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.

What type of brand are you online?

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There are four types of brands online, and you can distinguish between them by listening to and analysing the conversations about the brands. This is an insightful takeaway from one of the most interesting presentations at the Social Media Marketing 2010 conference in London earlier in June. The presentation from web monitoring company Synthesio presented these four types of brand, showed the nature of conversations about them online and then showed some best practice examples of how such brands can engage online.

Given that we’re a social media agency, and we’ve just published our Social Media Monitoring 2010 review , we were interested by these four types of brand. We certainly recognise some and the types and the characteristics of them. The full presentation is at the bottom of this post, but Synthesio’s four types of brands online are:

1. The Boring Brand

The boring brand does not generate spontaneous interest in it - insurance, home cleaning products and some FMCG brands can typically fall into this category. Whilst there is an average level of buzz about the brand the conversations rarely express positive or negative sentiment, presence online tends to be low and there are few long conversations about the brand.

A great example of where a typically boring brand has been turned around is Compare the Meerkat. You can also often generate interest in these brands by focusing not on the product itself but on other elements of the experience, such as the Keep Britain Biking site for Devitt Insurance.

2. The Functional Brand

Functional brands go beyond the name or image of the brand, the products they represent have to deliver a certain level of service or experience - mobile phone companies or business hotels would be typical examples. These brands have a high volume of buzz, and a relatively high proportion of these are expressing positive or negative sentiment. They also have a high presence in social media, but the conversations still tend to be more descriptive than discursive. There are typically a lot of individual comments about the brand rather than long discussions and debates online.

3. The Exciting Brand

Exciting brands are ones that people desire and that signal much about consumers who buy them. Apple would be a typical brand in this type. These brands generate a lot of buzz, although much of it is neutral in nature (people discussing the brand rather than expressing an opinion either way). The brands have high presence in social media and also tend to attract discussions between people rather than just a lot of individual comments.

The best thing for such brands to do is to find a way to nurture this enthusiasm and these conversations. The best such brands will turn these volume of conversations into positive word of mouth and value for them.

4. The Vital Brand

Vital brands are ones that concern issues you really care about, concerns and needs that are important to you. Health and environmental brands are typically in this category. They attract a lot of buzz online, although this tends not to be overly positive or negative in sentiment. There is a high presence in social media and a very high proportion of comments are discussions between people online rather than just isolated comments.

Do you recognise your brand as being one of these four? Is this a good way of segmenting brands online based on discussions about them?

How to Monitor and Measure Viral Marketing Campaigns?
View more presentations from Synthesio.

Three ways to act on your social media monitoring

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This week we published the final report in our Review of Social Media Monitoring Tools (download the final report here). Reflecting on the report and its findings with clients and others this week, we have found ourselves discussing the importance of not just listening (although this can often be a good first step for those who are not yet doing it) but also acting on what is said about your brand and other terms of interest in social media. As the report shows, the different social media tools are of value for different purposes and choosing the one that is most suited to your brand and your needs is an important step.

Even before you have your social media monitoring in place, any brand can benefit from working out a plan for what you will do with all this information you are going to gather. Dashboards and reports can be useful, but the ability to take actions or make decisions using this information is much more useful for any brand. What you do with your social media monitoring is as important, if not more important, than getting the monitoring in place in the first place.

Different brands will want to engage with the conversations they discover online in different ways. The following are three great ways for any brand to engage with these conversations. The first two are ways in which you can capitalise upon the outputs of your social media monitoring internally and the last one on how you can use it to engage externally. They all require you to connect with different teams and functions in your brand and may need internal process change to make a real difference.

1. Inform the language of your marketing and communications

Observing and analysing the way people talk about your brand, competitor brands and the market you are in more generally can be a real and valuable source of insight for marketing and communications teams. It lets you learn how people talk about you, the language they use and how they compare you to other competitors and substitutes in the market. By properly searching not just for brand terms but also the terms that people use in relation to them you can start to explore the language that people use. This has a number of benefits. You can use the language and keywords to refine and ammend your search strategy. You can use relevant language and expressions in your marketing and PR activities. And you can start to use the same language when you are engaging in social media.

This relies on you ensuring that different teams across your brand are connected to what your social media monitoring reveals. And probably more importantly that you set up the reporting and analysis to ensure you are looking not just at what is said, but more importantly at how you can change your own communications and language on the basis of this.

2. Predict market changes

One of the real benefits of social media monitoring is that it allows you to track over time the things that are discussed in relation to your brand and your market. By tracking what is discussed over time allows you to identify when more conversations about certain issues being to emerge. Imagine, for example, that you are a large chain of pizza restaurants. One of the the things you might monitor is references to pizza being bought in a supermarket or eaten from take-away restaurants. Your social media monitoring should be set to alert you when and unusually large number of conversations of one of these kinds are present in social media. What is causing people to talk more than is usual about a topic and what can you do about it.

This kind of trend spotting can be of huge value to any business but relies on you having the mechanisms to capitalise upon this knowledge. Usually this would be a good indicator for your insight or research teams, or a marketing function to explore the trends that appear to be emerging and to make sure you are putting plans in place for any changes it may be spotting early.

3. React and respond to mentions of your brand online

Finally, any brand should consider its process for reacting and responding to what people say abotu you online. Whilst the previous two activities are very internal, this is external and involves engaging directly with people in social media.

There are many ways in which people refer to and mention a given brand online. And in most instances there is typically no need to respond. You can just leave the mention and monitor it if you think relevant. We have written before about how to react if somebody writes about your brand online, and the process described here is a great starting point. The next step is to integrate this with your own internal processes and to change these to ensure conversations online are engaged with and responded to when relevant.

This touches heavily on the importance of sentiment analysis - often negative comments need to be responded to in one way and by one set of people, and positive comments in a different way by a different set of people. We’ve written before about the problem with automated sentiment analysis and the best advice is to make sure that you keep a level of human involvement and analysis to make sure you’re responding to the right things in the right ways.

Read the other posts from our social media monitoring review 2010 or download our final report

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

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.