“Vendors of media intelligence solutions will become brokers of information and insights”

Bastian Karweg

Interview with Bastian Karweg, CEO of Echobot Media Technologies in Germany.

Hi Bastian, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Echobot?

Before founding Echobot, I built and sold a media company in the gaming industry and started the second biggest press release distribution service in Germany. At 33 years old, I hold a master’s degree in informational engineering from KIT.edu, where I still give lectures from time to time about internet law and startup economics.

At Echobot I’m responsible for sales, marketing and finance, whereas my cofounder, Jannis Breitwieser, heads up development and customer success. In terms of product development, we collaborate because we both love elegant engineering and innovative user experience.

What differs Echobot from other media intelligence companies?

I’d say that Echobot is definitely more SMB and B2B focused than other vendors. Many of our clients are from the German “Mittelstand,” which values accurate results and ease of use over fancy analytics.

Also, we believe that aggregation of results is only part of the solution; Echobot invests heavily in building up a semantic layer above the text. Our technology really understands which events are happening and who is affected. This opens up a whole lot of exciting possibilities in the future, like intelligent business assistants!

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

Since we are mostly self-funded, keeping up with our own growth has posed a challenge. The usual growing pains like finding the right talent, scaling our tech or completing projects like our Salesforce integration come to mind.

In terms of customers, an increasing amount of companies feel the need to incorporate data and insights from public sources into their business processes, yet almost everybody has a different approach. So, we offer a lot of guidance and best practices help navigate to the best solutions.

Your solution addresses many parts of your clients’ companies. Can you tell us how Echobot can enhance the performance of a sales team?

Sure, Echobot started out as a solution for PR and marketing teams doing press clipping and social media analytics, yet our solutions for sales and customer development have really gained a lot of momentum.

Basically, the better the information about your client or prospect is, the more deals you are able to close. Echobot helps sales reps  identify the right targets, triggers at the best time to engage and also notifies you if there are relevant changes to entities in your pipeline. It’s an automated sales assistant so you don’t have to google everything yourself.

Can you give a specific example where one of your clients have made changes in their communication, marketing plan or similar, based on the insights or analysis you provided to them?

The very first example that sparked this development is still my favorite story: A vendor of forklifts was in search of new prospects and asked us to identify upcoming constructions of warehouses. In the beginning, we used simple phrase search queries, such as “new warehouse,” but this quickly became very complex so we introduced our machine learning intelligence technology to automatically identify such events as well as the companies associated with such projects. The resulting prospect lists gave the clients an instant double-digit boost in their sales productivity.

You have invested a lot in machine learning; how has that improved your services?

Machine learning is the biggest game changer to any industry in recent years. It allows you to automate tedious manual tasks with near perfect precision and dig through millions of data points to find hidden patterns that you’d never have uncovered otherwise.

To be more specific, we have almost entirely automated our quality control tasks of classifying new media sources. Also our sales solutions which detect so called “business signals” regarding events of great opportunity or risks would not have been possible without this technological advances.

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new solutions that will add or improve services offered to your clients? If so, what solutions are they, and how will your customers benefit from them?

Everybody who has used a media monitoring solution knows that one of the biggest challenges lies in crafting a complex search agent to reliably match relevant results while at the same time filtering out unwanted spam.

We are currently in development of an intelligent agent which is much better at highlighting precisely the right results a customer is actually looking for. I’m confident that this algorithm will greatly assist the work of human experts.

You are collecting a lot of your own data today; what are the greatest challenges in doing that?

Hosting all our servers in Germany has been a very conscious decision to comply with the very high standards of German data protection laws that our customers demand. Also, we like to be in control of business-critical systems ourselves and not rely on external vendors.

Yet, managing this many crawlers and an index of almost 10 billion documents is no easy feat. The biggest challenges are necessary infrastructure changes that cannot affect our 24/7 service-level. Luckily Moore’s law as well as new big data technologies keep our costs at a predictable level.

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 for your customers?

