“AI will be huge in terms of its impact and helpfulness in social media analytics”

Tam Su
Tam Su

Interview with Tam Su, Senior Director of Product at Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company with headquarters in Boston, US.

Hi Tam, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Crimson Hexagon?

I have been in tech for about 18 years, having helped start a few. I am currently the senior director of product at Crimson Hexagon. My responsibilities include product design, strategy and user experience.

What differs Crimson Hexagon from other social media analytics platforms?

Great question. Our biggest strength over the other offerings is the strength of our tech platform and the vastness of our data store (the amount of data we store ourselves). Our CTO jokes that we have more public data than anyone on earth, except for the NSA. We have the best analysis platform, and a superior foundation, that is where we lead.

Traditionally, we are weaker on the user experience front, so we have been working hard for the last year and a half to overcome that. Look for exciting announcements from us in the coming months.

You recently received an investment of $20M in Crimson Hexagon; how will that affect your product in the near future?

As mentioned, expect exciting announcements in the next two to three months, as we launch our new offerings. These have less to do with our funding, and more with the fact that we’ve been focused on delivering a world-class user experience.

The funding will accelerate our efforts across the board – across product lines, technology, data sources, and our research pipeline as we get more into deep learning and related AI efforts.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Crimson Hexagon when it comes to serving your customers analysis and develop your offer?

Great question. The greatest challenges for any company in an accelerated growth stage after a big funding event is the danger of not staying focused on the important stuff. In other words, a lot of companies have the tendency to say – we have the money now to spend on things that we didn’t have before, so let’s go after things that maybe we shouldn’t.

We need to stay laser focused on the most important set of needs for our customers. We continue to concentrate on social listening and analysis, with a special focus around insights derived from that data, as we build a road map to better predict customer behaviors using social data.

As we look to the future, we aim to become more prescriptive in what we can recommend to our clients.

About a year ago you introduced image analysis and logo detection. How well has that played out when it comes to quality and client adaptation?

A year ago we launched a rudimentary product; over the last year, we have sharpened those skills and continue to improve the quality of our product in terms of accuracy, volume, etc. It’s not as widely adapted as we hoped, which has to do with analysis maturity. Image analysis is in the early days; this has become an important source of data, but many of our clients are not at that point yet in terms of their journey in social media analysis.

What are the next steps when it comes to enhancing the use of image analysis?

We have an exciting pipeline, looking at scene, object and facial detection. We can tell if a person is in a restaurant or on a mountain top based on a scene. We can detect not only logos, but also items, allowing us to tell if a Starbucks logo is on a mug or on a can of coffee.

Facial detection now allows us to detect sentiment without having to analyze associated text, which may not even exist. If people smile, we know they’re happy, if they are frowning, we know they are not. Being able to discern sentiment straight from the image is huge.

How do you think the development in AI will affect the social media analytics business?

It will be huge in terms of its impact and helpfulness; it’s going to impact a number of areas, ranging from the analysis itself to certain recommendations that we may be able to offer our users. For example, this type of data is best paired with these types of charts. Another example is the idea of being able to recommend actions based on what we see. We can say that this tweet from an influencer is likely to be further amplified with certain promotional; if you promote it, it will likely be amplified by 10 times than what it is now. To be able to predict that and make recommendations is huge.

Another frontier is looking at data information and data ingestion, we are thinking about proprietary data and how AI can help us ingest proprietary corporate data, like chat logs, more efficiently, and be able to then sort through that data, make sense of it, and analyze it more effectively.

Which social platforms do you see having the most potential in the future?

We are very bullish on Tumblr, the third largest network by active users. We have a partnership with them, where we get the entire firehose. We are very excited to see their active user growth trends, and where the entire network will go.

Beyond that, Twitter and Instagram will continue to have bright futures. We are partners with Twitter, and have access to all their data. Instagram is challenging because of their limited API, but hopefully that will change.

Are there any social platforms that are closed today that you would be interested in tapping into for monitoring that would benefit your customers?

Instagram and Facebook are headaches for all of us. We all would like to know what is going on inside Facebook, with respect to the privacy of Facebook’s users. It would be great to get a greater peek in than what we are able to with current channels.

What kind of data, that you would need to do even better analysis, is the hardest to get hold of?

Facebook and Instagram; beyond that, we are curious about the various messaging apps, such as Snapchat, because our clients are becoming curious about them. We would love to get behind the curtains there, with respect to privacy restrictions, to understand what people are talking about and care about.

What kind of data or media that you do not have monitoring on today, can be interesting in the future?

The biggest thing in that regard is working on making our ability to work with proprietary corporate data more robust. We currently have an ingestion mechanism that works. Making it more open and robust so companies can gain greater value is a goal.

How do you think the media monitoring and social media analytics industry will change in the next five years?

The next five years will be very exciting for the whole industry as it grows and matures. A lot of unknowns will be shaken out of the system. Perhaps the biggest change is the ability for platforms leveraging AI to predict scenarios and outcomes in order to prescribe and recommend actions. So, in the next five years we should see that technology developing and maturing in a more visible way.

By Renata Ilitsky

Easier to tap into the global colorful blogosphere

Multi-Ethnic Group Taking a Selfie at Holi Festival
Colorful groupie

We have now made it a lot easier for you to access the world’s biggest pool of active blogs.

Just sign up on our site and instantly receive an API key that gives you access to more than 6 million active blogs and their posts. We also take pride in adding 15,000 new active blogs every day, which is important due to the high turnover in the blogosphere.

We know that you want to get started swiftly in retrieving blog data for your evaluation and use, and we have therefore recently developed API clients in the most common programming languages.

The blogs are divided by spoken languages and they are all assigned a blog rank, based on how influential they are in the colorful blogosphere.

For you to be able to compare your current coverage of blog data, we have made our coverage in the major languages publicly available. Just let us know if you need any input regarding coverage in other languages.

