Radian6 CEO Marcel LeBrun tells Forbes why brands need to listen online

Radian6 CEO Marcel LeBrun tells Forbes why brands need to listen online

Tracking A Million Conversationsby Dan Woods, Forbes, 11.17.09

New technologies that help businesses monitor social media.

Social media allows anyone to say anything they want and have it broadcast across the globe. Most of the time our conversations simmer in obscurity and then drift off into the nothingness of digital archives. But some ideas boil over. Perhaps United Airlines broke your guitar or you had an idea about Chad Vader, Darth's younger brother. When such thoughts propagate and capture the attention of millions of people, they change perceptions. From a business point of view, these opinions and ideas can become the equivalent of marketing campaigns that would cost millions of dollars.

Marketing and media relations professionals are now tasked with tracking millions of conversations, keeping an eye on which ideas are growing in influence, and then determining how to respond. But social media is not just about media anymore. The way the customer service is delivered, the way sales and hiring prospects are evaluated, and the techniques for product development are all being transformed. For example, it is common for someone who complains about a product on Twitter to then be contacted by the company that makes the product. Will customer service in the future start with a tweet because consumers expect companies to be listening? Sales staff now routinely evaluate prospects on LinkedIn. But howcan all the other relevant evidence in hundreds of social media sources be found efficiently?

The first wave of experimentation with social media in business took place by brute force, using search technology to find conversations of interest and then to get involved. The vast number of sources and the mind-blowing volume of activity means that some sort of automated monitoring system is required. Here, we take a look at the technology involved in tracking social media and the different monitoring strategies they enable.

The systems we are about to describe work in two ways: The most common is based on some sort of guidance. You tell the system something about the conversations that are important to you, then receive a summary of related conversations. Most systems also allow you to ask, “What are the most active topics in social media right now?” and then get some summary. In both cases, you can then drill down and explore the connections between categories of conversations.

Radian6 leads the pack as an aggregator of many different technology approaches, including various kinds of search and some text analytics that can be applied to a wide variety of business processes. Marcel LeBrun, CEO of Radian6, describes his company's software as a listening and engagement platform through which you can track conversations, get social media profiles of who is talking–“caller ID for the Internet,” LeBrun says–and most importantly, measure how rapidly attention is growing. An extremely negative post that is not generating responses may be less worrisome than a mildly negative one that has 100 comments in the last hour. Radian6 comes with workflow and integration with the usual suspects for CRM, ERP and content management so that important conversations can be channeled through a process for responding.

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