Currently this would be Facebook for B2C customers and the German XING for B2B focused companies. Yet we see incredible demand for Instagram and also LinkedIn is closing in fast in the business space.

When it comes to the actual data behind media monitoring that you do, what kind of data or media can be interesting in the future that you don’t currently use?

I believe that in the future the actual message itself will be much more important than the medium / channel that you get it from.

You might see this development more easily in the space of web searches; while in the past you would have typed “height Eiffel Tower” into the Google search bar to get a list of websites, today you can just ask Siri or Alexa and they will tell you that it is 300m. Echobot is, as far as I know, the only service focused on building up this kind of meta level data today.

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

In an increasingly digital society, vendors of media intelligence solutions will become brokers of information and insights. It is simply not feasible for the client to manually research, classify and analyze information anymore. Therefore, the need for our services will only increase.

Yet, the whole industry is facing a lot of challenges:

  • From a legal perspective, there are licensing fees, data privacy concerns and the whole ancillary copyright debate.
  • Vendors will need to address the questions about trust of sources and “fake news.”
  • The ever-increasing restrictions of access to popular platforms, paywalls, dedicated mobile apps and “walled gardens” will change who is able to offer which media coverage.
  • Strong convergence towards video content will give rise to new solutions and technology startups for speech and image recognition technology.
  • Language barriers will decrease, especially towards Asian markets due to better translation technology and continuous economic growth in the east.

By Renata Ilitsky

“There is a lot of room for disruptions in the media intelligence industry”

Carlos Alfredo Diaz

Interview with Carlos Alfredo Diaz, General Manager at GlobalNews Group in Argentina.

Hi Carlos, what is your background and what is included in your current role at GlobalNews Group?

I have more than 6 years of experience in Media Monitoring and a previous background in tech startups. In my current role as General Manager of GlobalNews Group, I oversee our day-to-day regional operations as well as execute our long term strategic plans.

What differs GlobalNews Group from other media intelligence companies in Latin America?

The fact that we are the only media intelligence company that covers the whole region in its entirety is certainly a distinguishing factor. We are also renowned for our extensive investment and proficiency in R+D related to AI.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for GlobalNews Group when it comes to providing customer analysis and developing your offer?

Currently our greatest challenges in those two areas are related to the normalization of datasets and sources, as well as the need to educate our client base in order to develop truly useful offerings.

You are operating in 17 countries in Latin America; do you find it challenging to offer comprehensive products and services throughout the region because the region is diverse? If so, in what way?

Offering a limited set of products in a very diversified region is quite challenging; all our products have specific adaptations created by our “localization team” for each market in which they are sold.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology based solutions that will add to or improve services you offer to clients? If so, what solutions, and how will they benefit your clients?

We have recently launched an updated version of our website that will allow different customizations for our clients (such as recipes and integrations with a plethora of services), and are currently working on a suite of predictive tools that will allow our clients to both receive recommendations as to which topics matter to their bottom line as well as predict the impact a release might or should (as in benchmarking) have in the current media context.

Are you using the AMEC framework with your clients? If so, how has that improved your clients’ understanding of measurement?

We are currently using the AMEC framework with each and every new analysis client we have. It has helped our clients better visualize and understand the relationship between their work and their bottom line.

You are monitoring many sources yourself in your markets today; what are your greatest challenges when it comes to upholding and developing your own monitoring?

Upholding and developing your own monitoring requires a great deal of capital investment and oversight, but is sometimes needed when a company has requirements as diverse as ours.

When it comes to licensing content for media monitoring in Latin America, which countries are the most progressive, and which are lagging behind?

Brazil is currently the only country where the issue has even appeared, the rest of the region is impervious to it. I believe that licensing has to become a reality in Latin America in the next 10 years.

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

Whatsapp and Telegram would be very interesting to monitor, at least from a macro standpoint.