So if you are looking to extend your current coverage of blogs, get your API key today and start exploring.:)

By Pontus Edenberg

With this one simple trick we got 5 more API clients

We believe that in order to provide a good API service you will need sensible API endpoints, but more importantly you will also need well-tested, supported and easy-to-use API clients. With this in mind we were motivated to provide API clients for the programming languages most likely to be used, and being used, when integrating with us.

GitHub repositoriesOver the past few months we have released five new Twingly Search API clients, supplementing our already existing Ruby client. Check them out at GitHub.

But how did we do it? Are we proficient in C#, Java, Ruby, Python, PHP and Node.js? We wish. Inspired by the likes of Diffbot we decided to use Upwork to help us find freelancers which would make our vision come to life.

Our process was something along these lines:

  1. Improve the Ruby client so that it could be used as a reference implementation
  2. Decide upon on which freelancer platform to use, we evaluated a handful of them
  3. Determine a maximum cost per client
  4. Write a job listing for one of the programming languages, this included researching things such as: which packaging systems are there? CI services? Which versions should we support?
  5. Post the job listing and wait a few days for the job applications to drop in
  6. Choose among the candidates, usually more than 10 persons applied for each job
  7. Hire the most suitable candidate, for example we looked at references from earlier freelancing jobs, example projects, GitHub profile and so on. We noticed it was quite common with empty, or skeleton, repositories on GitHub, requiring some efforts on our part to find actual code:)
  8. Review the work, repeat until both parties are satisfied
  9. Accept the work/API client, including source code in a GitHub repository
  10. Repeat steps 4-9 for every programming language, for each iteration improve the job listing with lessons learned and links to the newly implemented client

It is worth mentioning that we spent plenty of time reviewing the work for a few reasons:

  • We want consistent behavior for all of our clients.
  • We want our customers to have a good user experience.
  • We need to understand the code in order to be able to maintain it.
  • We are curious creatures and are always eager to learn new things.

For others venturing into the freelancing world, here are some of the most important things we learned from this experience:

  • Be explicit with the requirements. We discovered that for some freelancers a vague “point at an existing implementation” would work just fine and lead to the expected outcome but for others it would not turn out the way you anticipated.
  • If you are using GitHub and pull-requests, do not create the GitHub repository and let the freelancer submit a large initial pull-request, those are impossible to review (or well, they are hard to give feedback on). Rather, either let the freelancer start out in an own repository or invite them to collaborate on your repository. It is much easier to review and provide feedback when using GitHub’s issues as opposed to comments on a large pull-request.
  • Depending upon your use-case, you might not need to spend as much time reviewing the work as we did. Remember that curiosity is a double-edged sword.

If you are interesting in more information, please leave a comment and we’ll make sure to respond!

By Robin Wallin

“The rise of new social media platforms is an opportunity for brands to gather more consumer intelligence”

Alexey Orap
Alexey Orap – Chief Executive Optimist

Interview with Alexey Orap, CEO of YouScan, a social media intelligence provider in Ukraine and Russia

Hi Alexey, what is your background and what is included in your current role at YouScan?

I am an entrepreneur with 20+ years in the tech industry, with experience ranging from large multinational companies to startups. I founded YouScan in 2009, and since then I serve as the company’s CEO (that’s Chief Executive Optimist). I manage strategic development of the company and its operations, focusing on talent acquisition, developing internal culture, strategic partnerships, key product decisions and financials.

What differs YouScan from other media monitoring companies in Russia and Ukraine?

We launched YouScan as the first professional tool on the market for businesses to monitor social conversations and manage their online reputations. Since day one, we have been focusing on the ease of use (most of our users are not really technical, so friendly UI is a must) and great customer service. We understand that brand managers, marketing and research professionals mostly just don’t have enough time to dedicate to social media monitoring, so we try to simplify their lives – both by providing them with the ready-to-use smart analytics and quality support, such as setting up search queries, providing advice on their listening process, etc. I’d say we are super-paranoid about making our customers happy, and most importantly, successful in their social media monitoring projects. We are also really focused on providing great coverage of popular local social media outlets, and we invest a lot to acquire this data.

What type of companies benefit from your services?

We mostly work with big consumer brands, both local and international, representing multiple industries such as FMCG, pharmaceuticals, telecom, consumer electronics, retail, etc. Some of our clients are Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Michelin, Carlsberg, and McDonalds. Another important sector of clients includes agencies – marketing, digital and research. They use our tool to provide social media monitoring to their clients, who are big consumer brands.

You are currently shifting from basic monitoring to provide more actionable analytics and insights. Why is that?

We have been immersed in social media evolution since 2009 and we see a lot of change every year. The amount of information published on social media grows every month, and so does the amount of noise. “Noise” ranges from classic spam in social media, the amount of which today is just overwhelming (especially on Twitter), to the information which is simply not actionable and insightful for brands. So no one is really able to sift for insights manually these days. We noticed that our large customers require smarter analytics, a focus on actionable items (such as negative reviews from consumers posted on social media which requires the company’s immediate reaction) and easily digestible insights for their brands. That’s what we try to give them – both by developing our monitoring tool to provide smarter automatic reports (we use sophisticated natural language processing and machine learning), and also by providing them human analyst professional services.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at YouScan, when it comes to serving your customers business insights and analysis?

We have built really solid technologies in-house and have a very strong R&D team, so we are looking forward to leveraging these assets by serving broader international markets with our social media intelligence solutions. But these markets are quite competitive already so entering them would definitely be a challenge for us.

Can you give specific examples where one or more of your clients have made changes in their communication, organization or similar, based on the information or analysis you provided?

