Tag Archives: social media listening platforms

Where is Your Organization on the Social Media Listening Maturity Model?

23 Jul

Quite often I am asked to consult with a company on their social media listening strategy. Their initial question more times than not is about the listening platform they should use. But it is increasingly common for the questions to be more sophisticated and the ambition behind them to be much greater. Companies with experience in social listening know that it is all too easy to focus on rudimentary analysis of brand mentions and topics, Followers and Likes and never get to the truly actionable insights that lead to marketing or business actions. Experience in listening is an important element here but you also need a path to follow. I thought a maturity model approach to social media listening could provide a possible path to consider and would provide a construct that could be used in consulting with a company on their social listening strategy.

Maturity models are sort of hot – there seems to be a proliferation in the last two years or so. One that I find particularly insightful and helpful when thinking about social listening is Forrester’s Social Maturity Model.  Two really important points the folks at Forrester make is that listening is not the goal, social intelligence is, and that social intelligence informs actions taken by marketing or some other area of the business. Action being the operative word here. Social intelligence is a closely related topic to social business, and if social business is more your thing the Dachis Group has an interesting social business maturity model.  Big data more your bag? Check out IBM’s big data governance model. After looking at the models out there, I could not find one specific enough to social media listening so I took a stab at creating one.

Social Media Listening Maturity Model 

There are five stages in the Social Media Listening Maturity Model, beginning with reactive alerts and ending with social intelligence. Let’s take a brief look at each stage and some of the overarching differences or changes one sees with social listening maturity.

Reactive Alerts – Many companies or brands begin by establishing a reactive alert system that notifies them whenever their brand is mentioned or is mentioned with specific keywords. Think Google Alerts. Companies in this stage may only periodically check social media channels to see what may have changed or is new since the last check-in.

Monitoring Social Media – At the next stage, the company has begun active monitoring of all ‘owned’ social embassies. They also are monitoring social media conversations, often focused on trying to detect any ‘bad’ news, mentions or conversations.

Companies in these first two stages generally have a reactive stance toward social media, viewing it as another way to find out about news and circumstances that may harm or otherwise impact the organization. It is common for companies in these stages to use one or more of the various free tools available to gather web and social media data.

Social Listening – The third stage is most likely where the largest percentage of companies reside today. Companies in stage three are listening to social conversations about their company, brands and products. They are tracking mentions of competitors and calculating share of conversation. Many also track issues and topics that are important to their brands/products/company. At this stage many begin to put additional emphasis on ‘who’ is talking (source) not just what is being said (post). Most companies in the social listening phase have transitioned from free tools to paid platforms.

Companies in the first three stages often suffer from having too much data and not enough insights. They are up to their necks in ‘big data’ but lack the experience and expertise to analyze the data and reduce it down to crisp, actionable insights supported by the data. They look for the Insight button on the tools they use but increasingly realize insights are the product of human analysts, not tools or data.

Strategic Listening – The transition to strategic listening brings with it a bias toward ‘listening with a purpose’. I first heard this turn of phrase from my friends at Radian6 and use it often. Listening with a purpose is just that – listening to specific sets of conversations with a specific goal or objective in mind. Often in insight work, the goal or objective may take the form of a hypothesis we are trying to test. Here are a few examples of listening with a purpose:

  • Listening for conversations of consumers in a particular phase of the buying decision process
  • Listening to customers whose subscriptions or policies are about to expire that are expressing thoughts of changing vendors
  • Identifying, tracking and building relationships with key influencers
  • Listening for consumer reactions to new packaging or product features
  • Mining the emotional content of specific stakeholder groups to determine potential risk around a sensitive issue.

During this phase, an Enterprise listening strategy is often developed and implemented. Some also begin to integrate data from sources beyond social media – search, web analytics and customer data for example.

Social Intelligence – Forrester defines social intelligence as the process of turning social media data into actionable marketing and business strategy. Social intelligence therefore is not about the best times to tweet or whether or not a twitter party would be an effective tactic, it is about informing strategic decisions that impact the company’s success. For me, three concepts are crucial:

  1. Action – social intelligence is designed to drive true actions.
  2. Integration – although the definition focuses on social media data and insights, the fact is that true insights often require more than just social data. Integrating data from multiple data sources – consumer survey, behavioral tracking, social posts, search analytics, advertising data, customer records, scan/sales data – allows for greater understanding and richer insights. Integration of multiple data types often requires multiple tools and platforms to aggregate and analyze the data.
  3. Sharing – For social intelligence to truly take root within an organization, the data and insights should involve cross-disciplinary groups that can look at the data from different perspectives and collectively arrive at better insights than any one group could in a vacuum. The insights then need to be systematically shared broadly across the organization so they may be acted upon in a manner that will create the most impact. Social intelligence can be a catalyst to the silos within an organization tumbling down.

