FreshNetworks Blog: Top five posts in July

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As a social media agency, FreshNetworks aims to bring you the best posts in social media, online communities, marketing and customer engagement online. In case you missed them, find below our top five posts in July.

1. Social media monitoring review 2010 – download the final report

Over the first few months of 2010 we conducted an in-depth review of the leading social media monitoring tools in conjunction with our sister company, FreshMinds Research. We compared how Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos performed when monitoring conversations about global coffee brand Starbucks, analysing over 19,000 online conversations.

Many thousands of you have already read our posts about the review and downloaded the final whitepaper. If you haven’t yet, you can find a more detailed analysis of all these tools and more in our final report – Turning Conversations into Insights: a Comparison of Social Media Monitoring Tools.

2. 93% of the world is not on Facebook

In June, Facebook announced that it had reached 500 million users. This number is incredible, and perhaps even more impressive is the rate at which the social network is growing. Just five months ago they had 400 million users. But whatever we might think and however impressive these numbers are, Facebook is not an all-encompassing social media tool. It does not reach everybody and it is not always right for us to use. 500m is a large number but is only a small proportion of the online population. And if you take the whole global population (as we did more to make a point than for the accuracy of this statistic), 93% of the world is not on Facebook.

What does this mean? Well Facebook is often not the right place for brands to play - just because the numbers seem big doesn’t mean it is the most suited to help your social media strategy.

3. Social media does not just take place online

One of the biggest dangers with social media is to assume that it is only exists online. We see this in the way some brands approach social media – developing a social media strategy that is focused on the tools they are going to use rather than the business aims they are going to contribute to. We also see this in the way some brands allocate budgets for their social media work – associating it with their ecommerce or digital spend can mean that they need to work harder to make sure that social media efforts integrate with what is happening offline.

In truth, the rise of social media for marketing is less about technology and more about brands realising the benefits of closer engagement with customers and others. Social media tools provide a great way to do this but always remember to think how you can get this engagement offline too.

4. Why a museum is the UK’s top brand on Twitter

The Famecount dataset is, like much data, not perfect but it does highlight some surprises that we can all learn from. The brand it has as the top Twitter brand in the UK is one such surprise. Rather than the big FMCG, fashion and media firms they include in their brands ranking, the top UK brand on Twitter for them is a museum, @Tate.

There are some structural reasons why the Tate will attract followers. Twitter is great for events and experiences and a museum has lots of these. But the success and popularity of the Tate is about much more than this. It’s thanks to the way they use Twitter. In this post we look at the three simple characteristics of the way the Tate uses Twitter that all brands can learn from, and that contribute to their success.

5. Developing a European social media strategy

An issue for many brands who are developing a social media strategy is how they translate what they do in one country into other markets in which they operate. As a European social media agency, we are very used to helping clients take a US or UK strategy and then roll this out across the rest of Europe. And in doing this we have looked at organisations who have done this well. And those who have done it badly. The usual mistake is to assume that what works in one country can be taken and implemented in another country with no changes. More often than not this is not the case.

In this video post, Matt Rhodes talks about how to approach developing a European social media strategy and why what works in one country might not work in others.

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FreshNetworks Blog: Top five posts in June

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As a social media agencyFreshNetworks aims to bring you the best posts in social media, online communities, marketing and customer engagement online. In case you missed them, find below our top five posts in June.

1. Social media monitoring review 2010 – download the final report

Over the first few months of 2010 we conducted an in-depth review of the leading social media monitoring tools in conjunction with our sister company, FreshMinds Research. We compared how Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos performed when monitoring conversations about global coffee brand Starbucks, analysing over 19,000 online conversations.

Many thousands of you have already read our posts about the review and downloaded the final whitepaper. If you haven’t yet, you can find a more detailed analysis of all these tools and more in our final report – Turning Conversations into Insights: a Comparison of Social Media Monitoring Tools.

2. Why a museum is the UK’s top brand on Twitter

The Famecount dataset is, like much data, not perfect but it does highlight some surprises that we can all learn from. The brand it has as the top Twitter brand in the UK is one such surprise. Rather than the big FMCG, fashion and media firms they include in their brands ranking, the top UK brand on Twitter for them is a museum, @Tate.

