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• • • After repressing butterflies the size of wooly mammoths, I worked up the courage to talk with three of the leading thinkers in the social media space. Seth Grimes – Text Anlaytics fame and co-‐founder of Text Analytics Summit and Sentiment Symposium Brent Leary – Social CRM insider with opinions about facilitating creativity and managing Big Data Jason Falls – Social Media Examiner founder and recent author of No Bullshit Social Media: The All-‐Business No-‐Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing
I wanted to get their unique perspectives on social media and its influence on not only how we communicate but also on businesses and other institutions. They did not fail in providing thought-‐provoking ideas on the subject. The implications for businesses and other institutions are still unfolding in an uneven and unstructured manner. From protests in the Middle East, riots in London, to consumers expressing their outrage on Twitter, social media has emerged as a significant channel for not only communicating but also as a source for consumer and industry insights. Each post is actually on the Collective Intellect site but I’ve gathered them into one place because I believe there is real value in reading them together. Enjoy!
Last week, I had the great opportunity to chat with Seth Grimes about some of the work he is doing, his upcoming conferences and what he feels are the elements of any organization’s text-analytics strategy. Seth consults on analytics strategy via Alta Plana Corporation, which he founded in 1997. He is the contributing editor at TechWeb’s InformationWeek and founding chair of the Text Analytics Summit and Sentiment Analysis Symposium conferences. He’s also one of the most respected thought leaders in the text analytics space. I had the chance to chat with Seth a little more about his upcoming plans, the text analytics symposium and the future of text analytics. Jen Roberts (JR): Seth, thanks for joining me this morning. I really appreciate the time. Can you provide a little background on your work and what you are working on currently? Seth Grimes (SG): Thanks Jennifer. The aim of my work is to advance the cause of smarter business decision-making through analytics. I consult to and advise user organizations and solution providers and also follow the research community, creating value for each, I hope, and I write for publication whenever I can find, or make, time. Right now, I’m most actively working on the two conferences you mention in the intro, the Text Analytics Summit and the Sentiment Analysis Symposium, and readers will want to check out my report, “Text/Content Analytics 2011: User Perspectives on Solutions and Providers” , which has just come out. It covers uptake, plans, and perceptions of text and content analytics technologies and solutions and their business focused applications. Folks can download the report for free from altaplana.com/TA2011. It presents findings from a survey of current and prospective users as well as a qualitative look at the market. JR: How about defining text (and content) analytics in just a couple of sentences? SG: My definition: “Text analytics” describes software and transformational steps that discover business value in “unstructured” text. (Analytics in general is a process, not just algorithms and software.) The aim is to improve automated text processing, whether for search, classification, data and opinion extraction, business intelligence, or other purposes. Text analytics draws on data mining and visualization and also on natural-language processing (NLP). Supplement NLP with technologies that recognize patterns and extract information from images, audio, video, and composites and you have content analytics.
Of course, others may use the terms a bit differently. There’s a lot of settling-out to do although I doubt we’ll ever arrive at a set of agreed definitions for anything in the IT realm. JR: It’s one thing to think ‘wouldn’t it be great to get like-minds together to discuss text analytics’, another matter all together to put together a conference. What was the genesis behind the Text Analytics Summit? How has the summit evolved over time? SG: We’ve had 8 summits so far, and it has been a privilege to have been involved from the start, from the first Boston summit in 2005 to the summit planned for this coming November 10-11 in San Jose, California. Admittedly at the start we were vendor-heavy, but given the huge acceleration in market adoption – for business (as opposed to government and research), spurred largely by customer-experience, marketing, and social analysis applications – we’ve had great end-user participation in recent years. How did the summit get started? I had a phone call from Matt Muldoon, who was doing market research for conference owner FC Business Intelligence. I did some projects bringing text into BI applications in ’96-’97, and my first article on text mining came out in 2002, I think, and I had gained visibility as one of the few analysts in the space. Matt’s research showed demand for a business-focused conference, and he asked me to chair, help put together the program, recruit speakers, moderate panels, and so on. It has been a lot of fun JR: Sentiment analysis gets a lot of scrutiny. What is your definition of sentiment analysis? SG: Sentiment analysis finds, and distills the business value from, attitudes, emotions, mood, and opinions in social, online, and enterprise sources. It draws on text and also on other forms of content and numbers. Other forms of content: For example, there’s emotion in speech, indicated by volume, pace, intonation, and other non-textual clues, and analysis of images and video might be similarly revealing. That said, text is the Number 1 sentiment-analysis source, driven by demand to know what’s being said on social platforms about products, brands, topics such as the economy, and public figures. JR: You have an upcoming Sentiment Analysis Symposium. How does this differ from the Text Analytics Summit? It seems there would be some overlap. What can attendees expect? SG: The summit is broader, the symposium more focused. The summit covers sentiment analysis although obviously in less depth than the symposium, and it covers many topics and applications that don’t involve sentiment. The symposium in turn gets into topics such as crowd-sourced sentiment analysis that the summit doesn’t touch. Both should be very accessible to business users while still appealing to technologists. At both, expect an interesting mix of talks and panels and networking opportunities,
