“In Latin America, the tradition of social media measurement is still based on quantitative data”

carlos_villa_blog
Carlos Villa

Interview with Carlos Villa, CEO of buho, a social media intelligence company in Colombia.

Hi Carlos, what is your professional background, and what does your current role at buho consist of?

I went to the University in Bogota, Colombia, and graduated as an Industrial Engineer. I then completed an MBA degree at IESE Business School in Barcelona. As a founding partner and CEO of buho, I need to be sure that we focus our efforts on what is relevant for our business, and that the whole team has the resources to be able to achieve their goals, and have a good time doing so.

What differs buho from other social media intelligence companies in Colombia?

We give clarity to our customers; we let them know what all the data on social media really means. In Latin America, the tradition of social media measurement is still based on quantitative data. We can say that the quantitative data is the raw material for the qualitative evaluations that we make of the data. We provide evaluation that is not made solely by technology, but by a group of talented people that understand the particular needs of our customers.

We have a close relationship with all of our customers, and we get together on a regular basis with them. This is crucial so that we can understand their strategic priorities, and also important for them to really understand what the data means, and how they can use it to make strategic decisions.

What type of companies benefit from your services, and where are your current customers mainly based?

While we work with different sectors of the economy, 60 percent of our business (both traditional and social media evaluation) comes from the private sector, which includes financial, telecommunications, gas and energy, as well as mass consumption products. The rest of our business includes the Colombian public sector, such as the Presidency of Colombia, political campaigns, and quite a few public institutions throughout our country.

Although our operation is based in Bogota, 50 percent of our invoicing comes from abroad – the United States, Spain, Mexico and Guatemala – are our main international markets.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at buho when it comes to serving your customer analysis and developing your offer?

I divide the challenges into three categories, which are also related to my first answer as far as my role as a CEO:

  1. Having the best possible team – We need to be sure that we have the best people available in their respective areas of expertise.
  2. Innovation and technology – We dedicate 3 percent of our annual income to innovation. We need to catch up with the crazy rhythm of how communications are taking place today. The Brexit, the USA elections, and our local process with the Colombia peace referendum, are clear examples that the traditional methods of understanding communications are not working anymore. We need to offer our customers a new approach to data evaluation, while doing so in an efficient and profitable way.
  3. Education – Media evaluation as we do it is something relatively new in the world, compared to the traditional public relations services that are offered globally. And in Latin America, there is almost no tradition at all to invest resources in media evaluation. Therefore, education in order to promote the relevance of media evaluation is crucial for our sales growth.

Do you have any specific plans to expand your business in the near future, like new markets or products?

Our plan for the next four years is to grow an average of 30 percent per year. Fifty percent of this growth should come from markets such as Mexico, the USA and Spain.

Ninety percent of our income comes from media evaluation services. As a consequence of our evaluations, our customers have come to several conclusions; one of them is that although they have a clear PR strategy, they really don’t know how to tell their story to various stakeholders. So, we are now helping our customers to create their stories using storytelling techniques so that they can engage with their audiences. And, afterwards, we measure if the storytelling is really working.

New sources of income should come from other services that complement our evaluation products, like focus groups and spokesperson trainings. Those new services, in addition to the ones developed by our buho lab team, should represent 30 percent of our total invoicing by the end of 2020.

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

It’s difficult to choose one after eight years of providing service to our customers, but one of them comes to my mind.

For confidentiality reasons, I can’t get into specifics, but an American association funded by the government has been established in Colombia for a few years now. Their goal is to promote the relevance of a specific product and hope that the consumers take into account that product when they make their purchase decisions.

They made a social media campaign to promote the benefits and attributes of the product, and they asked buho to help them understand the impact that their campaign had.

After our first evaluation, we told them not to waste any money on someone that will tell them how many likes, tweets, retweets they had, or who the influencers that interacted with their campaign were. What we proposed to them was to evaluate how a significant part of the users that interacted with their campaign used their personal social platforms. The output was a profile of the users that interacted with the campaign, segmented by gender, age, and with rich information on the way that those users used their personal social profiles. We analyzed Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest in this process.