Since the social listening and social intelligence ‘markets’ are relatively immature, this model will continue to evolve and be refined.

Where is your company today on the social media listening maturity model?

Selecting the Right Social Media Listening Platform is a Process Not an Event

17 Sep

It is not difficult to find a social media listening platform – there are over 100 to choose from.  What is difficult is to find the right tool.  It takes a keen understanding of scope and requirements.  It takes an evaluation and selection process that will surface the best platform to fully meet your  requirements.  And it takes a well thought-out process for deploying the platform across the organization in an effective and efficient manner.   There are many questions to be asked and answers to be given.  Asking the right questions at the right time is crucial.

It is helpful to think of the overall listening platform selection process in three phases:

  1. Plan – Define requirements, stakeholders, scope
  2. Select – Create a platform evaluation process tailored to your unique requirements
  3. Deploy – The selected platform across the organization with training, workflow and other important issues addressed.
To read the rest of this post and to download the free eBook, Social Media Listening Platforms: How to select and deploy the right social media listening tools for your company, please click here.

Social Media Listening Platforms – Plan, Select, Deploy (Part Three – Deploy)

17 Jun

In Part Two of this series on social media listening platforms we offered a process for selecting a social media listening platform vendor.  Now it’s time to deploy the tool across your organization effectively and with minimal disruption.  And put the tool to work.

Configuration – We talked about value-added services in the first post in this series.  One of the services offered by many listening platform vendors is configuration.  You’ll have to decide if you want to have the vendor perform system configuration or do it yourself.  In some cases you have no choice – you submit keywords, topics and themes to the vendor and the system is programmed for you.  In other cases some basic configuration must be done by the platform vendor but the bulk of the configuration can be a DIY project.

Keywords and Topics – In part one of this series, we discussed the need to think through the keywords required to bring all relevant content into your platform.  The keywords might be company name, product/brand names, competitors, issues, segment names, executives and spokespersons and key messages.  During deployment you will need to build taxonomy around many of the keywords that represent concepts rather than singular ideas or names.  For example, if you have a message that centers on being an innovative company, you will have to decide what expressions in addition to the keyword ‘innovative’ may be classified as innovation –  leading-edge, technology leader, R&D leadership, breakthrough products, etc.  You will also have to decide words and terms to exclude from your analysis.  Both of these processes are iterative – make a change, check content relevancy, adjust, repeat.

Integration – There are a few different types of integration you may want to tackle during platform configuration and deployment.  Each of the possible forms of integration will take a little time to accomplish and may require some back and forth between you and the platform vendor and/or vendor to vendor.  I am a big fan of web analytics and social media integration.  With many listening platforms this is relatively straight forward to accomplish.  You may also want to integrate third-party data sources like Factiva, LexisNexis, VMS or Critical Mention.  Assuming the listening platform vendor you selected supports this type of integration, it also is relatively straight forward.  To address latency issues, make sure you specify load times for the content.

Reports and Workflow – Previously, we addressed many of the basic questions around reports and reporting.  In the deployment phase it’s time to make it real.  Design specific templates for each report you need.  Create a mock-up and share with your stakeholders to make sure everyone is on board with the look, feel and utility of the report.   You will want to test the various delivery mechanisms to be employed including all email clients and mobile platforms you believe may be used.  Generally speaking, assume a significant percentage of the audience may look at the report on a mobile device, making this an especially important dynamic to test.  Once you have the report format established, define your workflow process – who pulls data and when, who creates visuals and by when, who compiles and edits the report and by when, and who is responsible for distribution and against what schedule.

Training – The first decision to make with training is if you want to tackle it yourself or rely on the listening platform vendor to perform the training.  Some vendors have very strong training programs and others not so much.  Some vendors charge for training and some do the bulk of it for free.  You most likely will want to take a train-the-trainer hybrid approach to training – have a core one/two/three people trained by the platform vendor, and then charge this team with training within your company or organization.  With respect to training timing, make sure to begin training only after everyone has a log-in to the system so they can actually use the system during the training.  I usually refer to this as training with live ammo.  If you don’t do this you’ll find the half-life of training is pretty short – folks forget most of what they have learned very rapidly.  I also find a tell-show-do teaching methodology works very well (my friends at Radian6 approach training this way).  Show some slides that cover the basics, show a video or canned demo that brings it to life and then have everyone do some hands-on exercises using the platform.  Remember you will need to address initial training needs as well as ongoing needs as new users are brought on the platform.