One of our recent cases, which I really like, is a Japanese diapers brand which entered our local markets recently. Consumers really liked the quality of their products, but by monitoring social media discussions about the brand, their marketing team was able to identify one common problem which many consumers complained about on the parenting forums and discussion groups, that the Japanese sizing indicators were not easily understood by local consumers, so parents often bought diapers in the wrong size for their babies. By identifying this issue, the brand was able to adapt its packaging for local markets and solve the customers’ problem. I like to say that in the meanwhile we have also saved bunch of kids from uncomfortable moments of wearing wrong-sized diapers:)

Which 3 sources of information are the most important for your clients in Russia and Ukraine for monitoring and business insights?

VK.com is #1, for sure. It is the most popular social network in Ukraine, Russia and adjacent markets. Message boards and review sites are also strong; most of the consumer conversations and reviews there are meaningful for brands – unlike Twitter for example, which is really spammy.

Which social platform do you see having the most potential in the future for your customers?

Instagram was a “rising star” recently, but with its plans to shut down API access, its future for social media monitoring is uncertain. That’s one of the difficult parts of our business – to a large extent we depend on third parties, such as social platforms and API providers, to provide our clients with good coverage of social media sources.

Are there any social platforms that are closed today that you would be interested in tapping into for monitoring that would benefit your customers?

Facebook, for sure. It is really sad that they have shut down their search API, because most of our clients are extremely interested in monitoring Facebook discussions for social media customer care purposes, and the like.

What kind of data or media that you do not have monitoring on today, can be interesting in the future?

Messengers like WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, etc., are really interesting. There are a lot of public channels where tons of content that might be interesting for brands are shared.

What differs between the markets in Russia and Ukraine when it comes to media monitoring and business intelligence?

What makes local markets specific is the complexity of the languages used (Russian, Ukrainian). That requires a lot of investment in natural language processing technologies; for example, to provide automatic sentiment detection. Also lots of specific local sources – forums, message boards, social networks (VK.com, OK.ru and few others), as well as review sites, which we have to cover.

Are there specific or typical needs in the Russian or Ukraine market for business intelligence that you think differs from the rest of Europe?

No, I don’t think so. The goals which brands try to accomplish with their social media monitoring activities are pretty much the same as everywhere – social customer care, marketing research, mining for insights and managing brands’ online reputation.

What is your current focus when it comes to new products and markets?

We have just launched a new product targeted at the global English-speaking market, LeadScanr. This product is really unique because it uses our proprietary intent detection technology to identify Twitter posts that contain consumer needs or desires. Their authors are high quality leads for relevant service providers. We have initially started with lead generation for three specific industries – copywriting, web and app development, and design services, and plan to extend that list in the near future. We see a big future for this product because lead generation is a huge market globally, and there are millions of businesses across the world that would like to use new channels for lead generation.

How do you think the media monitoring and social intelligence industry will change in the next 5-10 years?

I believe the industry will shift from basic monitoring tools to smarter software, which will use AI technologies to help brands easily find true insights in the vast ocean of social media discussions. The rise of new social media platforms, such as messengers, is also an opportunity for brands to gather more consumer intelligence and interact with consumers in new and interesting ways. But I would not make predictions for more than a few years from now as the social media landscape is so dynamic that no one can really tell what will happen in 5 or 10 years. So we, as social media intelligence providers, need to be really adaptive to changing marketing conditions and our customer needs.

By Renata Ilitsky

“In the next 5-10 years, social media monitoring tools will focus on making smart decisions based on data, instead of just focusing on posts”

Nikola Teofilovic
Nikola Teofilovic

Interview with Nikola Teofilovic, CEO of Twintip Insights, a business intelligence company

Hi Nikola, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Twintip?

I studied International Business with a focus on Russian Affairs at Uppsala University in Sweden. I have been working in the technology industry since 1999 in executive positions. I became the CEO of the second largest Nordic e-commerce company, their subsidiary in Norway, in 1999, and have been in that industry since.

Currently, I am a partner and CEO at Twintip, where I lead a team that consists of 13 members. My role involves motivating my team, business development, making strategic decisions, as well as product development from a strategic perspective. As well, I am responsible for educating clients at seminars and other events, as well as meeting with our biggest clients to help them reach their goals by connecting social data to important KPIs (key performance indicators).

I inform our clients about how they can use social data to make their market span more efficient by identifying partner strengths and weaknesses, and using that information for important decision-making. We use social data to connect it to hard values instead of soft values; traditionally, social monitoring tools have only been used for reactive decisions and insights. However, we are trying to help C-level executives make proactive decisions based on the social data to help them make their market span more efficient.

What differ Twintip from other media monitoring and business insights companies in Scandinavia?

Twintip is developing, and becoming more of a social intelligence company than a social monitoring company, although we are still providing social media monitoring because there is a demand for it. However, we focus more on analyzing the data and giving clear calls to action to our clients versus simply using social data in a traditional way. Instead of focusing only on posts, we focus on conversations and identifying behaviors. We have delivered more than 300 analyses on social data, and we also have the best data.

Our services are targeted to strategic decision makers, such as CEOs and marketing directors, to help them make strategic decisions. Instead of focusing on simply what was said about their brand on social media, we cross tabulate our data with other important data sources, such as Google data, transaction data and CRM data; and I strongly believe that decisions are going to be data driven in a couple of years.

We have convinced C-level executives that we can help them make strategic decisions based on the data we provide. We have allowed our clients to know more about their own customers and competitors to help them make better decisions. After all, the more you know, the better decisions you will be able to make.

Which type of companies benefit from your services?

We are strong in banking, finance, telecommunication operators, FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods) and media production companies (national broadcasting network that produce television shows).

You have recently added Facebook Topic Data. In what way is that important to your customers?

Facebook has a base that is big enough to provide valuable insight about the country. Compared to traditional research through physical and web queries and telephone interviews, which can be biased simply by asking the questions, Facebook allows us to listen to spontaneous and non-incentive driven conversations. For the research industry, Facebook Topic Data provides a completely new way to work by offering important and interesting data.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Twintip, when it comes to serving your customers business insights and analysis?

