“The change of mindset around privacy will be a big challenge”

Patrick Charlton

Interview with Patrick Charlton, CEO of Buzz Radar, a social media intelligence company in the UK.

Hi Patrick, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Buzz Radar?

I used to be a racing driver, which was a lot of fun when I was 20, but I crashed too much and ended up having to go to university, where I did computing and management but became obsessed with everything to do with radio. I talked my way into a job at the BBC and ended up on BBC Radio 4 and was put on a show called Loose Ends. My job was to book all of the talent for the show, which gave me a lot useful contacts and I became well known with music bookers.

Then in 2007/2008, using those contacts, I created an online music TV show. Rather than having judges on it, the rankings were determined by an algorithm that I built with some friends that looked at MySpace comments and views, a bit of Twitter, YouTube plays and stuff like that. We created this thing called the Buzz Chart, which is where Buzz Radar came from.

I ended up selling the technology and format to Red Bull and then found myself without a job, so I became the head of production for a social media agency called 1000Heads. There I became global lead for Nokia and Skype’s early social media efforts, so we were spending loads of money doing really cool things and our job was to measure it to see how effective it was. There was really only one tool to measure that. It was super clunky and we needed something a lot more visual for marketers to get their heads round, so we built Nokia a custom command centre, and it was so popular and went down so well that lots of other agencies started asking for it.

From that I started Buzz Radar. We built our first command centre for Marks and Spencer’s and we ended up, very quickly, working for Nike, Samsung, Sony, Twitter, doing a lot of really cool social media real-time data visualisation.

In 2014 we were one of the first companies that Google Ventures Europe approached, but we’ve always been very keen on using the revenue we generate from customers to grow and develop. We keep things deliberately compact and efficient. We work with 75 really interesting companies and my role as CEO is empowering our team of about 15 people to do really awesome work and solve really difficult problems for our clients that other people struggle with.

What differ Buzz Radar from other social media intelligence companies?

99% of social media listening tools are designed for analysts to extract insight out of to write reports. Buzz Radar started to create a real-time listening platform that was very visual, and rather than working with engineers and data scientists, we worked with graphic designers and marketers and really looked at the problem of ‘what are the things that need to be understood by the C-suite immediately’.

We made that super visual and super easy to understand. Our job is to create digital transformation by making the visual side of insights very engaging and wake up a wider audience inside organisations, to solve much more tangible real-world problems.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Buzz Radar, when it comes to serving your customers media intelligence and develop your offer?

The change of mindset around privacy will be a big challenge for us, especially the way that customers and social media networks are slowing the flow of data down since the Cambridge Analytica scandal. We need to think how to provide useful information while staying inside and being compliant with GDPR and how do we create a morally correct but useful service.

Generally the challenges remain the same. Having the intelligence is really great but what do you do with it? How do you turn it into actionable insight and getting people to focus on the technology, the people and the process? How do we empower organisations to do useful things with insights and social listening?

Have you recently released any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve services you offer your clients?

At the moment we’ve recently launched AI Audience Analysis. That’s where we’re psychometrically profiling audiences on Reddit, Twitter, Instagram – anywhere there’s publicly available info on a person. If they talk about a brand or product we’ll look at all their posts and profile them – within GDPR limitations.

We can take a social media profile and break it down into 50 different personality components and get an incredibly accurate read on a person or a group. That allows us to create much, much better content strategy, because we can compare it with the content that’s being published by a brand, so we can figure out how well that content is resonating, or will resonate. So that’s an incredibly powerful piece of technology.

Can you give an example of a client of yours that have used audience intelligence with great result?

One of our big problems, historically, is being tied to stringent NDAs but I can talk about a pharmaceutical company in the HIV / AIDS medication space. They wanted to understand the HIV treatment audience.

One of the jobs was to use AI Audience Analysis to understand how many healthcare professionals were out there who were forward thinking innovators. We managed to identify a group of early adopters and look at their other key personality traits to help them develop a campaign that targeted that audience.

The other part looked at patients and understood what a big focus was for patients. What that allowed us to do was to give the data to them, so they can go to senior management and say ‘this isn’t what we think, it’s what we know’. That gave them the authority and agency to go and change some of the core content strategy for the brand.

We were able to take the company from fourth largest brand, socially, in the market to the number one. We really transformed them by creating these audience insights, profile the audience, and understand what content will resonate with the audience.