including with exhibiting vendors. You can learn more by checking out the online agendas. Audience-wise, pre-summit workshops target newer users, and the afternoon before the symposium, we similarly have an in-depth Practical Sentiment Analysis tutorial, but the symposium also adds innovative vendors and the research community to the mix via a series of lightning talks and an optional pre-summit research session. JR: With the emergence of social media data, there is increasing talk about managing and analyzing Big Data. What are your thoughts on this emerging topic? SG: Big Data is an interesting term, but essentially it’s marketing coinage, a way to suggest that an organization’s existing data systems aren’t up to handling modern data and processing demands. There’s truth there: Database systems designed for transaction processing won’t handle high-velocity, high-volume Web click-streams, telecom calldetail records, and sensor data, nor all the “unstructured” text out there, nor representations of the social graph. If you associate Big Data exclusively with key-value stores, machine-generated data (for instance, from Web servers and sensors), and the like, you miss out on information captured in online and social conversations, valuable business information that explains the causes of the behaviors revealed in click-stream and transaction analyses, that can help you (via sentiment analysis) boost customer satisfaction, that reveals customer purchase intent and can predict stock prices. So I see Big Data becoming passé, with attention (rightly) moving to complex data and integrated analytics. JR: How do you see the field of text analytics evolving? Have there been any surprises in the past couple of years? SG: Of course technical capabilities continue to improve, moving into real-time processing, into more languages and business domains and functions, offering wider information-extraction capabilities including for subjective data (opinions and emotions), temporal events, and facts and relationships. But it’s funny, I can’t think of any surprises, well, not on the technology front. On the business front, I’m pretty amazed that neither Microsoft nor Oracle has any text-analytics market presence at this point. SAP and IBM have it, and HP is buying it with the Autonomy acquisition. IBM’s Watson Jeopardy-playing system, which relies on natural-language processing to feed its knowledge base and parse questions, marked an inflection point, pointing the way toward wide enterprise adoption. Watson demonstrated key directions: Question answering, integrated analysis of text and other data forms, data-based reasoning, even
language generation. Look for those capabilities and others to develop and hit commercial markets in coming years. JR: What are the critical elements of a text analytics strategy? And how much does this approach change between analyzing social media or private data text? SG: I see three critical elements in any organization’s text-analytics strategy: 1. You have to identify information with significant business value in text sources. 2. You have to figure out what techniques and tools will best help you get at that information and transform it to create business insight. 3. You have to understand how you’re going to use what you’ve learned to improve and optimize business processes, to better reach business goals, whatever they may be. In practice, an organization is going to step through that list backwards. For instance, you might say, “We need to improve customer experience in order to win new customers, boost satisfaction, and decrease churn” (all of which, of course, contribute to competiveness and profitability). Given the customer (as opposed to market) focus, you might decide that analysis of surveys, contact-center notes, and other customer interactions, linked to transactional records and customer profiles, is the way to go. As for information you should be looking for, you might try to extract the basic Who, What, When, Where, How of each, individual interactions, classified by product, touch point, customer profile, and experience, in order to look for satisfaction and dissatisfaction causes and remedies. What you shouldn’t do is start with “People are talking about our products on Twitter and Facebook. How can we get them to say nice things?”, which is not sensible, not strategic. JR: For people who want to read more about your thinking on text analytics and sentiment analysis, where should they go? SG: Simplest is to just point folks to my Twitter account, @sethgrimes , where they can find a link to a site with a whole bunch of links. I’d also point people to my Vimeo account where I have speaker videos posted from last April’s New York Sentiment Analysis Symposium and last October’s Smart Content conference, which focused on content analytics. By the way, readers who’d like to attend the up-coming, November 9 sentiment symposium, can use the registration code FOAF100 for a $100 discount, and you can get $200 off the November 10-11 text summit with the code SETH33. Thanks again for the opportunity to talk about all this stuff! JR: Thanks for your time, Seth, and good luck with your upcoming events!