Our greatest challenge alongside the industry is to get C-level executives in blue chip companies to understand how important these data sources are. Most CEOs in these types of companies were born in the 1950s and 1960s, and have not grown up with the Internet, mobile phones, etc. Therefore, there is a knowledge gap, which is a challenge to get through to them and make them see the importance of our services. Innovation always has resistance in the beginning because humans are used to our patterns, and are not that open to change. Changing a market always requires a hard fight to educate the clients, and explain why this way is better than the traditional way. However, I think we have done a lot of good work in convincing our clients by providing hard evidence of our results, especially for the relatively small company that we are.

Can you give specific examples where one or more of your clients have made changes in their communication, organization or similar, based on the information or analysis you provided?

One of the four biggest banks in Sweden uses our social monitoring data to create a publication accountant schedule to know when clients are talking about their mortgages, savings, changing banks, etc., on a daily and monthly basis, and even based on the time of day. Analyzing the conversations of clients when they are discussing these financial topics, as well as studying their behaviors and the driving forces behind their decisions, has helped this bank make better decisions about communicating with their clients.

Which social platform do you see has the most potential in the future?

I believe that Facebook as a data source has the most potential in the future because they have so much information about their users, such as where they are located, their relationship status, work status, age, etc. However, Google search engine and Google analytics also has a lot of information and a good volume of data. Furthermore, LinkedIn is beneficial for a good business perspective, and Snapchat is good for targeting young people.

Are there any social platforms that are closed today that you would be interested in tapping into for monitoring that would benefit your customers?

LinkedIn and Instagram. We hope that Instagram will distribute their data in the same way as Facebook Topic Data.

What kind of data or media that you do not have monitoring on today, can be interesting in the future?

In the future, it would be interesting to have good photo recognition software, although the technology is not there yet. That would be helpful to find, for example, a brand that was featured in a photo of an influential blogger, yet not mentioned in the caption.

How do you think the media monitoring and social intelligence industry will change in the next 5-10 years?

In the next 5-10 years, we will move from reactive to proactive; we will challenge the traditional research models to gather information and answer questions. Social media monitoring tools will focus on analyzing behaviors and making smart decisions based on data, instead of just focusing on posts. The data will be more qualitative than quantitative.

By Renata Ilitsky

“A social platform with voice recognition would be valuable, as long as it respected privacy”

Reza Sabernia - edit
Reza Sabernia

Interview with Reza Sabernia, founder and CEO of BrainMustard.

Hi Reza, please tell us which services BrainMustard provide?

BrainMustard offers a new way to scan and analyze Internet chatter and social media. We build comprehensive models of consumer behavior within the brand ecosystem. These models help our clients to find revealing, and often unexpected, insights about consumers, which in turn help companies enhance the customer experience and increase sales, sometimes by an order of magnitude.

Which type of companies benefit from your services?

The companies that benefit from our services are concerned about the consumer experience. Currently, our client roster includes a bank, a commuter railroad, a pharmaceutical company, manufacturers, retail stores (including the largest sports retailer in Canada, with 1200 stores and an apparel company in India), as well as world-famous drink brand Diageo, who sells drinks such as Captain Morgan, Smirnoff and Guinness.

What is your background and what made you start BrainMustard?

I studied computer science, specializing in natural language processing and artificial intelligence, and then received my bachelor’s of commerce degree from the University of Toronto. I received my MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

When I graduated, I worked in an employee recognition startup for over a year; however, I was working on the idea of building BrainMustard throughout that time. Previously, I worked in a firm that did social media security, trying to find Internet criminals online. The technology for semantic algorithms for understanding the Internet chatter was not that different from what we use for BrainMustard, so I learned about information flows online and how to analyze the content to see what constitutes valuable signals and what is noise. That knowledge helped me in forming the technology that is used for BrainMustard.

I saw that the tools used for social media monitoring and sentiment analysis were limited to tactical purposes. They’re tactical because they helped social media specialists and members of marketing departments read verbatim sentiments and itemized information, as well as engage in a direct conversation with users online, But there were no tools in the market that offered a big picture solution that professionals with more strategic roles could utilize to make decisions.

I also noticed that social media monitoring solutions specialists knew that end-users can only process a couple of thousand messages at best in any given month, while they had access to tens of millions of relevant content volume. Because they wanted 100% accuracy and relevancy, they threw away a lot of content. Some of that content was irrelevant, but a substantial amount of the discards embodied interesting information. Because of this practice, brands didn’t get all of that information, and were losing important data.

Based on that need in the industry, I created BrainMustard. We don’t throw away any messages; instead, we allow them to get crystallized into thematic clusters and organically form modules that can be studied. These modules can offer new and fascinating insights from social media. We have a bottom up approach; if cluster is irrelevant, it will be deleted in the very end when we know what it means, but it will not be thrown out just because we want 100% accuracy. We don’t mind examining a lot of noise in order to capture all the information that’s out there.

What are your responsibilities in your current role at BrainMustard?

I am the Founder and CEO of BrainMustard. I supervise technology and business development, and meet with new clients to see what their needs are and if we can offer value to them.

A big focus of mine is on innovation. For example, we are building technology to track customer behavior inside stores. We are working on identifying new ways to flag and tabulate information, which is a never-ending process. We work closely with our clients to see how we can offer them meaningful information. A big portion of our innovation comes from solving the problems for our clients.

What is the current focus for BrainMustard in the near future?

Our current goal is to offer generalized industry reports. We have been working with brands directly, but are now trying to create syndicates that would be useful for all the brands in a particular industry. It’s a challenge so far, but we hope to have it ready in the next few months. Currently, our focus is on customized customer experience maps and social influence maps, which I would say is the core of our business and an area where we outperform our competitors.

Can you give specific examples where one or more of your clients have made changes in their communication, products or similar, based on the information or analysis you provided?

