How can a B2B company or marketer keep an eye on all that social media chatter surrounding their space? It takes time, well-planned strategies and knowledge of what’s relevant and what’s pointless.
Also, how can a B2B marketer wade through all the spam infecting the social Web? According to Nexgate, there was an increase of 355 percent in the first half of 2013 alone. “It’s becoming harder and harder to actually find real information and real data inside social media,” says Claude G. Théoret. “When you look at it from a big data perspective, it’s called the data veracity problem.”
Théoret is the founder and CEO of Nexalogy Environics, a Montréal-based social data analysis platform that helps companies better understand what people are saying about them in online channels (Nexalogy is also a B2BNN partner). After his postdoctoral research at the world-renowned Collège de France in Paris, he spent his transition year at l’Ecole nationale des ponts et chaussées, where he focused on nanotechnology. A trained astrophysicist, he knew a lot about the arduous time it takes to sift through data.
At that time, he realized that the hundreds of thousands of scientific papers he had analyzed with his team contained the same metadata as blogs. So, in 2007, he started adapting network and lexical analysis to the blogosphere, and later expanded his work to Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
“Social data is simply data emitted by a person,” he states. “You have an author, timestamp, origin, and open text. So, that’s how we made the link between signal-to-noise ratio analysis in astrophysical data and similar types of analysis in people data.”
What he discovered in the process is the overload of information on the social web. Spam is especially rampant, a major problem rooted in unstructured text.
Yet, that is not the end of it. There are also identification issues. For example, a user’s Twitter ID does not match up to their Facebook ID or LinkedIn ID. The names are always slightly different.
A third issue is name disambiguation, Théoret notes:
“It’s very serious for brands like Subway, Ford or Lincoln. They all have a secondary term. For example, Pontiac is a car but it was also an Aboriginal leader. Corvette is a car but also a class of military ship.”
Nexalogy Environics bridges an important gap in that area. The tool identifies and filters the spam to deliver sources of real data. Then, it clusters individual items to show the topology of the conversation.
“If a new discussion is starting, that’s separate from the main one, our software will automatically find it. It’s especially useful to surface weak signals and new, emerging markets that you wouldn’t normally see because the data is overwhelming.”
Nexalogy may still be in the prototypical phase, the team has worked with a variety of clients since its inception in 2006. Théoret notes that B2B companies and organizations understand the need to use social media but still struggle to measure its ROI. We have seen that especially prevalent in Canada, where brands tend to be a little more conservative than their U.S. counterparts. However, Théoret is confident that things should start changing within the next four to five years.
Théoret’s advice to brands is simple. If you want quality leads, you will have to invest time and money in tools:
“With a bit of work, depending on your type of business, if you are willing to pay $300, $400 or $500 per qualified lead, social media becomes a very cheap way of generating these leads. You simply have to listen for people who want that service or your product.
“All these people express what they want already, whether they are voters or interested in buying a car. But it’s not always clear. That’s why you need advanced software to be able to make up for the muddling and unclear human expression of these needs.”
However, before jumping on the social media bandwagon, Nexalogy’s CEO cautions brands to have a basic strategy. And it starts with their lead acquisition costs. Without that number, they cannot really move forward:
“If you can bring it down to a per-lead cost of what you can do on social, it wins almost universally,” he says.
Théoret also warns against trusting gurus. Instead, brands should focus on a data-driven approach: “It may not crack the ROI question. But at least it will give you some basic numbers that you can understand.”
At the end of the day, though, brands and B2B firms cannot achieve much without setting realistic goals and clear KPIs. Give yourself three or four months to experiment. Then readjust, based on your results. And if you neglect analyzing layers of social data, you might be finishing way behind your tech-savvy competition.