Our customer used that data to design a new campaign with specific content according to the platform they were using, and taking into account the preferences of their audiences.

Which social platforms do you see having the most potential in the future when it comes to gathering relevant information for your customers?

In Latin America, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube will still be kings in the next five years.

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

Facebook is a closed platform, so it is not possible to get access to a big volume of data. We are more concerned with how to measure Snapchat; even though it is sort of an open network, the way that it functions presents a real challenge as far as how to measure it.

But the biggest challenge comes from the relevance that messenger apps, such as WhatsApp, serve as a communication and influence tool.

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

They will become the main source of information for people in general – news, products, marketing and entertainment. All the information will be searched for and discussed on social networks, which will become the largest source of consumer data available. This will bring new challenges for every kind of company, and buho is here to help our customers to understand and make sense of all the available data.

By Renata Ilitsky

“In 2017 we will see a monumental shift in how people spend their ad money”

moses-velasco-blog
Moses Velasco

Interview with Moses Velasco, Chief Product Evangelist at Socialbakers, a global social media analytics company

Hi Moses, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Socialbakers?

My background for the last 18 years has been in technology; I worked in intellectual law in Silicon Valley and then moved on to product management and to VP of product roles. Right now, as Chief Product Evangelist, I have a cool job. I have the opportunity to travel and speak to different markets and use that information to inspire or influence our product development and product teams. I really enjoy it.

What differs Socialbakers from other social media analytics platforms?

Socialbakers started as an analytics provider and solution to measure social performance across various platforms in 2008. We’ve been collecting and storing aggregate data since that time, and now our best in class analytics is backed by having depth and breadth of data. I don’t want to say that we are the world’s largest data media storage, but we are close. This allows us to create next generation social media tools; we are leading the pack in this way. We look at social media performance and are able to provide recommendations on what our users should do, how they should invest their money on content that will provide the best results and take out the guessing work of how they can utilize their budget in the best way.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Socialbakers, when it comes to serving your customers analysis and developing your offer?

Analytics have been known as a single point type solution; customers tend to have three to five different vendors to manage social media strategy. The big challenge is that we’re moving to a suite solution to understand that the whole is greater than its parts. By integrating different parts, such as analytics and publishing, users will have more capability of using that data to make the best decisions than with separate vendors.

We’ve seen big improvements with a suite solution in customers’ performance because we help them understand their niches better. Customers are able to see what the most resonating content is, and the best time to publish that content to get maximum visibility. Our prediction algorithm helps them learn what their best content is so they can spend money on great performing content, which yields a greater ROI.

With the type of workflow that we integrated to help customers understand where to invest money, we’ve moved from an analytics type provider to a suite of solutions that help clients measure, manage and monetize across the main social media platforms.

Do you have any specific plans to expand your business in the near future, like new markets or products?

We are focused on ads and content campaign optimization for our customers. We’ve provided third party data integrations with web analytics to show how clients can realize a return on the investment they pay for content, and how that results in higher traffic to their websites.

With the introduction of our APIs, this is moving us closer to providing business intelligence, where we can push and pull data from other platforms. I find that very interesting for our customers and for myself.

In the beginning of the year you introduced Facebook Pages for listening. How well has that played out when it comes to your coverage and client adaptation?

Over the previous years, we recognized that we had a significant gap in the ability to provide an integrated listening product. Our customers told us there was a gap, and we listened (pun not intended). Once we did, our customers adopted it, which helped us provide a more holistic approach to our suite and our solutions.

This is a big benefit and unique selling point for Socialbakers, because we provide listening for free within our packaged solutions. This allows our customers to use and leverage listening to manage their discovery and crisis management, as they need to understand how listening fits into the whole solution. We’re one of only vendors that provides this as a solution for free because it’s integrated in our suite and we want our customers to feel the value of our offering.