Last week, I had the chance to chat with Brent Leary, a crm industry analyst, adviser, author, speaker and award winning blogger. We talked about the changes in social media and what he meant by extreme listening. Brent is co-founder and Partner of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. In 2009 he co-authored Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. Jen Roberts (JR): Can you provide a little background on your work and what you are working on currently? Brent Leary (BL): I’ve been involved with training thousands of business people on the benefits and best practices of implementing CRM strategies and technologies. I also work also with corporate enterprises and government agencies to build programs aimed at informing minority and women owned business of the importance of understanding the positive impact of CRM. But where I’m most interested is in the social media maturation of small to medium businesses; they’re going from using social media to becoming a social business. This industry is at the very, very beginning of using social media to transform business into social business. (JR): Do you think the perception of social media has changed? (BL): Companies initially viewed social media as a one-off, which could be used by marketing to build online brand reputation. It was really easy in the beginning to put social in a box of sorts but now after using social companies are beginning to realize that there is more opportunity for impact by thinking about how to improve the customer relationship. And this moves the thinking beyond the single department to how internal and external engagements can influence collaboration, develop partnerships with others, and help to find new or extend the life of existing customers. So, as companies become more experienced using social and grow more comfortable, they are expanding what they can do, how they can use this new philosophy and technology in other areas of communication. (JR): What do you think contributes to the success or failure of a company’s transition to a social business? (BL): Part of what contributes to companies struggling in their transition is that they are not listening. A lot of great ideas come from customers. But if an organization doesn’t have a culture of listening, and facilitating creativity, they’re going lose out on a lot of
things. They need to be able to take what they hear and find ways to act on it. Listening is a good start but listening and not doing anything is not good. They have to be able to act. (JR): I’ve often heard about the importance of listening but encouraging companies to facilitate creativity is a new term for me? What do you mean and how can companies do that? (BL): Companies need a strategy of extreme listening and this is going to take larger, more established companies time to grasp but they really need to take hold of this idea and do things that are important to listening, engaging and facilitating this creativity that they can then act on. And facilitating is an important component of this process. Often companies come in and take over the conversation or attempt to lead the conversation in certain directions. Of course, there may be instances where it is appropriate for organizations to take the lead but before they can do that they need to understand what is being talked about, the sentiment of the conversation and promote efforts to facilitate the discussion, even if it means bringing in other voices. This approach ensures customers are getting the information they need, the needs of the community are addressed and companies are perceived as loyal participants in the community. (JR): You were at the Dreamforce ’11 Conference, what were a couple of the big takeaways from the event? (BL): A couple of things really stood out for me. The first one was looking at the history of the technology platform and noting how every 10 years or so it changes. We went from mainframes to PCs, client servers to on-demand, and now mobile. There’s been a complete platform shift every decade or so that required a new software delivery, which then required a change in how we do business. These types of events require companies to be nimble and to take competitive advantage of the change. Today, technology is enabling people to do things they’ve always wanted to do. Social media is changing customer activity, behaviors and the expectation they have for companies. And like platform shifts, companies that will be successful are those that are nimble and able to change their philosophy; many companies were established before the age of social, they have a culture of controlling the conversation, the message and the means of delivery. This type of culture has this idea of control built into the corporate structure. So, like the platform changes, those companies that can embrace openness, transparency, and view their customers as having value beyond the transaction are the ones who will realize the biggest gains. The second take-away dovetails with the first in that from a small-medium-sized business perspective those companies that are nimble enough, clued-in enough have an opportunity like no other time before to create something truly different. Today, they have access to the computing power, IT expertise and services that they would have not
