Archive for the ‘James Turner’ Category.

The social media monitoring tool with the most up-to-date results? Brandwatch.

social-media-monitoring-toolsOur sixth post from the social media monitoring review 2010 series will look at the issue of data latency.

While most tools prioritise key websites to ensure the fastest possible upload of conversations, we found that some tools can take several days before the  conversation that’s being held online is available in the tool. This delay is known as data latency.

Of the seven tools we tested, we found that Brandwatch was the fastest at searching for and processing new online data, while some parts of Nielsen Buzzmetrics proved the slowest at collecting up-to-date information.  It’s important to note that Brandwatch doesn’t cover as many geographies and conversation types as Nielsen does.

As mentioned in previous posts, one of the ways that social media monitoring tools gather data is by using similar web-crawlers to those that Google uses to produce its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This is an automated process that copies content from a list of websites into the tool.

Once the conversations have been collected they are processed - sometimes by analysts but mostly by automated processes. The speed at which conversations are collected by a tool is limited by the frequency of the web-crawlers and the length of time it takes the tool to process the data.

This has an obvious impact on clients wanting to look at up-to-date conversations. It can also skew historical data as it’s possible to look at a conversation trends for the last few days, but then the next day more conversations may arrive from the previous day, changing the results.

People carrying out social media monitoring need to be aware of data latency and to keep it in mind when using the tools to track online conversations.

Tracking specific influencers

In the video below, Charlie, one of the Directors at FreshNetworks,  talks through an example of a client who needed to track a small number of key influencers. They could not afford to wait days or even hours for updates and had to find a unique social media monitoring solution.

The Hare and the Tortoise

Social media has driven a yearning for real-time information. A desperation to know exactly what’s going on right now. As a result you might believe that a faster tool is the better tool. However, as with the other comparative measures between the tools, it depends on your business need.

Our experience of the different social media monitoring tools suggested that high latency was often the result of more sophisticated data processing and de-duplication. Thus if your goal is to track what’s going on with minimal effort, or to see only the really important conversations, you may be better off with an apparently ‘slow’ tool because it will cut out more of the online waffle.

To give an example, some of us at FreshNetworks like to read the most important blog posts from all of AdAge’s 150 top blogs. To do this we use Postrank to filter out the most popular posts and then Feedburner to email them once a week. It can occasionally feel like you’re a day behind on the news, but it’s certain that you will be seeing the most important posts by the end of the week. This system only works because Postrank tracks whether other people think a post is great - a process that performs better after a post has been live for a couple of days. Hence, in this case, higher latency drives better results.

Our next post will look at sentiment analysis across the seven tools.

Read the other posts in our social media monitoring 2010 review series.

Follow the launch of the Social Media Monitoring Review 2010

Can’t make it to the launch of our Social Media Monitoring Review 2010? We’ll soon be posting the findings from the research into seven of the leading social media monitoring tools – Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos. In the meantime you can follow the discussions and debates from the breakfast launch below. Join in and let us know your experiences and thoughts on social media monitoring and the tools we are investigating.

So what are social media monitoring tools?

In a nutshell, social media monitoring tools pretty much do what they say on the tin – they monitor online conversations taking place through social media.  They track anything that’s being said about your business or your brand on blogs, forums, Twitter and other social spaces. Each tool is different, varying in complexity and in the way they gather and process the information, as we will show you over the next few weeks.

Our sister company, FreshMinds Research, has been using social media tools to generate customer insights for years. We usually work with FreshMinds Research to conduct social media audits or monitoring when establishing a  social media strategy for clients. So over the next few weeks you’ll benefit from the unique findings of a research company working in collaboration with a social media agency.

We’ll start with the basics and work through our research step-by-step. If at any time you want us to explore a certain aspect in more detail, please let us know. Our next post will explore the basics of social media monitoring.

Read the other posts from our social media monitoring review 2010.

Social media monitoring and duplication (duplication, duplication!)

social-media-monitoring-toolsThis is the fifth post in our Social Media Monitoring – 2010 review series. In it we’ll be looking at the issue of duplication, one reason for some of the seemingly large differences between the seven leading social media monitoring tools under investigation – Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos.