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

I believe there is a lot of room for disruptions by new players or old players that will reinvent themselves, especially as our space becomes more and more focused on technology.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The media intelligence industry will need to quickly grow their insights and advisory skills”

Francois van Dyk

Interview with Francois van Dyk, Head of Operations at Ornico Group in South Africa

Hi Francois, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Ornico Group?

I studied, taught and worked in Public Relations – having a passion for the journalism, advertising and marketing fields. In my role as Head: Operations at Ornico, I am blessed to work not only in the journalism and PR fields, but also in advertising and social media. I oversee all the Ornico divisions which monitor and analyses editorial, advertising and social media content across various platforms such as TV, radio, outdoor, online, social, print, mobile and even direct marketing. I also serve on AMEC’s Education Committee as well as the IAB South Africa’s Measurement Council.

What do you see as the greatest challenges ahead for Ornico Group when it comes to serving your customers monitoring and analysis and in developing your offer?

The fragmentation of the media space is an obvious challenge as you need to access far more data sources. However the true challenge will come from a data integration perspective – and this includes the client data. To make true sense of data, one will need to integrate media and customer, financial, employee and a myriad of other data in a sensible way. Customers interact with brands across many touch points, not just the media space, and great insights become possible if these disparate data can be combined and analyzed.

Why did you choose to expand your business to Nigeria and Kenya, countries that are quite remote from South Africa?

As our South African clients started expanding their businesses to the rest of the African continent, it was a natural fit for us to move with them as we could provide them with the same services. Kenya is obviously a major player in East Africa, and Nigeria in West Africa, so it makes sense to establish a presence in these regions. Despite tough global economic conditions, a lot of opportunities remain in Africa.

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

We are continuously building relationships across the world with other industry players through our FIBEP and AMEC partnerships, so this has proved very valuable. From a geographical perspective, we will be focusing on this – depending on client demand obviously. We are, however, continuously trying to innovate and improve the client experience so innovative functionalities and services always remain a priority.

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

Though we are working hard to educate clients about the best practices, such as AMEC’s Barcelona Principles, you do find that some are still only interested in AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalents). It astounds me that anyone would be looking at these “values,” as they are fundamentally flawed and wrong. It pains me personally because this behavior by some public relations practitioners is actually very damaging to an industry I am very passionate about.

What is the current situation for licensing content for media monitoring in South Africa? Is the agreement between SAMMA and DALRO still in effect, and does it cover all aspects?

The agreement between DALRO and SAMMA is still in place, although there are negotiations to update it. SAMMA members are very happy to have a central organization to deal with when it comes to copyright fees, but everyone believes a lot more can be done to make membership, payments, distribution and value more streamlined and comprehensive.

Are there specific or typical needs in the South African market for media intelligence that you think differs from the rest of the region, or the world in general?

Our markets are relatively the same as the rest of the world. Our biggest challenge is really to keep services very cost effective as our clients generally do not have the budgets a lot of the international brands have.

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

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are the main social platforms, while there is a great demand for LinkedIn information as well. Facebook, due to its global dominance, will obviously remain very important. Snapchat and other smaller channels have seen very little local adoption at this stage, so it remains to be seen what influence they will have in the African markets. Whatsapp, Wechat and other messaging services are also hugely popular. As social channels tighten access to data due to privacy legislation and their own commercial interests, I suspect it will become a far bigger challenge for brands to gain independent insights.

What kind of data that would help you get better analysis is the hardest to get hold of?

There is obviously a massive amount of data being created – and not all of it is confined in the media space. For proper measurement and evaluation to be conducted, we will need access to a far wider amount of data, and not just from the media space. Clients sit with masses of internal data, whether it is CRM data, sales figures, expenses, marketing, Google Analytics, etc,. which are all in their own silos. Combining relevant data like this with traditional media data to create insights will become a very powerful tool. It is understandably very sensitive data for a brand, which they will not part with easily; hence we have seen the need to grow traditional media intelligence into a more advisory partnership with clients. One can expect a lot of growth in this space.

