks: 2 Facebook apps that challenge LinkedIn

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When it comes to using professional social networks, LinkedIn has long been the original and specialist network. Hot on LinkedIn’s heels are two Facebook apps which aim to take advantage of Facebook’s vast user base. Are these apps a sign of the future of professional networking, or should we continue to keep our personal and professional personas separated?

Both of these apps do stress that they allow you complete separation between your ‘regular’, social Facebook presence, and your professional one. They effectively allow you to create a new profile page, and build a separate network that will never see personal material such as your wall and tagged photos. What else do they offer?

BranchOut professional networking logoBranchOut

BranchOut has been on the scene since July 2010, but has recently gained remarkable growth and increased user activity. The app is arguably very self promoting, verging on the side of spam (see this post for a breakdown of its viral techniques) and having tested it myself I was disappointed to see that the default choice for inviting friends was to post on their wall rather than sending a private invitation as a message.

BranchOut aims to gamify professional networking by using badges as incentives for growing your network. The danger in this is that it will perhaps motivate some people to focus on the the volume of their network rather than the quality ot it. It’s also possible to gift badges to other users, making recommendations and endorsements too easy can perhaps diminishing their value.

Monster.com professional networking Facebook app BeKnown logoBeKnown

Recently launched by job-hunting site Monster.com, BeKnown offers a very similar approach to BranchOut, offering a partition between your professional and social spheres.

BeKnown also utilities badges as an incentive for making connections as well as giving and receiving endorsements. It appears that BeKnown uses a less intrusive approach to inviting friends, and the top badge for number of connections is at 500, which places a cap similar to LinkedIn.

As it is early days for BeKnown we may have to wait and see what the uptake is like amongst users. While the link to the jobs listed on Monster.com will surely be an attractive lure to job hunters, it will be interesting to see how BeKnown handles the headstarts gained by LinkedIn and BranchOut.

Social media case study: the Stanley Cup hockey riots

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Image courtesy of pixdaus

When the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks and became winners of the Stanley Cup earlier this month no-one expected social media to help resolve the violent riots that broke out on the Canadian streets.

As one journalist aptly described it:

“Watching the post-Stanley Cup apocalypse was like staring at a car wreck. It was hard not to look. Hard not to get enraged at the burning, breaking, looting, violence and mayhem perpetrated by the worst kind of brainless, destructive losers.” Robert Marshall, Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

For the last 15 years or so there have been a lot of riots in Canada caused by the hockey. However, this year, Canadian citizens had enough and decided to take it upon themselves to name and shame the alleged perpetrators and the most successful way of achieving this has been social media.

The use of social media sparked off when the mayor of Vancouver requested that any information on the riots and the people involved should be passed forward to the police.  Ever since then, a number of blogs and Facebook groups have been very active, with lots of angry citizens posting pictures and tagging the rioters that they recognise. There are already upwards of 100,000 people on some of these Facebook sites and according to various sources over 2,000 pictures of rioters have been posted.

So why have the Stanley cup hockey riots resulted in such a successful use of social media? The reasons that social media has been so effective in this situation is because:

  1. It is great for bringing a  group of people together around a common agenda (catching rioters that have trashed their community).
  2. People are really engaged when they are contributing to a good cause.
  3. It bridges different social circles - in this case, using social connections to extend the reach of the photos increases the chances of someone being able to identify a rioter.
  4. Functionality is simple to use yet effective - you only need to tag photos.
  5. It happens very quickly and it was a very cost effective medium for reaching a large audience.

There has been some criticism about whether its right to use social media for this activity - some people have criticised the various online groups because they have turned social media into a surveillance tool as opposed to a communications tool. The public ‘name and shame’ element has also been treated with reproach because of the potential to erode communities offline.

While I definitely disagree with using  social media in a “big brother” type fashion, photos and video footage would be used to identify people anyway and given the nature of the situation I think that it’s a very effective example of how social media charactaristics can an existing task more efficient.

What do you think?

Articles relating to the riots and involvement of social media for helping identify potential perpetrators:

  • Vancouver riots: The shame and the blame spread online
  • Go get ‘em, Vancouver Hockey rioters deserve jail
  • Vancouver: Riots after Canucks’ Stanley Cup defeat

What are your social media photo rights? Image T&Cs examined

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What are your social media photo rights?It’s always an area that has little transparency, who actually owns the rights to our images once we upload them to social networks? Could I end up seeing one of my photos all over the web, in the papers or on TV? It’s a common question that’s asked when we run our social media strategy sessions with clients.