We saw from the first test in our review that the different tools produced markedly different volumes for the search terms we were using - all associated with Starbucks. The smallest number of conversations was found by Biz360 and the largest by Radian6 – over 11x the difference.

So which tools are reflecting better the conversations and discussions about Starbucks? Is bigger necessarily better? Are the tools with the largest number of conversations the best? We don’t think so.

The difference in volumes is striking. If you were using Radian6 you would get the impression that eleven times as many conversations were going on about Starbucks and related terms than if you were using Biz360. There are many reasons for this and bigger is not in this case necessarily better.

Think about the following: retweets, spam, signatures, adverts. Should these be counted in your study or not? Different tools treat them in different ways and so, as we saw with the issue of location, the actual number of conversations is not always as it seems.

Firstly, there’s the source of the conversation – who did is start with? Is there more than one conversation around the same topic or is someone copying it? Is this the same tweet that’s been retweeted or is it a new conversation? These distinctions are important. If a Tweet contains certain keywords it is often retweeted automatically many many times by ‘bots’ which search Twitter for these terms and automatically reposts them.

How do you deal with spam and adverts - taking blog posts titles or key terms from them and posting them on other sites. Should these be included or not in your counts of conversations? Are they real conversations if they are automatically taken from your site and used on others? Are they important to understand if they are being used in spam sites. Or indeed sites or an unsavoury nature (you know the ones I mean!)?

How many times should a comment in a forum thread be counted? If a comment is repeated in different places or on different pages should it be counted as a new conversation? Indeed if one person posts their comment on multiple sites to try to drive traffic or showcase their point of view should all of these instances be counted as a new conversation?

You need a social media monitoring tool that deals with these and other situations. The tools that identify the most conversations are often not the most useful or accurate. They may include a range of conversations that are irrelevant, spam or double-counted. Whereas any organisation looking to understand what people are saying about your brand online wants a more accurate portrayal of what is being said.

Bigger is not necessarily better and duplication is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in any social media monitoring.

Next…

More detail on these tests, and the results,  can be found in our final report which will be available to download on Friday 16th April. We’re also holding a free social media monitoring breakfast seminar on 15th April in London, where we’ll be presenting the findings of our report, as well as giving practical tips and advice about social media monitoring and the best way to analyse results. This event is now fully booked but you can follow the results live as they are announced on Twitter from 08.30 (London time) on Thursday by following #smm10.

The location of social media conversations is not always what it seems

social-media-monitoring-toolsThis is the fourth post in our Social Media Monitoring - 2010 review series. In it we’ll be looking at the  location of conversations.

In the last post in our series on social media monitoring we saw that the different tools being reviewed produced dramatically different results in terms of the number of conversations they identified for our key search terms associated with Starbucks. The smallest number of conversations was found by Biz360 and the largest by Radian6 – over 11x the difference.

When we were first analysing the results of our tests, it was pretty surprising to find that, using similar searches, we got such varied results from the different tools. Our research is intended to compare the tools without prejudice for those without prior knowledge of social media monitoring. And for an untrained eye, the reasons for these differences might not be clear.

One basic factor that needs to be considered when looking at social media monitoring is the location of the conversations about your brand. In fact, different social media monitoring tools classify the location of conversations in different ways using different approaches.

Location: Region, Geography or Language?!

Brands are generally interested in where the conversations are originating - a brand looking to understand sentiment about its product in the Argentinian market, for example, is probably less interested in conversations happening in the Philippines or Spain, even if they are all in the Spanish language. The social media monitoring tools use three main ways to determine the origin of the conversations, some more accurately that others:

  1. Using the URL: It’s actually harder than you might think to use the URL of a site where conversations happen to determine the location of the conversation itself.  It’s not as simple as looking at .co.uk for the UK and .fr for France. Site URLs are not especially helpful in defining location.
  2. The IP address: So each site has a unique IP address right? And these are allocated to counties? Well sometimes. However major social media platforms tend to be hosted in the US, whilst their users may be commenting from around the world. For example, Twitter gives the impression that all of its users are in the US.
  3. Language being used: Some providers use the actual words in the conversations to identify the country.  This is pretty advanced and can work. But nuances in, for example, International English are extremely hard to infer location from.

