“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

“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What differs Retriever from other media monitoring companies in Scandinavia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Renata Ilitsky