Steps to retaining the copyright of your content

First, determine whether sharing an image is a bad thing. Sometimes, an image being viewed many times can be good for your personal and professional brand image. However, if you want to protect yourself:

  1. Understand the rules of the site you use (they change often)
  2. Avoid posting pictures that you’re particularly ‘protective’ over
  3. Delete or export any content that you don’t want shared if it’s on a network that could distribute it (see a great post by The Next Web for more information on this)
  4. Be selective with your privacy settings and licensing selections
  5. Use sites like TinEye to see if your images are being shared where they shouldn’t be.

Kathy E Gill from Media Shift compiled a great list of the terms and conditions relating to photo usage on most social media sites. It’s a great resource for seeing the relevant information side by side and identifying which platforms could take credit for the photos that you create. (She also wrote a great blog post covering this in more detail)

So who are the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of photography rights?

Retain most rights:

Posterous
“You retain full copyright of any original content that you send us. By posting to Posterous, you’re granting us a license to distribute your content on this site.”

Your images are licensed for use on Posterous but you retain how they are distributed.

flickr (by Yahoo!)
“Photos and/or images found on Yahoo! Images or Flickr are the property of the users that posted them. Yahoo! cannot grant permission to use third party content. Please contact the user directly.”

As long as you control your licensing settings you can limit use to Yahoo! properties.

yFrog (by ImageShack)

“The content that you distribute through the ImageShack Network is owned by you, and you give ImageShack permission to display and distribute said content exclusively on the ImageShack Network.”

After the Twitpic cotroversy, ImageShack have reversed their policy to give you more rights and limit the use to the ImageShack network.

Publicity / partner sharing:

Picasa (by Google)

“You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

This distribution of your content is also extended to the Google Partners, of which there are many!

Instagram

“Instagram does NOT claim ANY ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials.”

However any content that is shared publicly can be used by Instagram for their promotion across any media.

Limited rights / sublicensing:

All of the following services have some form of ‘sub-licensable’ rights:

Facebook:

“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.”

Twitpic

“However, by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service.”

Tumblr

“Subscriber shall own all Subscriber Content that Subscriber contributes to the Site, but hereby grants and agrees to grant Tumblr a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, transferable right and license (with the right to sublicense), to use, copy, cache, publish, display, distribute, modify, create derivative works and store such Subscriber Content and to allow others to do so (“Content License”) in order to provide the Services.”

Twitter

“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed)”

All the statements about terms and conditions of the various photo sharing sites in this post are my own interpretation. Please visit the terms and conditions of the relevant site to view the official statements.

Klout coupons for Facebook – will it work?

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Audi Facebook content available with Klout score

Score!

A new app for Facebook pages will take a user’s Klout score into account before giving them access to certain content.

While exclusivity is great for generating publicity, could this tool risk leaving some legitimate fans feeling snubbed?

Klout measures activity and influence across Twitter and Facebook, using 25+ metrics, and calculates an overall score on a scale of 1-100. The idea behind the Facebook app is that brands can then offer exclusive content, deals and discounts to users who meet a certain influence threshold. Theoretically, this “gating” should reward and capture the attention of social media users who are more likely to share their experience with their audience.

Audi is the first brand to use the technology, and the first “perk” available is a desktop wallpaper - a relatively minor prize but certainly a gesture that I’m sure Audi fans will appreciate.

Klout, like other influence measurement tools, does have some drawbacks - if you’re not satisfied with your rating you can “game” your way to a higher score  so the accuracy of the number may not really reveal much about how much influence a user genuinely has.

Another difficulty is that the quality and areas of interest for your audience are not indicated. Using Audi as an example, even though I have a score of 38, my involvement with automotive discussions and communities is very low and there are equally likely to be petrolhead types who may already be Facebook fans of Audi but don’t have enough of a social network to be considered worthy of additional content, even if they post in specialist car forums.

As a gatekeeper, using Klout risks letting in the wrong kinds of fans, or worse - it could alienate genuine ones. I’m of the opinion that while rewarding loyal and influential social media users will clearly have benefits for word of mouth, tools such as Klout and others may need to become more refined.

That said, maintaining a user’s interest and engagement requires something in return for their time, so I really do appreciate the direction that this is taking. Brands should always be thinking about what they can offer their fans, friends and followers in return for their interest.