Event-specific and Programmatic Planning – Related to keyword analysis and taxonomy build-out, it may be wise to create keyword groups for programs you know you will be asked to listen to and measure, and for any potential events, like a crisis, that you can anticipate or imagine.  With respect to programmatic listening and measurement, generally a combination of the right keywords and date-ranging will allow you to pull in program-specific content.  If programs are known at the time of configuration and deployment, get ahead of the curve and set-up the keyword groups or source filters you may need.

If a company, brand or organization has a social listening program, you are remiss if you don’t include specific keywords that may serve as an early-detection system for potential crisis.  For example, depending on the type of organization and industry, it may be advisable to set up a keyword search like this: Company Name AND fire OR explosion OR shooting OR recall OR kidnapping OR crash.

In today’s real-time world, in my opinion, it is no longer optional to have social media listening capabilities.  As a result of this three-part series on listening platforms, I hope you are better equipped to plan, select and deploy your platform effectively.

Thanks for reading.

Social Media Listening Platforms – Plan, Select, Deploy (Part Two – Select)

2 Jun

In Part One, we discussed a range of topics designed to help you plan and define the scope and requirements for selecting and deploying a social media listening platform across your company or organization.  In Part Two, we will use the knowledge and perspective we gained in planning to orchestrate a thorough and effective platform selection process.

Here is a scalable selection process that will help you surface and select the social media listening platform that best meets your unique situation and requirements.

1. Define the individuals who will be involved in the selection process – Inclusion is a powerful card to play here.  Inclusion brings different perspectives together.  Inclusion greatly improves chances for success when it is time to authorize purchase of a platform and get it deployed properly across the organization or company.  Inclusion will increase the likelihood of acceptance and use of the platform across the organization.  Include representatives from the major stakeholder groups identified during the planning process.  You might include someone from your IT department.  You might also include the individuals who must authorize the purchase.  A group of up to ten is most workable.  After ten or so, I believe you will most likely experience diminishing returns on the incremental people added to the process.

2. Develop a list of selection criteria organized by major category – Based on the planning process we undertook in Part One, develop a list of categories that are most important to learn more about.  Here are ten categories you might consider including:

  • Content Sources/Types & Aggregation Strategy – What types of social content are brought into the system?  How is the content aggregated (e.g. RSS, crawling, third-party aggregators)?  How often is each type of content aggregated?  
  • Data and Search Considerations – How long is content archived, and is back data available?  What data cleansing strategies are in place to address spam, splogs and duplicate content?  Is full Boolean logic available for constructing searches?
  • Metrics and Analytics – What specific metrics are ‘standard’ in the system?  Is automated sentiment analysis offered at the brand or post level?  What audience-level data is available?
  • Data Presentation  – What dashboard features and functionality are offered?  Can dashboards be customized by user or group?  Are drill-down capabilities available for all analytics on the dashboard?    
  • Engagement and Workflow Functionality – Does the platform offer the ability to engage directly with content owners?  Can ‘owned’ content be managed on-platform?  What workflow management and reporting capabilities are offered?
  • Integration – What additional types of data may be integrated in the system – traditional media, web analytics, email, call center, CRM, etc?
  • Reporting Capability – Does the platform have a report function?  Can reports be customized?  Automated?
  • Geographic Scope – What countries and languages are addressed by the system?  Are two-byte languages supported?
  • Cost Structure – What is the cost basis – seat charge, subscription, content volume and/or number of searches?  How does pricing vary with increases in the cost basis?
  • Value-added Services – Does the listening platform vendor offer system configuration services?  Do they perform analysis and reporting?

Within each major category, list the specific criteria most relevant and important to your requirements.  For example, within the Data and Search Considerations category, you might list ten specific criteria that you want to assess for each vendor:

  • How often is Twitter data refreshed?  Can refresh timing be specified?
  • How often is new content from other sources crawled/brought into the system?
  • How long can each content type be archived?
  • Is back data available?  How far back and at what cost?
  • What data cleansing strategies are in place?
  • Can data be easily exported in CSV/Excel format and is bulk data extraction supported?
  • Can users build and customize topics and searches?
  • What types of Boolean operators are supported?
  • Is proximity search supported?
  • Do users have the ability to date-range data for analysis?