What part of your current product has a lot of potential, but not been adopted at the same rate yet by your clients?

Our ads analytics section is something that is going to take off quite heavily. We’re able to provide information about how much clients are spending on ad accounts and what that’s yielding for them. The way we’ve built that into our suite is by showing an entire social performance management solution that allows users to understand when to sponsor their content, what content is getting the maximum value from how much they paid and how it’s affecting their relevance score on Facebook; a high relevance score drives reach and engagement. Our ads section will become a hot topic for us in the next few months.

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

Aside from the basics, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, we’ll see the rise of Snapchat and Pinterest. Pinterest is open to a few selected marketing partners, while Snapchat hasn’t opened their APIs for analysis, but are moving in that direction. Our clients and our communities are asking us to support these platforms. We are waiting patiently and working closely with partners to see how this will play out. I also think LinkedIn will have a big play in social media as the platform progresses.

What kind of data, which would help you perform even better analysis, is the hardest to get ahold of?

Right now, we are monitoring very closely how bots are addressing client social interactions. These automated chat bots can help with customer service queries, and will be big part of automation behind customer care. It’s interesting to see how this automation affects the manual processing, and where the lines will blur between automated and manual operations. There will still be a need for the human element, but we’ll see big efficiencies from automation.

With monitoring, we want to see what are the best use cases, is it simply customer service, or is it purchasing or repeat buying? While I think there’s a lot to it, we want to avoid using any of the parts or cases that may be hyped up, so this is something we are considering how to analyze in the not too distant future.

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

For us, more data will become social, as traditional media moves in that direction. Even podcasts or these types of activities will move to social. I don’t think there’s a big hurry to do anything else in that realm, but there will be a shift. We see a lot of that in the traditional advertising spend, which was largely on television, but the digital ad span will surpass the TV ad span in 2017. From this point, this is a monumental shift in how people spend their money, from media and publishing to digital and social. This will be an interesting change that we will monitor more effectively and closely in next few years.

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

We’ll see less publishers going the traditional route like print. Print is still relevant, but less so as publishers go to social. If you want to be a successful business, you have to adapt to these changes; if you want to reach more audiences, it will have be through social. Social responsibility from companies like Socialbakers is to help those businesses and our prospects understand the value of social and how to leverage the communication channels and the largest consumer data source to be able to interact more effectively with audiences and customers.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The social media monitoring we know today and as it would be in 5-10 years, has to be considered a highly strategic activity”

Gianandrea Facchini_blog
Gianandrea Facchini

Interview with Gianandrea Facchini, CEO of Buzzdetector, a digital intelligence company in Italy

Hi Gianandrea, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Buzzdetector?

I worked in media and advertising agencies since the 1990s. In 2007, I founded Buzzdetector. My role as CEO is not only to manage the company, but try to be the engine behind the company. I try to look ahead and to get a vision of what’s going on in the market, such as new trends in our business.

I was very lucky because when I started to get into media and digital in general, I landed in a community called MarketingProfs, where I had the chance to interact with professionals such as Ann Handley, Scott Monty, and many others from all over the world. Interaction with prominent figures like them gave me an opportunity to get an early vision of the digital space, widened my vision about what’s going on in the business.

What differs Buzzdetector from other social media intelligence companies in Italy?

We are a rather small company, even if we act globally. We didn’t go for the most advanced technology from the beginning, but rather tried to specialized on decoding the information for our clients. We have our platforms and tools, and are not simply renting the platform, but renting the ability to decode and transfer all the information and insights into reports. This is the main difference; we are very experienced in providing clients with insights, and customized reports have been our key point since the beginning.

What type of companies benefit from your services?

We work mainly with multinational companies and high end clients. Since 2008, we have worked with Nestlé; we worked with Boehringer Ingelheim, a German pharmaceutical company for five years; MSC cruises at the global level since 2011; Versace; and HOMI, the most prominent trade show in Italy.

You have recently done some extensive research about the fashion industry. Why did you focus on that?