When it comes to the actual data behind the social media intelligence you do, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

We only just started with Reddit, and we want to get into more specialist, niche, databases. One of the cool things about Buzz Radar is we develop functionality specifically for individual clients if they need it, so for example if they wanted us to integrate to a new network or create a new visualisation, our team will go to build them if we can’t within our existing platform. That gives us the ability to look for different data sources and plug them in quickly for new projects or proof of concepts.

How do you think the social media intelligence industry will change in the next 5 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

There’s been a huge amount of consolidation in the industry and there are a few big players. Some of those big players have oversold and underdelivered, and there’s been a much too large focus on technology rather than people, process and technology. What that’s done is create a fatigue in the industry from marketers to social listening, but to technology in general. Frankly we spend a lot of our time picking up the pieces from the bigger companies who oversell and underdeliver.

What we see happening now is a move away, as the industry matures and the marketers mature with the tech, we see a much smaller focus on the tech and a much bigger focus on what can be realistically delivered, what actionable insights there are.

I think the industry will be more important. As GDPR clamps down on cookies, cookie technology and ad tech, looking for data in other places will be more important. We’re seeing marketers move away from expecting tools to be magic bullets and I’m hearing less stupid words like compumagical.

There’ll be more focus on the human element. As AI does more heavy lifting, it’ll give analysts and experts more headroom and space to get out of PowerPoint and spreadsheets and move towards finding insight, actions and recommendations.

By Russell Hughes

“Social media will become even more prevalent at the expense of offline media”

Michalis A. Michael

Interview with Michalis A. Michael, CEO of DigitalMR, a tech company in AI powered data analytics in the UK.

Hi Michalis, what is included in your current role at DigitalMR, and what is your background?

We are a remote first company, so even before the pandemic, we only worked from the office once a week, with the rest of the days spent working from home. I start my mornings dealing with the most pressing tasks. Afterwards, I provide my daily slack update and read everyone else’s, which is followed by two daily stand-up calls with the teams. After that, I focus on my main job responsibilities, sales and fundraising.

My academic background includes a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the TU Berlin, multiple executive education courses/seminars at Harvard Business School and one at LBS.

What makes DigitalMR different from other social intelligence companies?

Three things which make DigitalMR different from other social intelligence companies; the first being our higher accuracy for sentiment and topic annotation in any language.

The second feature that sets us apart is our hybrid team, which consists not only of software engineers and data scientists, but also market researchers/insights experts. Our solutions are for the market research industry mainly, which is why we need to have researchers talking to researchers.

Third is our proprietary machine learning model for emotion annotation, and our deep learning capability to analyse images by creating a textual caption, extracting text and identifying logos as a result of a strong R&D DNA.

The most important thing about social intelligence is to know the accuracy of annotation of machine learning algorithms and being able to gauge how to make decisions that will be beneficial as opposed to harmful. After all – garbage in garbage out no matter how beautiful the dashboard for data visualization is.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

We have recently developed and released a new composite metric called the Social Brand Performance Evaluation Score (SBPS). This is a metric from zero to one which combines buzz, net sentiment score and engagement metrics among other proprietary metrics. For the first time ever, this enables brands to benchmark their campaigns against any competitor or best in class.

From your experience, is there a particular case you can share where media intelligence truly made a crucial difference for a client’s business?

A telecoms provider was able to find explanations of the Net Promoter Score fluctuations in their monthly tracking survey by correlating it with our trademarked Net Sentiment Score. By doing qualitative analysis of what was actually posted online, the company was able to understand why NPS was fluctuating up or down.

What data or media in regards to consumer insights and social intelligence that is not used today could be interesting to explore in the future?

WhatsApp messages/groups with permissions, other peer to peer communication networks, Snapchat, and in some cases, the Darknet because clients are asking for them.

How do you think the media monitoring industry will change in the next 5 years; and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

Social media will become even more prevalent at the expense of offline media. The challenge is the behaviour of data owners, such as Twitter and Facebook.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Our greatest challenge is to have apples to apples comparisons across various data points from all social data platforms”

Rich Calabrese

Interview with Rich Calabrese, EVP, General Manager at Fizziology, a global audience insights company in the US.

Hi Rich, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Fizziology?

I currently serve as the EVP, General Manager at Fizziology. I’ve worked for Fizziology for 6 years, and have worn many hats along the way as we’ve grown our company to where it is today. Today, my role is to oversee company operations, work alongside our co-founders to plot a strategic roadmap for the company, and to work with and develop new client relationships.

What differs Fizziology from other audience insight companies?