3. Develop a scorecard to use in evaluating the potential listening platform vendors/partners – Using the major categories and specific criteria you have defined, develop an overall scorecard to be used in the evaluation process.  Think about creating a weighting system at the category level to help prioritize the importance of each category.  Assign a number of points to each criteria within a given category.  A scorecard might contain ten categories each containing ten criteria.  Begin by assigning a one-point value to each criteria (100 points total) and then apply weighting at the category level.

4. Develop the initial vendor consideration set – List all the social media platform vendors you wish to consider.  Pick ones you are familiar with and have positive experiences with as a starting point.  Talk to colleagues within, and experts outside, the organization to gain their perspective on the platforms that should be considered.  Read blog posts and reviews of the platforms to gain additional outside perspective.  Visit vendor websites and watch demo videos.  Pull it all together and gain consensus amongst your team on the platforms that will be considered.

5. Do some homework and narrow the list to a manageable number (perhaps five to ten)- If your initial vendor consideration set is too large (if it has more than ten vendors it is too large), do some additional homework and narrow your list to a more manageable number.

6. Develop and distribute an RFI based on evaluation criteria – Using the categories and criteria you developed, create a request for proposal, asking the listening platform vendors the questions that are most critical to meeting your requirements.  Specify the format (e.g. PowerPoint, Word) you would like responses to take.  Give the vendors about two weeks to respond.

7. Evaluate and score vendor responses – Once the RFI documents are received, each should be reviewed carefully and scored according to the criteria and weighting decided previously.  Depending on the number of vendors being evaluated and ease of getting the entire evaluation team together, there may be merit in blocking out an afternoon to gather as a group, read through the responses, and decide how each will be scored.  This is a bit of a ‘pulling off the band-aid’  approach that will save time and allow for spirited discussion and consensus scoring.  If this is impractical for whatever reason in your company or organization, assign one of more RFIs to individuals who will then develop the scorecards.  The scorecards may then be reviewed together in a meeting or conference call, and consensus reached on scoring.  Obviously the potential issue with multiple people independently creating scorecards is consistency.  You want the evaluation to be as fair and consistent as possible given whatever constraints you are working under.

8. Develop a short list of vendors – If your number of vendors under consideration is over five, use the scorecards to reduce the list to three to five platforms that will undergo further evaluation.  These are your finalists.  You should always promptly notify vendors not moving forward in the process, and offer to provide feedback via phone or email on why they were not selected to move forward.  This professionalism will be much appreciated by the vendors, and represents a good learning opportunity for all involved if done well.

9. Deploy test scenarios – At this point we have narrowed the list of contenders and are ready to proceed with some specific tests designed to illuminate the real-world capabilities of the platforms.  Here are three possible test scenarios.  You can use all three for a very rigorous evaluation, or just one or two if that fits your needs better.

  • Test scenario 1: Give each vendor a defined list of search terms (brands, competitors, issues) and the languages/countries you want to evaluate.   You should use search terms that are directly relevant to your company or organization.  Explain what type of analysis you would like performed and ask each to address insight generation.  Platform vendors are given one week to prepare an analysis.  If practical, you could ask each vendor to give a presentation of the results in person.  Alternatively, use a web conference to review the results.
  • Test scenario 2: This is a real-time exercise designed to assess vendor data volume by country/language and signal-to-noise ratio of relevant content.  Get on a web conference with each social media listening platform vendor.  Give them a new list of three search terms and ask that they go into their platform, configure the system for the three search terms and then pull in relevant content for the past 30 days.  Once that is accomplished, ask them to export the data as an CSV or Excel file and email you the results while everyone is still on the line.  A more detailed off-line review of the results should be undertaken, including translation of languages, to assess relevancy of the results.
  • Test scenario 3: This has been referred to by a colleague as the Dr. Evil test…In conjunction with test scenario two, it may be interesting to ‘plant’ known content that matches the search terms on different Twitter channels, Facebook pages and Forums in each country that is of interest to you.  When you receive your data export, examine to determine if the known content was found.

10. Pick a winner – At this point you have the RFIs, scorecards and test results.  You are ready to make your decision.  Convene the evaluation team, discuss the results and make a decision.  With luck, a clear winner will have emerged from the process.  Contact the winner and negotiate terms of a contract.  Don’t notify the non-winners until after a contract is in place, just in case you need to move to your second choice for whatever reason.

In Part Three, we will discuss how to maximize your potential for success when actually deploying the social media listening platform across your organization.

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