When we started thirty months ago, we were just doing a test on some tool to develop and we choose the Fashion Industry because it was the week of Pitti in Florence, but something interesting came out from this research, so we pushed on this analysis, which ended up becoming rather extensive.

We followed the most important fashion weeks (New York, London, Milan, Paris), and all the influential people and VIPs, such as celebrities around the fashion market, became very interesting for us. We collected information and categorized it in a deep way. All the materials we collected have been categorized, such as conversations, fabrics, individuals and brands, which are now in our database. The categorization took extensive work because we understood that the market was and is rather peculiar, and this was one of the markets that was most disrupted by digital. It became interesting for us to follow this market, which is why we developed The Signal. This is a pure digital intelligence project.

We are expanding this research to the movie and the music industries; in fact, we have already started to put this in place since we have the technology backbone, so we just have to fill it up with information.

What are your most important takeaways from your research about the fashion industry?

First, it’s an industry where the most relevant actors are just looking individually for their own way to face the digital disruption. Fashion brands mostly belong to associations in each of the main countries. But, nonetheless, each brand is trying to look for their own way to tackle digital; there’s nothing in common. There’s a lot of confusion, that is the main takeaway.

Second, most of the activity seems to be tactical and not coming from a real strategy. The activity comes after the creation and the unique idea of the designer for that season; the digital becomes part of the tactic to launch the collection, it’s not part of the strategic weapon of the companies.

I used to work in the fashion industry before working in advertising agencies, and I know that the creation of the collection is the main engine of the industry, which is absolutely right. Then there is no real strategy to dominate the media or a strategic approach to digital.

Third, even though we are being told that Twitter is dying or being buried, prominent individuals like celebrities and VIPs in industries like fashion, movies and music are keeping this platform alive because they have huge audiences on Twitter. Rihanna’s Twitter followers amount to double of her Instagram followers, for example. Why would she leave Twitter? She will keep it to communicate with and to sell to her audience. So, one of the main reason Twitter is still being used is because of celebrities and VIPs.

Do you have any specific plans to expand your business in the near future, like expand to new markets or develop products?

The Signal is a new product that we launched two weeks ago. We have a couple of really prominent organizations in the fashion and luxury industries testing it now.

It is a digital platform that we developed in which markets are tackled vertically and where the categorization within the market is making the difference.

For the Fashion and Luxury market we created a dataset of 75 brands, 97 fashion bloggers, 116 celebrities, 49 editors, 58 magazines, etc. We can use the data for public relations, media and celebrity strategy and competitive analysis. The main goal of The Signal is to provide companies with data sets of information that gives real insight and intelligence.

We are proud of the research we published along with Exane Paribas, one of the most important consultancy companies. We produced a piece of research which includes 36 brands in luxury and fashion, the digital environment and how they face the digital environment.

We looked for a link between the moment when collections are presented to the buyers, journalists and to the public, and the moment when people go to look for a product they saw in a collection on an e-commerce platform.

We found that hashtags used during an event, an advertising campaign die immediately after the operation and are not used as a hook to keep customers engaged with the brand. Hashtags are not used strategically to help find a product on an e-commerce platform. We ran a test and saw that the same products run in a completely different way on each e-commerce platform, with none of the descriptions having the same wording.

As a consequence it’s difficult for consumers to find products online. The e-commerce platforms are driving the search and not the brand, which is a problem. Brands are opening their own stores, but they can’t maintain control of the product online as they do in the physical world.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Buzzdetector when it comes to developing your offer?

That’s a good question; the greatest challenge is that whenever we enter into a conversation with multinational corporations, it is difficult to make them understand that it’s not the size of the company that makes a difference, but the overall approach.

We are used to working with these kind of companies. It’s not just a matter of making the technology work; the most advanced monitoring platforms, with hundreds of millions invested in development, provide almost the same results as a small platform if you are good at writing the query.

