Is this the final answer to social media measurement?

The blogosphere is buzzing about the new social media measurement platform SAS Institute Inc. announced yesterday.   Is there a place for yet ANOTHER social web monitoring tool in a crowded market? And what is so special about this announcement?

The answer is yes, there is a place for this new entry, and here are four reasons why I think SAS will be successful in this competitive space.

Text-sensitive analysis — I had the opportunity to review several social media measurement platforms over the past few months including market leader Radian6.  Everyone is struggling with accurate textual analysis for “sentiment” reports and are loading up on costly human resources to examine tweets for tone and emotion.  Most don’t think computers can do it.  If SAS has started to crack this code — and some say they have done this by leveraging their other existing technologies — this will be of immense value to customers.  And hey, they claim they can understand and classify conversations in 13 languages (Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish).

Experience — I can say from my corporate days that SAS has a superb reputation in the analytical space and has expert resources that small competitors simply cannot match. During the Internet press conference, Katie Paine (a presenter) said, “Can you imagine the design of experiments we can run with these capabilities?”  Now we’re talking!  Putting the SAS computer power and analytical experience to the test in the social media market will produce incredibly powerful, breakthrough insights. We can only hope they make some of the new marketing innovations available to us little guys!

Market access — This move just makes so much business sense for SAS. They are already providing powerful analytical software to many of the most important companies in the world.  They are already embedded in the corporate cultures.  They speak the language. This is a perfect market extension for them.  They already own these customers and this is way to gather in the social media monitoring revenue as well.

Integration with traditional systems — SAS already provides their customers with services such as marketing campaign management, customer experience analytics, marketing performance management and web analytics. Add the social web on top of this and you are looking for some powerhouse combinations, some potentially breath-taking insights.

So that’s why SAS is going to kick social media butt.  And notice I didn’t even mention the basic analytical capabilities or user interface.  I’ll leave that to the tech writers. Besides it doesn’t really matter.   Nobody will really leverage technology in this space for competitive advantage when all the underlying data is already available.  Making the technology do tricks is the easy part. Having the market presence, integration capabilities, and customer access — now that’s something that SAS can take to the bank.

Is there still room for the other players?  Of course.  First, SAS is going for the large enterprise market. Bring $60,000 in annual fees just to get a seat with the basic platform and $180,000/year for the deluxe model.  That leaves 90 percent of the market for the other guys to squabble over.

Who does this impact the most? Probably Radian6. They’ve been working the large enterprises like Dell and Pepsi so this will be a tough new competitor on the enterprise scene.  But hey, this is a white-hot, still-emerging market. I would expect to see consolidation and players dropping out on the lower end of the market before the higher end, and even that is going to take some time.

What do you think?  Who are the big winners and losers out of this?  How will the market be impacted?

How do you push yourself out of your social media cage?

Where I live in East Tennessee black bears are a real fact of life.  Actually, that’s one of the reasons I’ve remained here. In 45 minutes, I can be hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where bears (and fresh air) are plentiful.

I heard this story about a bear cub that was rescued after her mother had been hit by a car. The cub was put in a temporary 12 x 12 cage by a wildlife rescue habitat until they could decide what to do with her. Day after day the cub just paced back and forth — from one end of the cage to the other — pining for her mother.

As the bear grew, they finally had a chance to transfer her to a more spacious structure. But the strangest thing happened.  No matter where the little bear was placed in the cage, she would still go exactly 12 feet and turn around, 12 feet and turn around.

Sometimes I feel like that cub.  I’m conditioned to the size of my “cage.”  Although my business environment is expanding day by day, I still pace those 12 steps, back and forth.

I’ll give you an example. Have you ever really tried to follow the technology news on Mashable?  I give these folks a lot of credit. They’ve built an excellent, comprehensive and entertaining news stream. Only problem is — it’s just too much. You could sit and read Mashable all day long.  So I stick my toe in, get discouraged, and return to my little cage.

Another example is the excellent Base One B2B purchasing study I wrote about last week.  It mentioned that purchasing professionals now spend about 30 minutes a week on industry-related social networks. It would probably be a good idea for me to branch out and explore some of those networks but after I read such a report, I generally turn to the next news item or blog post to discover what else I’m missing out on!