been able to afford in the past. This gives them the room to think outside the box of their core business and create something different. (JR): What are the emerging trends you see in Social CRM? Any surprises? (BL): The biggest thing I am seeing, that is also good a sign, is that companies are looking to see how they can engage with customers throughout the organization. They are no longer relying on just one group going off and trying something. This maybe because of the unexpected results of one group going off and doing a promotion that led to more customer service issues than leads. But this is the whole maturation process, where companies are taking a more holistic approach and using social to drive customer acquisition and retention. I’m seeing a shift where marketing, sales and customer service are driving the usage and need for social data. Social information that comes from networks that customers are using to provide critical, real time insights. But it’s still only one piece. There is also transactional, webinars, blogs, and other activities that generate data and all are important. One of the bigger challenges is not only analyzing social media but also knowing how to bring in the information in such a fashion so that you can tie it to transactional, or activities they’ve participated in. This type of merging of data provides a view on what drives customers that companies can use to create products or services. (JR): How will Big Data influence the development and direction of Social CRM? (BL): It’s going to be getting bigger and bigger and it is becoming increasingly important now more than ever to get a handle on how you are going to process different data streams: customer, partner, employee and how you are able to make sense of them in an efficient way. Companies that can manage and make sense of their data are going to be much further along than companies that aren’t even thinking about it. Knowledge is power and time. The more you know the quicker, faster, and more efficiently you can interact with you customer, providing your company with a competitive advantage. It’s the resulting information that can help companies create products or services that allow them to continue to stay connected with their customer. But we’re still very much at the beginning. Many companies are using only a fraction of their internal information compared to what is out there. The big question companies need to be asking themselves is how they are going to maximize the use of this internal information in addition to capturing real-time social media conversations. How companies choose to handle this question can influence and impact how they are able to extend and expand their relationships with customers, partners and employees. Because it’s not just about filters and insights, although it takes a lot work to surface true business insights, it’s also about how you choose to engage. Companies need to take some time and realize these business insights are really human insights and that changes the connection in a very important way. Choosing to engage with a customer with empathy and understanding makes the
most of all the work you’ve completed to get to a point where you engage with a customer. (JR): Brent, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. Brent Leary is recognized by InsideCRM as one of the 25 most influential industry leaders, Leary also is a past recipient of CRM Magazine’s Most Influential Leader Award. He serves on the national board of the CRM Association, on the advisory board of the University of Toronto’s CRM Center of Excellence, and on the editorial advisory board for The Atlanta Tribune. Leary writes regularly for Inc.com and MyCustomer.com, and serves as Blogger-in-Residence for TheSocialCustomer.com. He hosts the “One on One” conversation series at SmallBizTrends.com, and teams up with Paul Greenberg on the CRM Playaz video show, sponsored by Microsoft and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
by Jen Roberts September 28, 2011 Recently, I had the chance to talk with some well-respected thought leaders about social media, big data and emerging trends in communication. Seth Grimes provided his insights on Text Analytics, Brent Leary gave his perspective on Social CRM and now Jason Falls is providing the marketing take on social media. Jason graciously took some time out of his schedule to chat with me and here are his thoughts. Get some coffee because it’s kinda long one. Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer, an information, education and consulting services company for digital and social media marketing. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Jason has spoken nationally and internationally on digital marketing topics, edits and authors one of the most widely read and well-respected blogs in the industry and shares insight and instruction to a community of subscribers at ExploringSocialMedia.com. Jennifer Roberts (JR): Can you provide a little background on your work and what you are working on currently? Jason Falls (JF): I’m really more of a PR guy by trade. I’ve always been interested in communication and finding out how to use the Internet to communicate. In 97-98, I was working in New York writing a column then publishing it online. In the article, I would ask people to send me questions via email. It was really a rudimentary blog. Two years ago I started Social Media Explorer and recently I acquired another consultancy so we are now an information and education products company. We offer marketing research products; do events exploring social media and consultancy. We have a subscription-based product, which is a combination of a learning community and a Q&A forum called exploringsocialmedia.com. The Q&A is actually a dynamic forum to find out about everything from adding an admin to Facebook to creating a strategy for nursing homes. It’s $25 a month and gives you access to digital marketing experts. (JR): You manage Social Media Explorer. How has the site evolved and what is your primary user experience goal for the site? (JF): Social media explorer.com is technically still my blog and company. It was started in the Fall ’07 and was really just an opportunity to carve out thought leadership and get some credibility; it was also a platform to share opinions.