The real problem is trying to get sentiment analysis that truly works; today it doesn’t work algorithmically. It can be correct 60 to 70 percent of the time when you’re really lucky, and a company can’t make a decision with a 30 percent margin for error.

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

I would love to see Snapchat’s numbers. The most important platforms of the close future are the messaging platforms where you can’t have access, which I’m not questioning. This is the reason why we’re shifting towards the digital intelligence, collecting information in conversations from the brand’s point of view.

Since we can’t collect conversations as we do on the open platforms, our work has to adapt to the reality of the new platforms taking the market. We as a market have to modify the way we follow conversations to adapt to the new platforms.

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

Photos are rather important, as well as videos. I don’t foresee any real solutions in a close timeframe on monitoring them. I’m afraid that photo and video recognition could become the new sentiment analysis of the time, with the accuracy being rather low.

Are there specific or typical needs in the Italian market for social media monitoring that you think differs from the rest of Europe or the world in general?

I see a focus on pure reputation analysis, which disturbs me. Monitoring is not just a matter of perception; social media monitoring is something strictly linked to the strategic approach of a company to the market and its audience. When you’re limiting your analysis to the reputation, you are clearly doing basic work. In my opinion, in the Italian market, pure reputation analysis is still too much adopted. A lot of companies are losing information for growing and expanding their market at home and abroad.

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

Messaging is impacting the industry because we can’t get in this as we can in other social media platforms. We have to find a way to follow the conversation, but it will be crucial to the organization to control and stimulate the conversation with the customers because they won’t have any other chance to find out what customers are talking about in messages.

This is a call to action to a more proactive strategy on behalf of companies to customers. Whenever you can’t follow the conversation between individuals, the only information you will get is the one around the conversation you can stimulate for them. From a monitoring point of view, this is changing everything because you have to go through more relevant semantic analysis, which is taking the lead of what will happen in this industry in the next five years.

The social media monitoring we know today and as it would be in five or 10 years, has to be considered a highly strategic activity. It has the ability to positively impact an entire strategy, product development, sales, commercial aspects, communication aspects and logistics. Social media monitoring has the ability to impact every aspect of a corporation’s life.

By Renata Ilitsky

“In the next 5 years there will be more dependence on social media intelligence, which means that the accuracy and speed of analysis will increase”

Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb - original
Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb

Interview with Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb, CEO of Trendak, a social media intelligence company in Egypt

Hi Mohamed, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Trendak?

My background is in nanotechnology; the idea of big data and collecting information regarding nanotechnology in the Middle East is what started me in this field. That eventually got me working with a team to conduct Arabic text analysis and collecting information. We moved from there step by step into social media in the end of 2011.

I am responsible for the day-to-day operations and working with the team to set the strategy for the company and for the products that we sell. I help with sales when the size of the deal allows for me to move around. In addition, I am responsible for looking at the competition and doing business development as well.

What differs Trendak from other social media intelligence companies in Egypt and the MENA-region?

I believe our technology is better than that of many of the competitors we have. Our accuracy in analysis and range of channels that we monitor and analyze is bigger than better than our competitors.

How does your set-up of employees look like and do you work with partners in different parts of the world?

We have 31 employees, 40 percent of which are female. We have a young workforce, with the average age being 31; in fact, the majority of our staff are under 30. Most of the team has a technology background either in software engineering or in data science. The business team has a lot of experience in sales and in running companies. Collectively, we have 120 years of experience between the top management and the sales and the business development team.

We have technology partners in other parts of the world. We use DataSift, and have partnered with Gnip for the last two years. We also have resellers in Europe and in other parts of the Middle East.

Which type of companies benefit from your services?

Marketing companies, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) and media channels. When Ramadan finished recently we did a lot of analysis on the viewership, the actors and television shows that happened during that time, and what the response of the people during the month of Ramadan, a high season for us, was.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Trendak when it comes to developing your offer?