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

The proliferation of media is an obvious challenge to the media intelligence industry, so I believe the industry will need to find ways to monitor all these new channels. However, as media becomes personalized and a more on-demand service, the audience will also become even more critical. I have long believed that the communication industry has been too obsessed with specific media channels and communication “outputs” in what they would consider ‘vanity” media that many have forgotten about their audiences. The audience will be key in the future.

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

Traditional monitoring is relatively stagnant across the world, so the media intelligence industry will need to quickly grow their insights and advisory skills. Major investments will also need to be made into machine learning, artificial intelligence and data sciences. As The Economist recently said “data is the new oil,” but what will give the media intelligence industry an edge over the big technology players will be the human element – both from a client services and an advisory perspective. People do business with people, and this is a fundamental principle that will remain through time.

By Renata Ilitsky

“There will no longer be a few media monitoring companies in a given country because monitoring will become diversified”

Paweł Sanowski

Interview with Paweł Sanowski, President of IMM, a media monitoring company in Poland and Romania.

Hi Paweł, what is your background and what is included in your current role at IMM?

When I started my adventure with the Institute of Media Monitoring in 2000, I had already had experience in different business sectors. Among others, I was in charge of standardization of the sales chain of the second largest insurance company in Poland – Warta SA. I was also responsible for preparing and finalizing the sale of Partner SA insurance company (acquired by Trygg Hansa). Additionally, I worked in an investment fund company, where I was co-responsible for the supervision of several firms from different branches of the industry.

I co-founded IMM from scratch in 2004, and yet, after five years, we became the largest media monitoring company in Poland, and have been strengthening this position ever since. In 2004, I also started the Internet portal, PRoto, dedicated to the PR industry in Poland. In the middle of 2008, we bought a media monitoring company in Romania – MediaTrust. Ever since, we have increased sales there by 11 times, and in 2015 we became the leaders in the second-largest CEE market.

I try to popularize knowledge about business intelligence, media analyses and the image of individuals and companies at the best Polish universities, like The Warsaw School of Economics and The London School of Public Relations.

I have managed the IMM group since the very beginning; however my role changes as the organization evolves. Currently, I rely more on the work of a fantastic team of co-workers that I have created over the past several years. My duties are very diverse, just like those of most of the heads of companies that employ a few hundred people.

What differs IMM from other media intelligence companies in the countries you are active in, Poland and Romania?

Both IMM and MediaTrust operate in line with the Media360 idea. Our media monitoring tools enable us to comprehensively analyse, research and control communication in all types of media – traditional (press, radio, TV, websites) and social media (blogs, forums, social networks, also photo and video).

Apart from media monitoring, we also have a vast spectrum of tools dedicated to communication specialists. For marketers, we offer monitoring of advertisements, for PR professionals, we offer a contact base for journalists integrated with online press offices, for social media managers from small companies, we offer a tool for autonomous social listening.

Comprehensiveness of the supplied services and tools helpful to a whole, generally understood communication industry, is undoubtedly IMM’s distinctive market quality. The second distinguishing feature that most frequently mentioned by our customers is the high quality of our services and analytical products .

What are your greatest challenges ahead at IMM when it comes to serving your customer monitoring and analysis, and develop your offer?

Continuous evolution of communication in social media, emergence of new platforms, migrations of consumers between media, increasing inflow of video and photo content, ability to provide media monitoring results in real time and the existence of ephemeral Snapchat-like content are the challenges ahead of the whole media monitoring industry.

Unceasing work on refining tools for collecting and analysing different contents has always been a priority for IMM. Currently, however, the dynamic of changes is much higher and the needs uttered by our customers play an important role in the process. PR specialists are increasingly aware of the benefits derived from the use of media monitoring for planning, carrying out and evaluating the effects of work in media. This, in turn, encourages us to develop further gauges and methods of measuring the communication activities.

Many young companies that specialise in Internet monitoring and the resulting price pressure are additional market challenges.

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

We are a family company, and as such, our activities do not carry too much risk. We always analyse potential acquisition opportunities both in Poland and in other countries. What’s important to us is continuous change, even if that includes small changes introduced to the offer or technologies – the continuous modifications make us stand out in the Polish media monitoring market.

