Brand owners search for insight

12 October 2010

NEW YORK: Brand owners such as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and LinkedIn are leveraging the information available on social media to generate insights.

Since last September, Coca-Cola has been testing a system, developed by Netbase, which tracks commentary covering 75m sources including Facebook and Twitter, alongside blogs and forums.

It provides a "natural language processing engine" delivering real-time analysis across market trends, "hot topics", brand health and other core metrics.

Coke began trialling this software by tracking responses to an ad campaign, and gauging popular perceptions concerning artificial sweetener.

Stan Sthanunathan, vp, marketing strategy and insights at Coca-Cola, said it will start introducing this platform globally in November, after "its ability to understand the context as opposed to just the content" made an impression.

"Brands don't become great by monitoring the past," Sthanunathan added. "The challenge is to have a point of view on the future."

"Consumers know what they want and are giving their opinions in an unconstrained fashion."

Constructing dedicated procedures to mine material is increasingly crucial as individuals are no longer able to perform these tasks.

"Very often, you end up boiling the ocean," Sthanunathan argued.

Jonathan Spier, ceo/co-founder of Netbase, suggested the company's product was differentiated by its capacity to "read and understand the English language."

"For 40 years now, the tech industry has been digitising everything in sight," said Spier. "The next 40 years, businesses will be focused on how to make sense of all that information."

"What's needed are systems that can view the world through many lenses, with the kind of accuracy businesses really need to make decisions."

Netbase recently signed up 50 customers in 90 days, and is currently assessing around 50,000 sentences of content each minute in a bid to keep clients up-to-date.

The impetus behind Netbase's activity resulted after Procter & Gamble, the FMCG specialist, requested an expansion of a service already being employed by in-house scientists in 2008.

Last month, P&G utilised a more official approach, partnering with TwitterMoms, which offers the "world's first social seal of approval programme" from such a key audience.

P&G's Ultra Concentrated Dawn dishwashing liquid was subjected to a "blind study", with 100% of the panel saying it met or exceeded expectations, and 93% displaying a willingness to recommend the product.

"We were excited to give this new take on the traditional seal program a try," said Susan Baba, Dawn's external relations manager at P&G.

Jeff Weiner, ceo of business-orientated social network LinkedIn, stated this kind of model is becoming vitally important.

"People are sharing their identity, building their networks online - sharing information and knowledge at rates never seen before," he said.

Weiner is also participating in groups on the site which are relevant to his own firm, acquiring news about the main issues facing staff.

"I can only spend so much time physically walking the halls. But with these tools in place, I can actually take the pulse of the company," he said.

John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco, the networking specialist, predicted that truly integrating social media within corporate structures and decision-making could have a profound impact.

"I think it would turn organisation structures upside down," he said. "I think it would turn dramatically how you make decisions and drive productivity."

Data sourced from Technology Review/CNN; additional content by Warc staff