There are some structural reasons why the Tate will attract followers. Twitter is great for events and experiences and a museum has lots of these. But the success and popularity of the Tate is about much more than this. It’s thanks to the way they use Twitter. In this post we look at the three simple characteristics of the way the Tate uses Twitter that all brands can learn from, and that contribute to their success.

3. The most beautiful tweet ever written (as judged by @stephenfry)

In June, Stephen Fry declared the most beautiful Tweet ever written at the Hay Festival. The winning tweet, from Marc MacKenzie, is a concise but informative tweet and perhaps is a great example of how people are using this new medium. But what makes this tweet the most beautiful ever written?

The beauty in Twitter, and in the tweets people send, is that they convey emotion, opinion, information and expression in a relatively short period, and they, broadly speaking, do so in public. Unlike other conversational forms, Twitter, even when you direct a tweet at a specific person, has a broader audience and often an audience you don’t know. And of course you only have 14o characters with which to express yourself. Marc MacKenzie’s tweet is a good example of this new medium – the audience is unclear and the tweet manages to convey information, opinion, belief and also humour. All in 140 characters.

4. The top ten brands on Facebook

Starbucks is the most popular brand on Facebook when ranked by the number of people who ‘Like’ a brand (’Fans’ as they used to be called). Over 7.5 million people like the coffee chain on Facebook, almost 2 million more than like the second most popular brand, Coca-Cola.

This data comes from Famecount which ranks brands (and people) based on the number of people who follow, like or friend them in social networks. It shows that food and drink brands are in each of the top five places, with fashion brands making up most of the remaining places in the top ten. Consumers are interested in what these brands are doing, or at least want to flag their interest in the brand or product on their own Facebook profile.

5. The problem with automated sentiment analysis

As part of our review of social media monitoring tools we compared their automated sentiment analysis with the findings of a human analyst, looking at seven of the leading social media monitoring tools – Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos. And the outcome suggests that automated sentiment analysis cannot be trusted to accurately reflect and report on the sentiment of conversations online.

In our tests when comparing with a human analyst, the tools were typically about 30% accurate at deciding if a statement was positive or negative. In one case the accuracy was as low as 7% and the best tool was still only 48% accurate when compared to a human. For any brand looking to use social media monitoring to help them interact with and respond to positive or negative comments this is disastrous. More often than not, a positive comment will be classified as negative or vice-versa. In fact no tool managed to get all the positive statements correctly classified. And no tool got all the negative statements right either. Automated sentiment does not work, and for businesses relying on it can cause problems.

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Social media monitoring review 2010 - download the final report

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social-media-monitoring-toolsOver the last few months we’ve been conducting an in-depth review of the leading social media monitoring tools in conjunction with our sister company, FreshMinds Research.

We’ve compared how Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Nielsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos performed when monitoring conversations about global coffee brand Starbucks. We compared over 19,000 online conversations and have written about the following topics:

  • The basics of social media monitoring
  • How to set up the tools (search strings, comparison challenges and coverage)
  • The location of social media conversations
  • Social media monitoring and duplication
  • Data latency and the tool with the most up-to-date results
  • The problem with automated sentiment

If you’ve enjoyed our posts so far you can find a more detailed analysis of all these topics and more in our final report - “Turning Conversations into Insights: a Comparison of Social Media Monitoring Tools”.

Download the final report from social media agency FreshNetworks

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FreshNetworks Blog: Top five posts in May

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Image by D’Arcy Norman via Flickr

At FreshNetworks, we aim to bring you the best posts in social media, online communities, marketing and customer engagement online. In case you missed them, find below our top five posts in May.

1. Social Media Monitoring Tools – 2010 Review (intro)

Introducing the FreshNetworks social media monitoring review 2010, a series of detailed tests and analysis on seven of the leading social media monitoring tools – Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos. The purpose of the report is to provide an in-depth comparison of buzz tracking tools that accurately depicts their individual pros and cons.

We’ve put the tools to the test by tracking well-known international coffee company Starbucks. We compared over 19,000 online conversations, giving us some really unexpected results and highlighting some staggering differences in the way each tool performs.

2. 20 Social media speakers and experts

We’ve spoken at more social media conferences and events in the last three months than in the first three years of FreshNetworks’ existence. One of the benefits of all the talking has been the opportunity to listen to other social media speakers and experts.