One of those news items might be the great changes being made to Tweetdeck. I’m a Seesmic kind of guy and can’t even bring myself to check out another platform because of the time it would take.

I know part of this is a matter of human bandwidth. We can only psychologically commit to so many technological platforms. But I’m afraid I’m limiting myself and perhaps falling behind on that all-important business and life skill of adaptability. How do you cope with this?

How do you sift and sort and figure out where to spend your time exploring innovations?

How do you maintain technological relevance, even in your narrow professional space?

How do you unleash your “bear?”

Illustration: www.bear.org

It’s time to unleash your blog

Check out this quote from Patrick CraneVP Marketing, LinkedIn

“We started the LinkedIn Blog almost three years ago when we were a 60 person company.  Now we are a 600 person company … Promoting your blog front and center is a massively efficient way to promote your business and achieve multiple nosiness objectives — launch products, hire talent, proactively address issues your company faces, tap the evangelism of your customers … Management was dubious in the beginning, but Kay Luo our PR lead pushed it through. Nobody doubts the power of our blog now. In fact they depend upon it.”

It seems like every day I see research, testimonies and case studies like this supporting the idea that blogs are not only creating new business benefits for corporations, they’re rapidly filling an information need for customers throughout the sales cycle.

Yet, many companies have been sluggish to climb on board.  At others, the intiative may be misunderstood, with only half-hearted management support. And despite the fanfare of Twitter, Facebook and their much-hyped cousins, meaningful guidance on establishing and nurturing a blog in a corporate setting has been incredibly rare.  

Clearly the time is right to re-think the role of the company blog and figure out how to unleash its potential.

If you’re a blogger, thinking about blogging, or struggling with blogging, I’d like to alert you to an exceptional opportunity.  Billy Mitchell, a frequent contributor to the {grow} community and leader of MLT Creative in Atlanta, asked me to spend some time studying the opportunities and challenges of the business blog.  The results will be presented in a free webinar and the release of an accompanying eBook Wednesday, April 14.  This unique one-hour event plows  new ground for corporate bloggers, examining questions like:

  • Positioning a company blog as a point of competitive differentiation
  • Dealing with company politics and blogging 
  • The myth of community building
  • Using your blog to “sell me softly”

I’m really proud of how this presentation developed in terms of the uniqueness of the information and the quality of the materials.   This will be a fascinating, fast-paced event jammed with new ideas. I hope you can attend this event with me and join this timely discussion about unleashing your blog. Click HERE to learn more!

illustration: colunas.globoesporte.com/

Research shows young procurement professionals embracing social web

Planning on using the social web to market to B2B decision-makers?  According to just-released research from London’s Base One Group, you might consider the age of your target audience.

In a comprehensive study of 503 UK B2B purchasing decision-makers, those under 30 years of age were twice as likely to be fans of the social web and use it actively as an information-gathering tool.

The report does a nice job breaking out the information channels used by B2B decision makers by demographics and industry, but also by the stage in the decision-making process.

For example, decision-makers under 30 counted on blogs, Twitter and Facebook at the exploratory stage of a supplier search about 30% of the time compared to about 6% for those over 30 years of age.  The one exception was LinkedIn, where both age groups found equal utility.

Important implication of this –  the upcoming generation of professionals is relying heavily on new media as an information gathering tool.

Blogs rule?

Another thought-provoking nugget in the study, is that when B2B procurement decision-makers were finding potential new suppliers, Twitter and blogs were considered as a more influential source of supplier information than any other information channel, including word of mouth, seminars and industry publications.

However, the most popular sources of information across all ages remains decidedly “old school:” web searches, supplier websites, seminars, and the industrial press.

In fact, when asked how their information gathering behavior had changed, procurement professionals cited the greatest increased use of web searches (up for  64% of respondents) and supplier websites (up for 61%). Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter experienced 6% and 10% net increases respectively, and LinkedIn saw growth of 19%. Online videos/webinars/podcasts were also a strong source of information with an increase in usage of 36%, consistent with other B2B research that has been featured on {grow}.

Base One Group commissioned the new research in association with B2B Marketing Magazine.  The study had a diverse industry profile including manufacturing, business services, financial, public administration and healthcare. About 50% of the respondents had 1,000 employees or more.

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