A year ago, I added a bunch of new writers. I was getting busier growing my business but didn’t want to lose traction so I invited people who I considered to be good writers and thinkers to bring perspectives I didn’t have or wanted more of. Today, there are 11 writers contributing to the blog and we consider, though we’re not there yet, Social Media Explorer to be the intellectual playground for the social media world. We want to push people’s thinking, stir up debate a bit and look at social media marketing from a little bit more of an intellectual standpoint. We want to think through the issues and provoke others to think and communicate. We hope the new web design in October will look a bit more sophisticated. (JR): What do you think are the emerging trends in both social media technology and adoption? (JF): The biggest trends that unfortunately have been the same trends for the last couple of years are mobile and video, mobile more so than video but video is a close second. You have to think about these platform as they are the mediums that are going to be the ones that are adopted and used most, particularly in mobile, as tablets and Smartphone technology becomes more ubiquitous. As we continue to think about social media as marketers, we have to think about how what we do translates to the mobile phone, which is how people will be using the Web. (JR): What are your thoughts on Social SEO? (JF): The big thing question right now, and why it’s important to pay attention to the Google+ Facebook war, is how will Google+ activity influence Google search results? Will other social signals like Facebook and Twitter affect Google search results in the same way as Google+. Google has a difficult position to uphold, which is their “Don’t be evil” mantra. Are they going to be fair and diplomatic with other social signals or are they going to adulterate search results based on your participation in their social area. If they are, then that’s evil. The question then is Google going to do this right? Are they going to change how search works based on your social usage and be fair in how they deal with other social signals? If they allow Google+ to influence search results in a greater way than other social signals, then Google + will become the home of spammers and marketers, who will try and game the system and manipulate the results. And this is critical because it can mean the difference between making a hundred thousand and making one million. Google has conditioned us to search first. So, the biggest questions are around how this is going to pan out.
(JR): Do you think the perception of social media has changed in the past year or so in light of the Arab spring or London riots? (JF): Only in the minds of people who don’t use or don’t understand it. Social media hasn’t changed at all. People who feared it in the first place say it caused the riots so they can hate social media. What they don’t understand is that social media had nothing to do with the riots. They would have rioted if they had had Twitter or not. Social media is a communication channel. It’s sort of like blaming the telegraph for WWI. People blame the communication channel not the communication. People use a channel to get through to the other side, whether that’s smoke signals, email or social media; it’s about getting the message from one person to another. (JR): What do you think contributes to the success or failure of a company’s social media strategy? (JF): A couple of things. You need to start out knowing your audience and knowing where they are and having a strategy in the first place. Most people are dong something because everyone else is doing it and don’t understand what social media can do for them. Next, you need the patience and resources, the ability to execute against the strategy and stick with it. Social media is not a short-term fix; it’s a long-term growth strategy. But you need to be nimble enough within an ever-changing world of technology to stick to your broad communication strategy and adjust to the market place. You can’t focus on one platform; strategies are more broad-based and not tool dependent. (JR): You have a new book coming out. (JF): It’s called No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing and Erik Deckers is the co-author. It’s basically a no-nonsense book for business people – small, medium and large-sized businesses – about social media marketing. We set aside the purist idea of “joining the conversation and holding hands in a circle”, which we don’t disagree with but that’s not what social media is all about. It’s using social media to drive business, using strategy and measuring. The book takes business owners through the social media planning process and what it can do for business.
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