We were asked to recommend a few social media speakers for events (particularly in London and the UK), so thought it might be useful to note down  some of the people who have recently impressed us and why.

3. Social media monitoring review 2010: Test 1 results

The second post from our Social Media Monitoring – 2010 review series. In it we give an insight into how we have set up the comparison of the seven tools (which in itself proved rather a challenge) and the volume of online conversations that each social media monitoring tool was able to uncover. And even at this top level, it’s clear the tools are each doing something quite different…

4. Russia: the fourth largest social networking market in Europe

In a post from last year we look at data showing that Russia was the fourth largest market in Europe for social networks behind the UK, Germany and France.

5. Social media + online shopping = social shopping

Social shopping can benefit retailers in several ways, especially if it is integrated with a wider online sales strategy. In this post we look at some examples that were then built on in our social media and retail breakfast briefing.

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The problem with automated sentiment analysis

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social-media-monitoring-toolsSentiment analysis is a complex beast. Even for humans. Consider this statement: “The hotel room is on the ground floor right by the reception”. Is that neutral, or is it positive or negative? Well the answer is probably that it is different things to different people. If you want a high room with a view away from the noise or reception the review is negative. If have mobility issues and need a room with easy access it is positive. And for many people it would just be information and so neutral. Sentiment analysis is difficult even in human analysts in ambiguous or more complex situations. For social media monitoring tools it is also complicated and not always as simple or as clear-cut as we might like or expect.

As part of our review of social media monitoring tools we compared their automated sentiment analysis with the findings of a human analyst, looking at seven of the leading social media monitoring tools – Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos. And the outcome suggests that automated sentiment analysis cannot be trusted to accurately reflect and report on the sentiment of conversations online.

Understanding where automated sentiment analysis fails

On aggregate, automated sentiment analysis looks good with accuracy levels of between 70% and 80% which compares very favourably with the levels of accuracy we would expect from a human analyst. However this masks what is really going on here. In our test case on the Starbucks brand, approximately 80% of all comments we found were neutral in nature. They were mere statements of fact or information, not expressing either positivity or negativity. This volume is common to many brands and terms we have analysed we would typically expect that the majority of discussions online are neutral. These discussions are typically of less interest to a brand that wants to make a decision or perform an action on the basis of what is being said online. For brands the positive and negative conversations are of most importance and it is here that automated sentiment analysis really fails.

No tool consistently distinguishes between positive and negative conversations

When you remove the neutral statements, automated tools typically analyse sentiment incorrectly. In our tests when comparing with a human analyst, the tools were typically about 30% accurate at deciding if a statement was positive or negative. In one case the accuracy was as low as 7% and the best tool was still only 48% accurate when compared to a human. For any brand looking to use social media monitoring to help them interact with and respond to positive or negative comments this is disastrous. More often than not, a positive comment will be classified as negative or vice-versa. In fact no tool managed to get all the positive statements correctly classified. And no tool got all the negative statements right either.

Why this failing matters to brands

This real failing of automated sentiment analysis can cause real problems for brands, especially if they are basing any internal workflow or processes on the basis of your social media monitoring. For example, imagine that you send all your negative conversations to your Customer Care team to respond to where relevant. If two-thirds (or maybe more) of the ‘negative’ conversations sent over are actually positive then this process starts to break down. Perhaps more importantly, a lot of the negative conversations will never make it to the Customer Care team in the first place (having been incorrectly classified as positive). Unhappy customers don’t get routed to the right people and don’t get their problems dealt with. The complete opposite of why many of our clients want to use social media monitoring in the first place.

So what can we do

As with any test, our experiment with the Starbucks brand won’t necessarily reflect findings for every brand and term monitored online. Our test was for a relatively short time period and we only put a randomised, but relatively representative, sample of conversations through human analysis. However, even with these limitations, we were surprised by the very high level of inaccuracy shown by the social media monitoring tools investigated. For businesses looking to make decisions or perform actions on the basis of a conversation being positive or negative this is potentially quite dangerous.

Of course there is much that can be done here and over time the tools can be trained to learn and to improve how they assess conversations about a given brand. But the overall message remains: automated sentiment analysis fails in its role of helping brands to make real decisions and to react to conversations about it online.

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

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