Bauer Hockey came to us because they are dealing with a changing marketplace. To increase hockey popularity among millennials and immigrants, Bauer Hockey collaborated with NHL to build Wal-Mart-size flagship stores in the original six cities where the NHL started. Those six cities are really the hockey mother-ship, the places where hockey is the most popular. The goal of the stores is to offer a memorable hockey experience that resonates with the parents and the kids. Bauer wanted to know what matters most to parents whose kids play hockey. They believed that a major concern for parents was safety, and they wanted to make the focus of the stores safety.

However, after BrainMustard provided an analysis of the hockey eco system, it became evident that while safety was an issue for parents in general, it was not the main issue for parents of children who actually played hockey; instead, what was concerning to them was the ice time their kids would get during weekly practices and games. When the first store opened in Boston, its main focus was on the improvement of performance in order to allow children getting more ice time. Because of the innovative information that BrainMustard provided, the store is a huge success.

Another example is of a startup that became a very successful franchise and was actually acquired by a major coffee and beverage company. The founder wanted to offer exceptional experience for tea drinkers, but the problem was that he was trying to do it in San Francisco, which is a saturated market. BrainMustard looked at the social spectrum and identified segments, such as ritualistic drinkers and the health conscious.

We also focused on segments that were overlooked, such as stay-at-home moms. These are women who are career oriented and successful, but who choose to stay home after having children. The problem is these women can feel disheartened when seeing their peers climbing the work ladder, while they continue to be just mothers. These moms not only feel like they are missing something, but they also don’t have much to share at social gatherings. They can only talk about kids, while other women talk about their jobs.

To tap into this market, the founder and BrainMustard came up with idea of creating gears for the tea drinking experience that is exotic and has a story behind it. The gears consisted of pots and saucers and other items. The items encourage ritualistic behavior and a certain level of preparation. The founder would sell gears and offer workshops to prepare exotic teas, which had a story behind them. This strategy was a huge success because moms could invite friends over and have a story to share about that experience.

What information from external sources do you use today to make your analysis, and which are the most important?

We use information from many companies; one of the better ones is actually Twingly. We use Twingly for blog sources; their service is great. When we have questions or requests, they responded quickly. We also get information about Facebook users from another source, and are provided with forum content, as well as having our own in house solutions. And there are many others.

Is there any consumer data that is difficult to retrieve today that would help you provide an even better service?

It’s all about privacy today; for instance, Facebook data is great, but most providers provide it as an aggregate form. While that is good for dashboards, it is not very beneficial for insight to know what words people use and what are the main associations between brands.

Another source that would help us provide better service would be comments from Amazon, which can offer value because they’re words from exact customers who have used the product and are sharing their experience. Pretty much the rest is accessible, which is good news.

Are there any social platforms that are closed today that you would be interested in tapping into for monitoring that would benefit your customers?

Facebook information would be very interesting. As well, millennials are active in teleconferencing and voice software, so if there was a social platform with voice recognition, that would be valuable, as long as it respected privacy.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at BrainMustard?

Our greatest challenges are in developing ways to communicate findings effectively. Our findings are numerous and we work hard to make the narratives behind them understood. We are developing new technologies that will correlate what people do either consciously or subconsciously in the stores with what they say on social media. We’re working on being able to segment the market based on people’s actual store behavior so our insights won’t be based simply on what people say on social media.

How do you think the business you are in will change in the next 5-10 years?

We are not in a business that is as fast moving as some pure technology players in the market. In terms of insights, that will not change much because societies don’t change as fast as technology does. The output of our solutions wouldn’t change as much as the backbone of the system, which will. We have to keep up with platforms to offer solid coverage; while the output will not change that much; the technology used for the sake of presentation will change. For example, augmented reality and 3D printers are new innovative ways to offer a more tangible and interesting output with additional dimensions to clients.

By Renata Ilitsky

Same same but different

My name is Björn Milton and I co-founded Twingly 10 years ago together with 3 other guys. For 4 years I worked as the CTO there. Now I am the CEO of another startup called Roombler.

I still work with Twingly as the chairman of the board. So I still put a lot of thought into the company. When I’m not thinking about Twingly, the rest of my time is spent thinking about Roombler. So I have a pretty good picture about both of the companies. So I thought I’d write a post about some of the similarities and some of the differences that I see between the two companies.

Twingly

As you probably know if you’re a frequent reader of this blog, Twingly deals in data. Blog data from around the world is gathered, processed and analyzed. This data is then distributed to customers, mainly via two different products. It is very much a question of making sure that we discover and collect as much data as possible as fast as possible. Customers interacts with Twingly through APIs. They receive data on a continuous basis. The data is very much the product. It is computers, not humans, that interact with Twingly for the most part. Twingly has a global customer base.

hotel_edited
Roombler – suitable for smaller hotels

Roombler

Roombler is a mobile control panel for small accommodation services. Our customers include smaller hotels, vacation rentals, B&Bs, apartment rentals (think AirBnb) and so on. We make it easy for the operators and staff of these businesses to handle reservations/bookings, guests, prices and availability. We make sure that external systems (such as sales channels) are kept in sync. Roombler is a mobile app and is always available to the users. Roomblers customers are very global in nature and we already have customers on all the continents.

Similarities

There are a lot of similar aspects between the two companies. I’ll go over a handful of them here.

B2B

Both Twingly and Roombler are B2B-companies. Our customers are other businesses that wants to buy our services. The opposite is a consumer driven model, B2C. In general I personally tend to like B2B better. To me it is a more concrete model where it is obvious that if Company A can provide value to Company B then Company B is willing to pay for that. It is also often much easier to pinpoint and reach out to the correct segments in the B2B case. In late years, we have seen an upswing of the B2B tech companies with high valuations and some IPOs.