A lot of analysis is required to understand the clientele of our clients. FMCGs or brands need to understand their clientele more, but there are restrictions on understanding that, even in aggregate form. We are happy with the PYLON offering from Facebook to segment the audience we are looking at, yet many other channels aren’t that easy due to restrictions on access to data.

What other challenges do you face in your market?

The biggest challenge we sometimes have with clients in the Middle East, especially international brands, is that they come with a set of specific providers for analysis that would work in Europe or in the United States or Canada, but they don’t have the capabilities to understand the Arabic market. Unfortunately, international brands have worldwide contracts with these companies, so the competition for us with international is quite strong. Many local companies face the problem in the region that they cannot have deep insights, but they are tied into long-term contracts with their providers, which is a big challenge for an area like ours.

Do you have any specific plans to expand your business in the near future, like new markets or products?

Yes we are working very aggressively to enter the worldwide market, specifically Europe. Our biggest advantage is the Arabic language; our accuracy is quite high, and that is where we excel. We want to offer this to countries with a high Arabic speaking audience.

We want to develop, and started developing, offerings in languages that have not gotten enough attention from other companies, such as languages in Africa and the Far East.

How did the Arab Spring change the conception of social media in Egypt and the MENA-region?

I think the effect of the Arab Spring was not only on Africa and the Middle East region, but worldwide. It was one of first times that social media enabled and concretely demonstrated its influence on real life and on the public. Until that point, most of the world was talking about it as a virtual world, and a small sample of the real life audience. The Arab Spring showed that not to be true, that it’s more penetrated, and is a powerful tool to communicate. One of social media’s most important features is being able to provide alternative news sources in almost near real time. This is a tremendous power, and the Arab Spring made everyone understand the importance and effect of social media.

Which social platforms are currently most important for your customers?

This depends on the region of the country you’re talking about; Twitter and Instagram in the Gulf area, Facebook in Africa. We believe that Snapchat and Telegram are also becoming much more important, especially in the regions where the young population is a significant part of the entire population, like in Egypt, where 40 percent of the population is under 25.

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

That’s not a simple question, but I believe Instagram has a bright future. I believe that one of the two, Snapchat or Telegram, will grow more and more.

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

Snapchat, as the amount of information that we can access is not that available.

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

Photos, especially photos on Facebook, as the amount of information provided with the photos is not enough. Having access to more of that information would be very interesting for us.

Are there specific or typical needs in the Arabic market for social media monitoring that you think differs from rest of the world in general?

Understanding of the Arabic language and the level of detail you need to be able to understand the text is different from other parts of the world, and it’s not that simple to automate the understanding of this language. Meta data on that information is not sufficient on its own to provide deep insights that clients would like to see.

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

I think there will be more dependence on it, which means that the accuracy and speed of analysis will increase. The depth of analysis will also increase and insights drawn from it will be instrumental for industries. Again, in an area where the population is quite young, social media will play a more important role than in other parts of the world.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Other global social media monitoring services failed in Brazil because they didn’t understand what kind of customer service our clients require”

Mauricio Brentano
Mauricio Brentano

Interview with Mauricio Brentano, COO of Seekr, a social journey company in Brazil

Hi Mauricio, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Seekr?

My degree is in the area of information systems, so I have a background in technology. My current role at Seekr is COO, and I am responsible for everything having to do with operations in the company, such as technology and customer success. Essentially, the tech team develops and maintains the product, and the customer success team is responsible for contacting and training the clients who will use our platform, as well as helping to fix the technological issues that come up when they use our product.

What differs Seekr from other social media intelligence companies in Brazil?

Seekr is much more than just a social media intelligence company. We believe in a process that we call “Social Journey,” which means that we understand that engagement in social media involves four steps, which are:
1. Listening/Monitoring – We have to find/identify data that provides insights and helps our clients solve problems.
2. Solving the Problem – We offer applications that are useful for customer service on social media. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as email and chat, all have their problems; customers have questions and complaints in these channels and Seekr helps our clients to solve them.
3. Engaging – After solving problems, the company has to make the clients happy. We offer features like publications, which enable our clients to communicate with their clients better and we have social CRM so our clients can see a 360- degree field of their customers.
4. Analyzing – After completing the previous steps, it is important to understand what worked and what has to be improved. For this purpose, we have more than 100 reports, which help them to analyze this entire process.