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

I cannot disclose details that are confidential to our customers. Frequently, such changes result from media crisis situations which were effectively managed thanks to IMM media monitoring or the analysis of effectiveness of the conducted promotional activities based on which a decision was taken to stop, or, quite the contrary, to strengthen specific forms of activities, such as sponsorships.

What I can share is the information about a non-standard use of our media reports. One of the most interesting recent instances was performing a cross-sectional analysis of characteristics and media presence of a specific target group. The report constituted specific instructions for a customer, pinpointing for him where to invest his time and communication budget, and also what type of media communication to use to make it effective.

Analysis of the potential of sports sponsorships is another interesting example. Based on media presence of specific stadiums, a customer was able to make a decision on a sponsorship cooperation.

Sometimes media monitoring takes a more utilitarian form – our pharmaceutical customers use social media posts of patients as an additional element of reporting side effects.

Changes also take place on a meta-level. For several years we have monitored media citing other media. Throughout this time, our report has grown as the opinion-forming benchmark for media in Poland and the results of our ranking have had an influence on media outlets and media strategies more than once.

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

All social media platforms develop their streaming channels and live options. Facebook develops Messenger to adjust it to B2C communication. In addition, Snapchat raised the bar and provoked demand for content that disappear after some time, a functionality already introduced by Instagram and tested by Facebook. We assume that if customers find these forms of publications important to them, we will have to broaden the offering to include these non-standard channels.

You are a member of FIBEP; what are the benefits of being a part of organizations like that?

Undoubtedly a big advantage of FIBEP membership is the constant contact and sharing the experiences with entities of similar nature, as well as challenges. It’s easier to generate new solutions in a group or to cooperate on solving a problem that many of its members face. It’s also important to have the ability to inspire each other with each other’s solutions and sharing tips. FIBEP membership also enhances a supplier’s credibility in the eyes of customers. IMM has been in the FIBEP’s structures since it started.

What more could FIBEP contribute that would benefit your business?

FIBEP creates a range of opportunities, but not everybody uses them. FIBEP is a platform that helps achieve a lot, given a significant dedication. From my perspective, I would expect more of best practices presentations and more frequent workshop meetings.

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

I think that the situation gets complicated. There will no longer be a few media monitoring companies in a given country because monitoring will be diversified. There will be many market players – global and international companies that provide media monitoring SaaS-tools. There will be local companies – small and large – that will try to combine a range of the monitoring-related elements and analyses. We will see the emergence of the market linked with the monitoring that will supply a range of analyses and tools for business. There will be new areas of operations for media monitoring companies, but they will be low-margin and highly competitive.

I am glad to be working in an industry that evolves so quickly because it forces us to move forward and to look for new solutions, which boosts our energy. It gives me the impression that I’m not aging, and that I’m still young.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The pace of disruption to the media intelligence over the next five years will be enormous”

Sean Smith

Interview with Sean Smith, Chief Executive – Media Intelligence at Isentia, Australia and Vice President of FIBEP.

Hi Sean, what is included in your current role at Isentia?

As Chief Executive of Media Intelligence, I am responsible for overseeing the delivery of media intelligence services to 5,000 clients across APAC. My role comes with the usual P&L responsibilities, but ultimately it is about ensuring Isentia remains the market leader and we continue to push for better solutions, products and services for our clients that allow them to stay ahead of the curve.

Outside of my role at Isentia, I am also the current Vice President and Board Member for FIBEP, global association for media intelligence.

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

Giving our clients the right information at the right time; whether it be the first to alert them to breaking news or the delivery of an Insights report that shows the impact of their actions on a story. Our clients are now operating in a media world that is 24/7 and unrelenting. For example, Isentia now ingests around 284 new stories every second. Our challenge is to make sense of all that noise and velocity, and provide our clients with the key information that they need to know.

The challenge is only getting harder, but working in an organisation where our culture is engrained in all things media and being the best, is the challenge we love to answer.