Product based

Both are product based companies, we build one product that many will buy. The opposite would be a company that sells professional services. They sell their time and build custom solutions for each customer. I tend to gravitate towards product based companies since I like to realize my ideas, not the ideas of somebody else. Of course we listen a lot to our customers, but it is always from a product perspective. We don’t build stuff that we don’t think would benefit the product as a whole.

SaaS

Both are SaaS based companies. That means that the products are sold as services where the customer buys the outcome of the service. In Twingly’s case they buy data and doesn’t care about how that data has been collected and stored. In Roombler’s case the customer buys the right to access Roombler service through an app on their mobile device. They don’t need to keep a server of their own to store the data, they can access the product from anywhere and they don’t have to worry about uptimes or updating their software.

Subscriptions

A very common business model in connection to SaaS is the idea that the customer will pay over time. Instead of paying a large sum upfront, the cost is spread out over time to better match the cost with the value. In Twinglys case this is very natural due to the nature of the business. As a customer you’ll buy access to data that is delivered to you over time. It would be very hard to find an upfront model that would work in this case.

In Roombler’s case the property management system business (PMS) is very much coming from an old pay upfront type of model. This is not very ideal for the customer, especially not if you’re a small business. So, for our segment, and in connection to the SaaS model it is very natural for us to use a subscription based model.

Technology driven

Both companies are at the core driven by technology and big resources are spent towards making sure the systems are functioning and towards making continuous improvements. This means that we have more developers than sales people. It means that we have the ability to quickly build new things, to constantly innovate. Both companies are founded by tech people, by developers.

During the years I have seen a lot of startups that have been founded without having the tech people at the core, in the founding team. This is, in my experience, always a bad thing because it tend to lead to a situation where the technical parts are seen as some one off that can be purchased and then put to work. If you build a technology driven business (which most businesses are today) you need to have tech people and developers at the core of the business.

Differences

There are also a lot of differences between the two companies:

Customers

For Twingly, the customer is often a larger organization with departments and multiple levels of management. Mostly the actual person that does the deal is a business person of some sort. This person looks at it from a business perspective and doesn’t care that much about the actual interaction with Twingly’s systems. So at the 10 000 feet level, the customer only cares about the data. But there are of course more actors in the process that needs to be tended to, not at least the developers that will be doing the integration part.

Roombler sells to smaller, owner driven organizations, where the owner is most often the one we talk directly to. The product will also be used by the owner and therefore cares a great deal about the actual user experience. Roombler is the central business system of these organizations. If they cannot access Roombler or if we do something wrong it will greatly affect our customers. Roombler is mission critical to these businesses.

Market

Twingly operates on a very well defined niche market. The number of potential customers are counted in the tens of thousands. It is a market that is largely underserved and our customers is constantly looking for better and more data. The market can relatively easy be processed with outbound activities. It is feasible to call or email every known potential customer.

Roombler’s market is much bigger in terms of potential customers. The potential customers are counted in the millions. This makes for an interesting challenge when trying to communicate with them. It is simply impossible for us to reach all of those customers by outbound actions. We very much need to build a inbound based process where the majority of the customers find us.

Pricing

Twingly sells its products to relatively few customers. Each deal is worth quite some money and the sales process is often of some considerable length. The product is often sold to companies that in their turn takes the data and sells it to their customers. As such, it is easy to see that the product is adding directly to the customers revenue.

Roombler is much more a mass market product and we’re catering smaller businesses. As such the pricing point is much lower. As a comparison, Roomblers entry level pricing point is about 2% of Twinglys entry level pricing point. Also, Roombler is not as direct in adding revenue as Twingly.

So, there you have it. Some of the differences and similarities of the two companies. Each business is unique of course, but I think it is valuable to compare your business to others. That will help you understand your own business on a much deeper level and enables you to put some context around who you are and what you’re doing.

By Björn Milton

“Other forms of media monitoring is almost futile without adding Facebook Topic Data”

John RosenbaumInterview with John Rosenbaum, Nordic Social Media Business Manager at Retriever, one of the leading media monitoring companies in Scandinavia.

Hi John. What is your background and what is included in your current role at Retriever?

I attended university in Sweden wanting to get into sports medicine, ending up moving to the US and getting a scholarship to Hobart College for undergraduate studies in journalism, media and religion. Then moving on to Ithaca College where I received a master’s degree in communications. I became fascinated by companies, organizations and people who were able to communicate better than everyone else; those skills are evident in everything they do and how successful they are. It is actually rather rare that their ideas are that much better than the competition, it is mostly about communicating your idea, product or otherwise, in an attractive way.

When I came back to Sweden, I joined a startup called Lissly, where I was the first one in after the CEO. The idea behind that company was to challenge firms such as Retriever and Radian6, among many others, to really build a simple and effective tool to be able to get effective data, and then be able to do something with it, which I couldn’t do at my previous jobs.

In just two and a half years, Lissly was named the #1 social media monitoring tool in Scandinavia based on an independent and in-depth analysis of all media monitoring tools. What was interesting at the time was that Retriever came in a close second, where I am now working.

However, eventually, I began to feel that the company wasn’t going in the direction I had wanted, and wasn’t improving in the areas I needed, so I left, rather abruptly.

I then joined Retriever in a matter of days in a very coincidental mix of right timing and chemistry with Retriever management; we just hit it off in a major way. My official title is Nordic social media business manager, but, in reality, my role is everything and anything in between. I am firstly in charge of the social media tool called Pulse and the social media analytics surrounding it.

I travel around the Nordic countries since we have offices in Oslo, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Stockholm, educating staff in departments such as sales, customer relations and analysis, while also educating clients and helping salespeople conduct social media presentations. I also lecture (more and more in the last few months) about the challenges facing many organizations trying to get value and analyze social media and social metrics. I also help upper management develop plans for the future, and I assist our engineers and product developers in what we can and should be doing. It is an amazing job at the best company I have ever worked for.