We are not just a social media intelligence company, it’s just the first step, but we are more complete than that. We have an entire strategy process about how we engage the clients and solve their problems, making them happy.

Which type of companies benefit from your services?

We don’t have a specific type of company that benefits from our services; our clients are in different kinds of industries, such as telecommunications, insurance, television, drink/food, as well as politicians. Everyone wants to make decisions driven by data, and everyone wants to improve their customer care. Any company can use our monitoring platform to get insights on what’s happening in their market and improve their customer care.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Seekr when it comes to developing your offer?

The biggest challenge is the dynamics of the market, and the fact that it constantly changes as people need more information. It’s really hard keeping up to date with what happens in the market and technology. We have to follow the evolution of the market and social media, and what people want to do with social media.

Do you have any specific plans to expand your business in the near future, like new markets or products?

Next year we are planning to release Spanish and English versions, which we are developing for the global market.

In our products, we want to bring more intelligence about analyzed data and more information to help our clients make informed decisions; as well, we aim to increase our channels of providing customer service.

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?

We helped a Brazilian telecommunication company implement a strategy that allowed all stakeholders and responsible parties to receive an email alert when a relevant person with a lot of followers and social presence said something negative about their brand. By alerting these individuals, the company was able to manage crises better and faster.

You have recently moved more from collecting data yourself to relying on external suppliers. What have you found most challenging in this transition and why?

We realize that it’s a great effort to collect data ourselves, and some of that data isn’t part of our core service; therefore, we hired an external supplier to provide reliable data. The most challenging aspect of working with a supplier is understanding what kind of data they bring, what the quality of the data is, how it will help us, and how much it costs. Then, we have to make the decision if it is better to keep the data here or to have a supplier that we pay.

Which social platforms are the most important for your Brazilian customers?

Facebook is important, and Twitter sees a lot of interaction between people and brands. Instagram, YouTube and ReclameAqui, which is specific to Brazil, and means “complain here” in Portuguese, are also highly used.

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

That’s a hard question; I think Facebook will lose users because it’s too global. I think that social media platforms will become more specific, like TripAdvisor for traveling, YouTube for videos, Instagram for photos, etc.

Three years ago, we didn’t have all the platforms we have now; that is why it’s so hard to have any forecast for the future in this market.

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

I would be interested in Facebook opening their API about public data, which they closed in April of 2015. A lot of customers that made data decisions based on this platform couldn’t do that anymore. Even using companies that sell Facebook data is not sufficient because it’s not in raw mode, but in aggregate mode. We can’t give reports that so and so posted this, just anonymous identifying data, such as the location and gender of the person.

Are there specific or typical needs in the Brazilian market for social media monitoring that you think differs from rest of South America or the world in general?

Other global social media monitoring services, such as Hootsuite, failed in Brazil because they didn’t understand what kind of customer service our clients require. Our Brazilian clients like us to treat them with a “warm” feeling. We prioritize keeping our clients happy by getting in touch with them and becoming close with them, which they like. This limits other companies from coming into Brazil, as they don’t know how to provide this type of customer care.

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

It’s really hard to forecast, but social intelligence will change greatly. Artificial intelligence (AI) will have many consequences and provide more information to make decisions. Image recognition, personality insights, relationship extraction, and things that take massive data sets, analyze them and convert raw data into good information to make decisions will benefit from AI.

By Renata Ilitsky

“It would be amazing to get access to Snapchat data and analyze the behaviors”

Jonathan Israelsson_edit
Jonathan Israelsson

Interview with Jonathan Israelsson, CEO of Lissly, a social media monitoring company in Sweden

Hi Jonathan, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Lissly?