Fizziology takes a human approach to our research. We combine our proprietary technology with human analysts to spot trends and ensure accuracy. Our clients appreciate the human-touch, and the confidence they feel knowing they have dedicated analysts working on their behalf every day to provide insight into their social conversation and the audiences.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Fizziology when it comes to serving your customers insight and developing your offer?

The greatest challenge we have is the desire from our customers to have apples to apples comparisons across various data points from all social data platforms. I believe all social media researchers and data scientists would love consistent data points across the social landscape, but that will likely never happen. Our challenge is to continue to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of the available social data from each platform, while educating our clients on how to appropriately use them in order to turn insight into action.

Fizziology has recently been acquired by MarketCast; in what way will that affect your business?

Our recent acquisition by MarketCast will further solidify the credibility of our company in the media and entertainment industry. While both companies work in research, we offer a different and complementary methodology and product set, which allows us to work together seamlessly to support our clients and provide an offering that’s holistic and unique to our industry – and new industries we target.

You are targeting the entertainment industry; what specific needs do your clients have compared to general companies in other industries?

Fizziology does work with brands, as well as with clients in the sports and travel and tourism industries; however, the media and entertainment industry is an important focus for our company. In the media and entertainment industry, the product is ever-changing. New movies get announced and then released, new TV shows get picked up, extended or cancelled – it’s a dynamic industry. Outside of major franchises or long-running TV shows, we don’t service the same “product” year after year. Our “products” change every year, which brings new and unique marketing questions for our team to try and answer.

Can you provide a specific example where one (or more) of your clients have made changes based on the insights or analysis you provided?

Unfortunately, I’m under too many NDAs to share specifics; however, to provide a few examples, our research is used to adjust trailer and TV creative, respond to crises, refine media spend, obtain conversations insights by audience, and to evaluate future performance through benchmarking and predictive analytics.

In what countries do you support clients today, and what are the challenges when it comes to scaling your services to markets outside of the US?

We currently provide social media research and audience insights in 13 markets (and counting). Our human-first methodology is consistent with our international research, as we work with in-market analysts and translators to ensure accurate cultural interpretation and understanding of the social conversation in each market. Working with a large team scattered in various time zones, our biggest challenge is communication; however, new tools have made it easier for us to communicate and stay up to speed on client requests.

How has your client’s perception of social media intelligence changed over time?

One of the observations I’ve started to see over the last year is how accepting the C-Suite is to using social data to guide strategy and response. It’s gone from “nice to know” to “need to know.” In years past, this wasn’t the case, and with good reason. I’ve heard stories from clients who were burned by snake oil social media salesmen.  These people needed to be reintroduced and convinced of its validity and accepting of methodology. I believe those social data companies that are still pushing the limits on their technology while communicating their role in the social data landscape are the companies that have found success over the last few years.

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new solutions that will add or improve your services for your clients?

We’ve just released technology to our clients that is focused on the user – and not on the message. This allows our clients to segment audiences (and their conversations) by their behavior (frequency of conversation) within the brand conversation or by what other Fizziology datasets those audiences also exist in (Fizziology has over 400 billion social data points). This will allow our clients to see when new users talk about their brand for the first time, segment audiences by “diehard,” “beginner,” or even “comic book” fans, and finally, understand where their target audience(s) also exist in Fizziology’s expansive database of over 4,500 tracked films, TV, brands, sports teams, and talent to paint a holistic audience profile.

Which social platforms are the most important to your clients, and which ones do you see as having the most potential in the future when it comes to gathering relevant information?

There’s not one platform that’s more important; it’s about having multi-platform analysis. Our clients want to be sure that we’re looking at each platform online where their audiences are talking to ensure we’re spotting opportunities and challenges. Of all the social platforms that our clients want more from, it has to be Facebook. The platform serves our clients’ owned pages and the ad campaign analytics business very well; however, we’re working tirelessly with Twingly’s offering to offer organic conversation analysis (conversations happening off-owned pages and ad buys) to uncover the audience insights our clients are looking for. However, due to restrictions, we’re not given demographic information that would make the insights richer.

How do you think the media intelligence and audience insights industry will change in the next 5 years, and what are the greatest challenges in that space?

We’ll definitely see change; however, it’s hard to be specific as I think everyone will pivot based on data availability and internal advancements of their own technology.  As a company that focuses on social data that we analyze from the organic social conversation (conversation/engagement off client owned social accounts), I hope to see social platforms create audience data offerings centered on audiences that are sharing content outside of a brand’s owned social accounts.

By Renata Ilitsky

“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