Isentia acquired the content marketing agency King Content in 2015. How has that changed the focus of Isentia’s business proposition?

For quite some time now, Isentia has been looking at how we can work across owned, earned and paid media. Our media intelligence offering has allowed us to play a key role in confirming when something happens and making sense of what it all means for our clients. With content marketing, we can now answer the “what’s next?” question by devising a content strategy that will help brands tell their story and connect with the right audience. Content is nothing without the right strategy. By having robust media intelligence that allows for greater opportunities to uncover unique and timely insights, we can provide the strategic thinking our clients need to connect with their clients through content and change conversations.

The acquiring of King Content is a step further on in the value chain. Does this mean that there are other parts of your business that come further away from generating value, which you are planning to outsource?

Outsourcing has been key to our strategy long before the acquisition of King Content. The media intelligence industry is moving so quickly that we are always looking to expand on the value we can give to our clients. Sourcing for functions outside our core business is one way that we can achieve that as it means we can spend more time thinking and executing new ideas for the parts of the Isentia business that matter most and give key clear points of difference.

APAC is a quite diverse region. What are your main challenges to offer comprehensive products and services throughout the region?

APAC is the fastest growing region in the world, and as you note, highly diverse. The challenge is ensuring we are offering a personalised experience and services tailored to the needs of each country. No two countries look the same. Local knowledge matters and is key to success.

Business culture is unique, and while you need to find ways to adapt, to be successful in APAC, you must balance this investment into the development of your own culture, infrastructure and people.

The media intelligence landscape in Asia Pac is also made more complex by the challenges with language and local markets being highly fragmented.

You are currently Vice President of FIBEP. What are the most important things that an organization like FIBEP can contribute?

Ensuring the industry can continue to evolve and stay relevant. Our industry has players that have their roots as a press clipping agency right through to our newest members that are SaaS platforms and thinking about media content as a data set that can be overlaid with other data sources and smart analytics. It is this diversity in the membership that shows just how fast our industry is changing and the important role that FIBEP can play in helping members to change and continue to be successful.

FIBEP holds an annual conference, which is an important event – the learnings come not only from the key note speakers, but also from the valuable networking that takes place over three days, or should I say three nights!

How do you think or hope FIBEP’s role will evolve in the future?

I hope to see FIBEP continue to explore the changing market trends and best practices so that the media intelligence industry can be progressive or be at the forefront of innovation. To do this, we will need to attract new members. Diversity of our members and the ideas that will evolve our industry will be key, so too is embracing change. FIBEP, through its activities and leadership, will play a role in guiding this, but also connecting the industry with the necessary change agents to help inspire members as they continue to move through this journey.

When it comes to the actual data behind the media intelligence that you do, what kind of data or media that you do not use for media intelligence today, can be interesting in the future?

Podcasts and closed, “dark social” messenger apps are great examples of sources that aren’t typically utilised in media intelligence. Dark social is important, and when you look at recent studies, it is clear that dark social is not just occupying a small corner of the Internet, but is now the leading sharing method for news links, which is highly influential. As more and more of us become addicted to our mobile devices, it will be essential that media intelligence organisations can find a way to understand and make sense of this growing channel.

What would be the main challenges in retrieving that data or media?

The obvious answer is access. The best media intelligence organisations have made changes to their strategy to ensure they have strong working relationships with both traditional media and social media platforms. Not all content or data is free and there is a need for a commercial relationship with the owners. The other key consideration here is privacy and ensuring the security of users is protected.

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

It is an arms race! Having the best people supported by the best technology will be key. The pace of disruption to the media intelligence over the next five years will be enormous. Automation and the rise of artificial intelligence will mean our industry and a typical media intelligence company will look completely different. Our tech will be smarter and so will our people!

It is going to be an exciting ride. I am looking forward to seeing what we do and how many more problems we can solve for our clients in five years’ time. Media intelligence will be very powerful and will play an even more important role.

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

“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