During the course of my education, I always felt ambivalent between a career in sports and a more traditional path. While I wrote my master thesis in marketing and communication at Stockholm University, I also worked as a soccer coach for teams ranging from youth groups to the premier league for female players. After a couple of years, I realized that I found it more fulfilling to work in the communication and events field. I was responsible for a meeting facility before joining Lissly, but the choice was easy because I could clearly identify another level of customer value.

In my role as partner and CEO at Lissly, my main responsibility is to motivate and support our six employees in succeeding and reaching their full potential. I also engage in customer care, and I regularly attend meetings with our existing customer base. All members of the Lissly team are involved in sales, which means some of my time is devoted to coordination and support.

What differs Lissly from other media monitoring and social intelligence companies in Scandinavia?

That is a difficult question! When meeting with customers and industry colleagues, it seems apparent that all players have the same type of monitoring sources, which makes the competition fierce. Lissly has chosen to focus on the Nordic market, specifically Sweden and Norway. We consider ourselves a strong brand because we understand how social media works in Sweden. We always strive to provide statistics as a basis for our offerings, and a lot of variables in social media mentions allow us to generate interesting insights using a mix of statistical frameworks and a slight touch of finesse. We always try to adapt to the new demands and changing landscape of the market, which means implementing new channels in our analysis and comparing with existing customer data to maximize the customer’s value.

Which type of companies benefit from your services?

Lissly has a wide range of customers, but we are particularly strong with the Swedish trade unions and employers’ associations. A growing number of them use our analysis to create opinion and measure the effects of their campaigns. Furthermore, we have experience working with customers from all markets, from local daycare for dogs to the largest agencies in Sweden.

You have recently moved more into analysis than just being a media-monitoring platform. Why is that?

Our customers demanded more information and insights than any tool can provide with automated methods. Therefore, we began to develop our analysis offering together with our key customers to provide answers to what they really need to know from their endeavors in social media. We also invented new types of KPIs, which simply were not possible in the platform environment. The feedback from our customers was overwhelmingly positive, and now we are proud to deliver the greatest possible customer value based on the information available in social media.

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?

We created an analysis for one of Sweden’s largest coffee producers, and one of the key insights was the identified behaviors of the different demographics. For example, females between the ages of 25 to 45 were prone to share, late at night between 9 and 10PM, what they are baking for the coffee break the next day. This meant that the coffee producer could adjust the marketing and commercials accordingly.

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

The main challenge is rebranding and creating awareness of our new focus on manual analysis. We are working on communicating these changes and the fact that “Lissly 2.0” is not an update of our tool but rather our core business model. This process is going well, but there are always some potential customers who should realize this sooner rather than later.

All clients have different levels of understanding how social media can be analyzed. Which is the most common misconception that your clients have?

That it’s possible to monitor everything by yourself. It’s possible to get a basic understanding of the situation, but do you really have the time and energy to read everything and understand what the aggregate means? When Lissly applies its expertise and KPIs, it really provides a level of understanding, which is impossible to attain with the traditional tools on the market.

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

I believe everything related to picture and video will grow. It would be amazing to get access to Snapchat data and analyze the behaviors of one of the largest social media platforms.

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

There has always been a great demand to monitor the activity on LinkedIn, especially for the B2B customers, which are particularly interested in potential leads and decision makers. This has been impossible with the automated methods available for the monitoring tools, but we have come up with a way to incorporate LinkedIn data in our analysis offering.

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

If I could pick a source to compare to our existing data, it would be Snapchat. The insights would be really interesting for certain markets. We have begun to test the possibilities, but unfortunately only the data from your own account is available, which greatly limits the potential. We are eagerly waiting for the official API, and if it provides a way to collect data, Lissly will be the first in line to implement it in our analysis.

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

My intuition tells me that everything will be focused on insights. The main focus will be to use all available information to identify the optimal market conditions and key individuals to generate more business. Today, the market is focused on what is being said, but it will shift to what it really means.

By Renata Ilitsky

“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

“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