What differs Retriever from other media monitoring companies in Scandinavia?

I am the first one to acknowledge that the industry of social media tools is problematic. We deliver great potential that is rarely used anywhere close to a satisfactory level. Partly because no company has been able to assist clients using their tools really effectively but also because the client base has been slow to educate themselves and find the resources to understand the value in social media. However, while working at Retriever, I have undoubtedly changed how we work with clients to not only store data, but to alter the way that we think about that data. And most importantly, at least for me, how the clients use the data, analyze and interact effectively.

There really isn’t a lot that separates most of the top companies when it comes to the raw data itself. Most of the firms around the world have reasonably similar and good data coverage. However, when it comes down to enhancing the data via language filters, filtering down the data to relevant and usable metrics and then doing something with the collected and segmented data, there are huge differences.

And in this regard, Retriever is different because we have really talented people and a lot of them, a team of 160+ individuals with great educations and experiences in areas such as journalism and statistics, PR and marketing and business, which really analyze and dig into the data without preconceptions and without making outrageous statements based on a gut feeling or insufficient data. I know that might sound like “big talk” and a rather harsh critique of the social media industry as a whole. But some of the tool providers have been very “wild west” dealing in outrageous statements when it comes to things such as reach, potential reach and success rates. A lot of the metrics have been hugely overstated, and that is me being really nice and conservative.

That is also why I am trying to raise the level of communication Retriever has with all clients and truly try to understand their needs, instead of giving them a tool that they are not able to use properly or create enough value out of. In this industry, I would say that a very high percentage of clients don’t know how to use the data or the tools at a proficient level. I both want to change that and feel we have to make these organizations both understand the data, and learn how to use the analysis and insight we can provide at a more useful level. To create real value. I would also say that is exactly Retriever’s biggest advantage over other companies, which is trying to really help clients understand the data, not just collect it for them.

You have recently added Facebook Topic Data; in what way is that important for your customers?

If you want to tell clients what they have been missing out on so far, as well as being completely honest, you could argue that other forms of media monitoring is almost futile without adding Facebook Topic Data! Because Facebook not only has the most amount of users, but also the broadest demographics of users. Previously, all this information was unavailable, so we had to make do with what was available. But now 100% of the Facebook data is, except for the private messages, which will remain completely private.

At Retriever we can now find out what things people talk about in conjunction with other things, and filter on behaviors, such as what people are going to do. This kind of data can really get into that long awaited “big data” phrase everyone throws around and we can cross reference that with all the other data we have and provide. It is not that the other data we provide is pointless, it is just that Facebook Topic Data elevates everything so we can make predications even on other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. We will be able to analyze behaviors, patterns in communication and really understand the social media-shpere.

Another good thing is that it is anonymous; Facebook protects people’s names and makes it impossible to find out who the person behind the information is. But the value is in the demographics and the relationships we see, which gives us a great perspective. This information shouldn’t only interest marketers, but everyone.

I do have to say that other platforms we monitor and analyze, such as Twitter and Instagram, do give us a good perspective, but the demographics are limited. For example, Instagram users are mostly women, while Twitter in Nordic countries is geared mostly for politics, especially as of late. Facebook, on the other hand, has a more representative demographic, and is able to provide us with outstanding data, which is unparalleled. Based on that information, we can create behavior sets that are completely new, and can give that information to marketers, PR agencies and advertising agencies as wells as communication teams, to let them know if their campaign and advertisement worked, if they reached the targeted group, and if how they bought media was successful.

Which social platform do you see having the most potential in the future?

I believe that really depends on the purpose. For example, although Facebook has the best demographics and the most data available, it may or may not be the best or most accurate source to predict US elections. It is hard to say for any one given event or field and we have to let the data speak for itself. We still need other platforms and to look at other channels as a comparison to Facebook. For instance, political candidates change their message, the way it’s designed and delivered, to the person they want to target on the different social platforms. Does that change the data? It might. I have seen this happen when looking at data surrounding music competitions such as Idol and the Swedish Melodifestivalen.

Snapchat is a tool that still is in its infancy but has enormous potential. The problem is monitoring it. There are platforms that have enormous potential for companies but their data is not very attractive to monitor. That is a real challenge for us.

Are there any social platforms that are closed today that you would be interested in tapping into for monitoring that would benefit your customers?

Twitter has amazing quality data, but they refuse to release very detailed information, which they already have. Another platform I would be really excited about being more open is LinkedIn. That data would be invaluable because it is the #1 professional platform, which would be a big help in learning to understand that segment of the public. From an employer branding perspective and recruitment it would be priceless and such a great source of rich data.

There are some current discussions about the lack of measuring reach and engagement properly. Do you have any ideas on how this can be improved?

I really want the industry to be a lot more aligned, and not to be a Wild West with outrageous statements with little to no basis in reality. I want to take a stand to create a standard within the industry in terms of such things as reach, potential reach, interactions and all the other debatable metrics.This will create trust and understanding among our clients.

So many clients tell me that social media monitoring companies approach them and talk about “six million people having seen or could have been reached by a certain message” and then fail to explain what it even means. When we check the data we see that one tenth of that number would be more appropriate. The client then asks me: “how can the numbers differ so much?”

Engagement rates are often company/product branded and far from universal, used without any standards, and often without any statistical understanding, and that needs to stop. As an industry, we need to provide services that are not counterintuitive, and offer products that are not based on error or by knowing that the client does not understand and is afraid to look bad by asking.

What kind of data or media that you do not have monitoring on today, can be interesting in the future?

This is truly region based; for example, in Sweden, podcasts have made a huge comeback. They were hip six to seven years ago, died down, and now are back and more popular than ever. They are even sponsored by some of the biggest companies like Ikea, which have used the podcasts to cater their message.

I would also be interested in automated picture analysis. For example, getting data on a photo in a political campaign that has Ikea’s brand in the photo; if that would be tagged, that would be a big help.

