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

Gianandrea Facchini_blog
Gianandrea Facchini

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

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

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

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

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

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

What type of companies benefit from your services?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Renata Ilitsky

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

Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb - original
Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which type of companies benefit from your services?

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

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

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

What other challenges do you face in your market?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which social platforms are currently most important for your customers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Renata Ilitsky

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

Mauricio Brentano
Mauricio Brentano

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which type of companies benefit from your services?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Renata Ilitsky