Each of the tools addresses the issue of location in a different way. Looking through the conversations manually it’s easy to find examples that aren’t categorised correctly. As a result it makes the job of comparing the different tools much harder.

Next…

More detail on these tests, and the results, can be found in our final report which will be available to download on Friday 16th April. We’re also holding a free social media monitoring breakfast seminar on 15th April in London, where we’ll be presenting the findings of our report, as well as giving practical tips and advice about social media monitoring and the best way to analyse results. You can register for the event by clicking on the button below:

Register for Social media monitoring in London, United Kingdom  on Eventbrite

Read the other posts from our social media monitoring review 2010.

Social media monitoring review 2010: Test 1 results

social-media-monitoring-toolsThis is our second post from the Social Media Monitoring - 2010 review series.

In it we’ll be giving you an insight into how we have set up the comaprison of tools (which proved rather a challenge) and the volume of online conversations that each social media monitoring tool was able to uncover.

Setting up the search string
We decided to use Starbucks as a test brand for our social media monitoring because it’s a global brand that is frequently discussed online. Also, the word ‘Starbucks’ doesn’t have any other meaning or use other than being a brand/company name.

As well as tracking the word ‘Starbucks’, we also tracked the phrase ‘Flat White’, a new addition to the Starbucks coffee range which launched in December 2009 . We also tracked their new ready brew coffee, ‘Via’, which was released in the autumn of last year in the US and in March 2010 in the UK. We wanted to see what impact this new development was having on online conversations about the brand . Finally, because Starbucks is associated with its ‘Reward Card’ and the phrase ‘Fair Trade’ we tracked these subjects too. To keep things fair we created a similar search string for each tool.

It is important to note that some tools are capable of more sophisticated search strings than others. So we were testing to the lowest-common-denominator in this sense.

Comparison challenges
Although the tools are very different, we wanted to try and evaluate them all as fairly as possible. Thus the tools were used ‘out-of-the-box’, as they come, for the fairest comparison. Again, there are limitations with this approach. Some of the more sophisiticated options offered in some tools are only relevant to more experienced users. And some providers (e.g. Neilsen) are set up to provide a much greater level of analyst support than, for example more technology focussed firms like Radian6.

Our sense for the market is that most firms are still learning the art of social media monitoring and that tools are often managed day-to-day by people with only limited training in how to use them in anger. This drove our approach to the research.

Coverage
As the tools all have different coverage, whether it’s for different media or markets, we set up the same filters for each tool to create a comparable ‘universe’ of conversations for Starbucks. Our test was carried out using only the English language and for the same time period on each tool.

Sentiment analysis
One of the areas we wanted to test was the sentiment analysis accuracy of each tool. In order to compare the automated sentiment (ie, sentiment that is coded automatically positive or negative by the tool) with our own analysis we had to extract the conversations and manually code them. Some tools don’t allow you to extract certain conversations, others do. Where we weren’t able to extract sentiment for some reason, we’ve marked the tool:

Picture4

Number of conversations
The seven tools gave very different results when looking at overall conversations -  the smallest number of conversations was found by Biz360 and the largest by Radian6 - over 11x the difference! But remember, more conversations is not necessarily better - there is often duplication.

Picture1*You can usually make arrangements with your account manager if you need more data.

Conversation types
When you compare the conversations by media type, again each of the tools shows quite a different result:

Picture2

*Scoutlabs doesn’t allow you to extract Twitter conversations with sentiment. The tool does allow you to browse the latest twitter conversations though.

At this top-level, it’s clear the tools are each doing something quite different…

Next…
More detail on these tests, and the results,  can be found in our final report which will be available to download on Friday 16th April. We’re also holding a free social media monitoring breakfast seminar on 15th April in London, where we’ll be presenting the findings of our report, as well as giving practical tips and advice about social media monitoring and the best way to analyse results. You can register for the event by clicking on the button below:

Register for Social media monitoring in London, United Kingdom  on Eventbrite

Read the other posts from our social media monitoring review 2010.