And the Holy Grail would be sentiment analysis that actually works. In my opinion, on the data automatically analyzed today without any manual filtering, I have not seen any tool that is correct more than 65% of the time. This means that we can’t be totally honest integrating such a service into our system, because it would be too problematic. Although larger volumes of data would paint a broad picture, most clients don’t get such large volumes of interactions because the most common analysis is done over a month or a couple of months. I have a feeling we will see a lot of progress in this field over the coming couple of years.

How do you think that the media monitoring business will change in the next 5-10 years?

Tools will still be a necessity but most companies will only use them for customer service, marketing and crisis management. I think the future is in analysis where the data enters through a tool but the insight comes through a report. In fact, I am sure of it. The companies not investing in analysis are making a huge mistake; Retriever is heavily invested in tools, but are even more heavily invested in analysis.

Most Scandinavian companies will keep on buying and selling tools, but will need to sell them while increasing analysis and creating real value. More and more companies are realizing that real value is created through insights and those insights usually come from the analysis of the data and not from live alerts in a tool. Furthermore, I actually think this paradigm shift may happen in as little as three to five years from now.

By Renata Ilitsky

8 million reasons for transparency in media coverage

Hands_my_data
Show’em what you got…

Coverage is quite essential when it comes to all kinds of media monitoring. It is difficult to track what is said about a brand or to measure the effect of a campaign if you do not have the correct data supplied.

However, it is somewhat difficult to know if the sources you, as a media monitoring company, bring to your clients are enough or sometimes even active. It would be much easier to compare different data suppliers and their advantages, as well as a help for the media monitoring companies that are self-supplied, if there was a standard in how to measure coverage.

A first step to getting closer to a standard could be that everyone is transparent and publishes their numbers, whether it is blogs, news, message boards, podcasts etc. Then we can start to adjust and eventually there might be an accepted way to measure coverage among data suppliers and media monitoring companies.

For us, dealing with blog data, there will always be more blogs out there to monitor and there is a constant struggle in finding them. We are continuously adding new methods to increase the coverage but others’ numbers would definitely spur us even more, and most likely other data suppliers in this industry, to do better.

We have made the numbers for our data public, regardless of how the numbers measure to others, and it would be great to see others do the same. When it comes to blogs, we have chosen the term “active blogs” to separate the data that matters from giant empty numbers. An “active blog” for us is a blog with a post during the last 6 months.

Veerabhadra Temple, Lepakshi
Veerabhadra Temple in Andhra Pradesh, home of Telugu

Every new active blog that we add to our monitoring is important. Even though we are talking about them in bulk, every single source is a reason for transparency, whether it is the 3 new blogs that we add every day in average in Telugu (Indian language spoken mainly in Andhra Pradesh) or the entire volume of 8 million active blogs.

Naturally, the quality of the data you supply is also important. However, that is a more difficult task to measure when it comes to these volumes of data, divided over different markets etc. Please share if you have any ideas here, otherwise we can start to agree on how to show the numbers first and then get down to the tough business of quality:)

Please let us know what you think or if you prefer to see blog coverage presented in any other way. We can of course also supply you with other specific numbers from our blog data if you like.

By Pontus Edenberg

A cup of coffee gives us 4000 blogs – 2015 in review

Yet another year has passed for Twingly. For us this is a natural time to sit back and reflect on what we have done during 2015.

Most of our continuous efforts are done behind the scenes so we’d like to take this opportunity to share some statistics for you to get an idea of what we do to deliver a great service.

2015 statistics

Twingly is a complex system (machines and humans) that continuously finds new blogs, index the posts and deliver data both to our API customers as well as to our public search and widgets. We work on lots of projects to achieve our goals and last year we created 24 new internal projects, we have almost a hundred projects in total.

Out of the 24 projects 7 were published with an open source license. For example, https://github.com/twingly/ecco which is used to replicate the blog data from our MySQL servers to the search indices. All open source projects are available at https://github.com/twingly.

Some other statistics from the previous year:

  • 2634 cups of coffee brewed in the office
  • 7717 code commits, 86 397 lines added and 86 706 lines removed
  • 1228 issues created in our bug/feature tracking system (845 closed and 383 still open)
  • 835 support tickets handled

Not everything has gone as planned though, we’ve had 28 infrastructure issues that required extra work to keep the service up and running. Thanks to our great employees only some of the incidents affected our users and all service interruptions got noted on status.twingly.com to help our customers understand what’s going on. Each incident is a great opportunity to better understand our system and improve our services and skills.

Our machines worked hard as well:

2016-01-05 10.52.48-1
A few of our hard working servers
  • Received 1 020 088 312 XML-RPC pings
  • Fetched 66.75 TiB from the Internet
  • 39.81 TiB served from our servers
  • 14.22 TiB content served from our CDN
  • Analyzed 1 084 123 550 tweets, looking for blogs

The result of the combined human and machine effort resulted in:

  • Indexed 407 859 721 blog posts
  • Discovered 10 336 602 new blogs (almost 4000 blogs per cup of coffee in the office)
  • 99.91% uptime, average for all our public services. Our API uptime is available on status.twingly.com

Christmas statistics

We took some well-deserved time off around Christmas. Once back at the office we noticed the annual Swedish blog decline for the Christmas weekend. In Sweden it’s most common to celebrate on Christmas Eve (December 24). Most bloggers also took the day off and the post graph for Swedish got a noticeable dip.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 14.15.28 emoji.png
Swedish Christmas Celebration on December 24

29.42% of the Swedish posts on Christmas eve had common Christmas keywords in their title (Jul = Christmas, God = Merry and Julafton = Christmas eve).

Thanks for a great 2015!

We are really proud of what we accomplished in 2015 and are eager to evolve our services during 2016.


 

Bonus links to our previous reviews: