Mastering The Salmon Dance: Why High Quality Content Isn’t Enough To Get Noticed Online
Did you know? Marine dolphins see quite well both below and above the water.

I recently saw the following short interview with Jay Baer (posted on Convince and Convert) in which he talks about the recent changes to Google’s search engine algorithms (Panda and Hummingbird in particular).

In this interview, Jay explains why these changes to Google mean that producing high quality authoritative content is becoming a minimum requirement to winning customer attention online – if you care about ranking on a search engine, that is.

He’s right.

But this is just short term advice.

There’s a technology storm coming soon that will render even great content worthless if you’re not prepared for it.

Google Moves from Keywords to Context

Others have written extensively about where Google is headed with innovations in quality scoringconversational search and semantic search. I won’t bore you with the details here.

Suffice it to say, the future of getting your content “found” online is no longer about keyword stuffing, guest blogging and grey-hat link building.

Google’s recent and rapid migration away from keywords towards understanding user context carries big implications for today’s inbound marketing, content marketing and of course, search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

With Google’s latest releases (Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird), we are now being forced to focus intensely on the user’s needs with our content. High quality content is the only sure way to rank.

If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to re-think what you’ve been doing with your websites, your SEO tactics, your marketing platforms and especially, your content.

Producing High Quality Content Isn’t Nearly Enough To Get Noticed

Watching Jay’s interview only crystallized my strongly-held belief that high quality content will soon lose its competitive advantage. 

“Say what? Content marketing is on fire!”, you may be thinking.

I’ve written about this issue before.  I call it “The Flipboard Effect”.

The story goes like this:

As marketers school together and publish ever-increasing amounts of high-quality, authoritative content online, a simple math problem arises that most content marketing pros haven’t addressed (much less acknowledged).

We end up publishing much more quality content than our target audience could ever consume.  

We overwhelm them with quality, in other words.

You might argue, as Barry Feldman recently did, that even better content quality is the way to win this game.

To which I would counter,

Drowning in Champagne is still drowning.

large-glass-of-champagne

In the real world, even super-premium-quality markets can get over-supplied with inventory. Just ask Ferrari about the early 1990s.

This is especially true when the cost of the product is so low, as it is with digital media.

The math behind this issue is easy to understand:

  • the amount of quality content being published & shared online is doubling about every 2 years
  • the growth in online users, human attention span and our ability to consume content are not growing as fast.

This is why publishing better, high-quality content will never be a complete long-term strategy for grabbing the attention of your audience.

I believe that we reached the saturation point on Facebook several years ago, when EdgeRank was released.

On Twitter, the “drowning in Champagne” problem is clear to anyone who follows more than 100 quality accounts. Have you read ALL of your Twitter stream lately?

In the future, high-quality content will of course be important – but it will be a minimum requirement. You’ll have to do much more than that to actually deliver that content to your target audience.

Mastering The Salmon Dance

So what else do we need to do to reach our market… you know, those nice people who won’t take our calls or read our emails today?

Well, in my opinion we will have to master three new dance steps to get our awesome content into the welcoming arms of our market.  

I call this 3-step ditty, “The Salmon Dance” … and not just because I like The Chemical Brothers (which I do! bonus music video, below). 

Here are the three new dance steps we’ll all need to learn:

Step 1:  make your content stand out in a really crowded stream.

No matter how good it is, you must acknowledge that your awesome content is entering a roaring, noisy and fast-growing stream overflowing with similar-looking beasts.

So how do we get noticed?

Well, understand that people are passionate first and rational second. So inject some emotion into your content to get it noticed.

Creativity, heart-tugging headlines, humor and drama have never been more important.

If your team is more business than fun (as most professional marketers tend to be), then hire a professional videographer, a comedian or a screen writer to produce and edit your next line of content. Or maybe even your agency (the horror!).

You know, maybe Miley Cyrus is on to something (ignoring “content quality” for a second).

twerking a scientific explanation

Step 2: learn how to navigate new, hidden (& fatal) obstacles.  

grizzly bear hunting salmon

Once published in a million channels, your content will have to make it through a variety of customer media filters that are being built right now between you and your customer.  

Hundreds of millions of people today are using new personal media curation platforms to uncover the most relevant content from their fast-moving streams – and to filter out the crapSome of the more popular ones used today include Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Feedly and Flipboard (90mm users).

The dance step you need to learn here is simple: learn how to optimize & publish your content so they shine in these platforms.

For example, Flipboard accepts optimized RSS feeds, so your articles can look and feel like they were published in a magazine.

Step 3:  turn new technology into a competitive advantage

In addition to dealing with changing audience behavior, you will also need to learn how to publish content that will naturally rank well in the new search models and algorithms that are coming online, right now.

If you don’t learn how to adapt to this sea change in search technology, then your content risks being ignored – even if it’s awesome.

salmon against the current

New Search Algorithms

Among the more important hidden forces you’ll need to turn to your advantage are new search algorithms that Google, Apple and Facebook are building right now.

For example, consider latent search.

Latent search is what happens when Google doesn’t wait for you to enter a search query, but instead relies on environmental data (mobile apps) and historical data (your cookie trail) to know what you’re doing right now and recommend an action or content that might be helpful… without requiring you to lift a finger or enter a query.

To crunch this data, Google uses machine learning, semantic markups and natural language processing – to name a few.

The most important thing you need to understand about latent search is that it prioritizes content based on user behavior, user context & entities – not keywords. Latent search also uses data collected on our mobile devices, a trend that is growing very quickly.

Latent search algorithms are more complex and harder to understand than Page Rank. And, if Google’s most recent change to keyword visibility is an indication, we may soon have to navigate these currents with even less information than we have now.

Clearly, old-style SEO tricks won’t cut it anymore.

According to Google, to rank well in their search platform, you will need to build content that:

  • addresses a specific problem or otherwise provides significant value for the user
  • is formatted to work on the user’s device (e.g., if for mobile then it should be short & to the point, load fast, responsive, etc.)
  • relates to entities (not keywords) that the user cares about

To learn more about this subject, check out Eric Engel’s great Copyblogger article that describes how Hummingbird, semantic search and context are changing the face of search – and why quality, helpful content is a prerequisite for ranking high.

Mobile and Wearable Computing

If you think your audience has attention deficit problems today, then you ain’t seen nothing yet!

The wide variety of mobile & wearable computing devices coming to market now will soon account for more than 1/2 of online impressions.

Each type of device – smartwatch, eyeglass, tablet and smartphone – fills a different role in our lives, which argues for a future in which different types of content may be required for each. 

And, clearly, blog posts aren’t the answer for mobile/wearable computing.

There are some common “content themes” emerging for mobile devices, however. Most mobile & wearable devices provide a lot less screen space to engage people, and they are used mainly when people are time-pressed, so they average less viewing time. This argues for a future full of bite-sized chunks of content delivered as-needed, in a highly personalized way. Long-form posts won’t work on a smart watch.

Google Now is a real product that provides a glimpse into the way online marketing might work on mobile/wearable devices in the future:

google now on phone

Think: bite-sized, actionable, alert-like and personalized.

Here are a few more mobile-related technologies that are coming soon that you should start learning about now – before they impact your journey upstream:

  • cookie-less ad targeting
  • mobile-ready content: useful, minimal and responsive (1,000 word blog posts might not cut it)
  • in-app publishing
  • click-to-call marketing (back to the future, with phone calls!)
  • wearable computing apps (smart watches & Google Glass)

So:

Is your content ready to master the “Salmon Dance”?

 

NeedTagger helps you find and engage with people who may need your business right now.

Creating a stream of engagement opportunities for your business is easy.  If you’ve ever used an advanced search tool like those offered by Twitter or Google, you can use NeedTagger.

Video Tutorial

Most people use NeedTagger for three things:

  • Meet New Customers
  • Manage Your Reputation 
  • Market Your Content (to People Who Need It)

This 10-minute video shows how to configure these three types of streams for your business, using examples as a guide.

 

 

Using NeedTagger in HootSuite

Do you use HootSuite for social media listening and engagement?

Then you might be interested in the following live demo that shows how to use the NeedTagger app in HootSuite to monitor Twitter for three types of business opportunities.

  1. Sales prospects – 1 stream per region
  2. Customer complaints – 1 stream per product line
  3. People who need your content – 1 stream per topic or blog post

In this video, we compare NeedTagger results against native keyword-filtered streams in HootSuite, to give you an idea of how our streams differ in quality.

 

Note: NeedTagger is FREE to try, but you will need a paid plan to use more than one stream at a time.

 

How To Build a Custom Stream Using StreamBuilder

The step-by-step guide below illustrates how to set up an intent-filtered stream using StreamBuilder.

Find customers and prospects on Twitter

The Settings

There are two ways to create a stream using NeedTager:

  1. Select a Pre-Tested Stream for your Industry (really easy).  Choose a stream that matches your type of business.  Then edit the keywords, audience settings and location settings to narrow your focus.
  1. Create a custom filter by telling us what you’re looking for.

Three Key Settings & How They Work Together

To create a custom stream for your business, you’ll need to enter at least three pieces of information into NeedTagger’s StreamBuilder search panel (see screenshot above):

  1. select the industry you operate in
  2. select the conversation types (intent) you are interested in, and,
  3. enter the discussion topics (keywords) that are relevant to your business.

These settings work together as if they were used in a sentence that describes the audience you are trying to reach, as explained in the slide below:

How the settings work 2013-01-07-103245

In addition to these settings, you can target your audience by location and profile using advanced targeting options. Expand the blue bar at the bottom of the screen to access them.

5 Most Common Stream Types

Most of our customers use NeedTagger to meet 5 business objectives.

The chart below shows how to set up each type of stream for your business.

Optional Settings (to narrow your focus further)

Pre-Tested Streams
Over 70 pre-tested prospecting streams have been created by the NeedTagger team for our customers in 13 industries.

Pre-Tested streams contain extra settings (green lamp indicator) which are not visible, because they cannot be easily mapped into the StreamBuilder interface (we leverage more intelligence than you see in the search panel).

You may edit a pre-tested stream; however, if you change the Conversation Filters setting, the “extra stuff” lamp will turn off and the filter’s quality will diminish.

 

Keyword Groups

These are common, pre-tested topic groups for an industry.  Eliminates the need to enter long lists of common keywords.

 

Location (Profile) 

About 40% of Twitter users declare their residence in their profiles.  To narrow your geographic focus, select the state, city and radius to limit posts coming from people who live within that region.

 

Location (Message) 

Only about 1% of tweets today note where they were posted from (geo tagged), so use this one sparingly.  Select the state, city and radius to restrict your stream to posts made from a specific location.

Target Audience

Enter keywords to search Twitter profile descriptions (see red box below) for people who mention specific job titles, family roles, hobbies, professional certifications, etc. in their profiles.

Profile Filters 

We’ve assembled pre-tested Twitter profiles that look for common job titles, interests and social roles. Specific to an industry.

 


Tweak ‘Em ‘Til You’re Satisfied

After you save your settings, your stream will update itself automatically and present itself for your review.  Up to 30 days of history will be shown.

Edit-and-Save your settings as many times as you’d like… until you get the stream quality you want.

Once your prospecting streams are setup, you can sit back and watch the opportunities flow.

How To Use Social Media to Trigger Actions In Your Marketing Automation Platform
Did you know? A baby dolphin must learn to hold its breath while nursing.

This is the final post in a 3-part series that addresses the future of real-time, multi-channel marketing and the critical, driving role that social media plays in it.

 

In our first and second posts, we discussed how real-time social data can make an enterprise more agile and responsive, and we discussed the critical role that marketing automation platforms play in making this possible.

 

In this post, we’ll show you how to get access to real-time social data, extract meaningful signals from it and leverage them in your marketing automation platform to trigger emails, score leads and improve marketing performance.

Social Triggers: Like Any Other (but different)

Most marketing automation platforms can leverage online behaviors to trigger a variety of marketing actions today. For example, many will let you automatically send an email to a contact when they visit a certain page, or launch a drip campaign after a successful lead capture.

Social signals of intent are another class of behavioral trigger that many leading MAPs can leverage today (with IT assistance) to trigger emails, send internal alerts, launch campaigns, score leads – pretty much anything your marketing automation system can do.

By “social signals of intent”, I mean social media users who are asking questions about, complaining about and explicitly buying your type of products and services.  These are just three examples – there are actually dozens of types of social signals of intent that can be leveraged to trigger marketing actions.

Using social signals to automatically trigger marketing actions offers several advantages over web- and other behavioral triggers, including:

  • more behavioral triggers per contact: your socially-active contacts are publishing a huge amount of data about their likes, interests and feelings in social media.  More signals means you have a chance to interact more often, around very specific topics.  This shortens sales cycles and keeps your prospect engaged with you.
  • higher-quality signals of intent: a traditional marketing trigger is really just a guess about someone’s intentions based on an action like downloading a white paper or clicking on a certain page. A person’s words provide much more information about their intent.  In fact, some social signals are extremely explicit requests to buy!
  • eliminate the ‘creepy’ factor in social media marketing:  if you identify a person complaining about a competitor on Twitter and then send them a tweet, it can be kinda creepy.  But if you send them an email pointing out the differences between your products and your competitors,  the “stalker risk” is basically eliminated from the equation.

This article explains how to build social triggers you can use in your marketing automation system, in four steps.

Note: you do not need to be active in social media in order to to use socially-triggered marketing, because it does not require a response in social media.

Step 1:  Get Real-Time Social Data For Your Business

The first step, of course, is to get real-time social data for your business.

  • By real time, I mean pulling new data in every hour or so.
  • By social data, I mean grabbing posts published on the social networks, forums and blogs your contacts & prospects use the most.
  • By for your business, I mean gathering posts published by your existing network of prospects, customers, followers and contacts PLUS gathering public posts containing keywords related to your business.

gnip logodatasift

There are several places you can obtain real-time social data for your business, including:

  • from the social networks themselves, using their Open APIs.

  • from third party social data providers like Datasift and GNIP

  • from your existing social media monitoring platform, such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Oracle Social Relationship Management.

Depending upon your business objective, the data you acquire may be for your followers only (Facebook fans & Twitter followers); all public posts about topics that matter to your business (Twitter, blog comments, forum posts); or, both.

Step 2:  Mine Your Social Data for Signals That Matter

Next, you will need to mine your social data for suitable trigger signals.  In our experience, about 3-5% of all tweets contain some form of commercial intent (about 300 million events per month on Twitter / English language alone).

Your options for identifying trigger signals in your social data include:

  1. Manually classify your social data (ie, monitor and flag for action).  This is the most common and most precise method available, but there are serious drawbacks. First, you can only scale this method by adding people. Second, your recall (market coverage) will suffer whenever your labor is tapped out or off-duty – meaning you will miss some opportunities.  Third, you may struggle with the timeliness and consistency of your results, which means you will miss more “windows of opportunity”.

  2. Machine-classify using keywords and/or text analytics: Some companies use a combination of natural language processing (text analytics), Boolean keyword expressions and/or sentiment classification to approximate “intent”.  This method can be automated, which saves time. Unfortunately, to get results anywhere close to useful, you will either need to become a boolean keyword ninja or employ expensive linguistics experts to build natural language filters for your business. Otherwise, the precision and recall of text-mining methods will not be very good.  This means you will get a lot of signals that aren’t what you’re looking for, and you will miss a lot of opportunities. Most customers we’ve worked with who have tried keyword-mining approaches have been unhappy with the quality of results.

  3. Machine-classify using a specialized intent-mining platform like NeedTagger.  Intent-mining platforms offer better results than keyword and text-mining approaches in terms of cost, precision and recall – but they are still not as precise as human beings. Some platforms like ours leverage more data than text to classify intent, which is what creates the precision advantage.  NeedTagger also lets you create your own ‘intent filters’ for any need and test them in real-time against Twitter.  Other vendors that offer intent-classification services include LeadSift, Solariat and Aiaioo.

Machine Detection of Intent: NeedTagger’s Social Signals API

We’ve developed an API that mines your social data for signals of intent. It works with any short-form social posts, in real time.

NeedTagger API example

NeedTagger API: sample input & output

Out of the box, our API identifies more than 70 signals of intent, which are grouped into four basic types:

  1. 14 conversation types: Asking Questions, Buying, Wishing, Complaining, etc.

  2. buying signals for over 60 common product & service types: buying a car, getting a mortgage, applying for college, etc.

  3. Life Events: moving, recent pregnancy, a new job, etc.

  4. In addition, you can build custom social signals for your business in minutes using our self-service app (no other provider offers this flexibility).

Every post submitted to our API is analyzed for the four types above. Results are provided in seconds.

Our API is optimized for Twitter, but it classifies any short-form social media like the kind you find on Twitter, Facebook, blog comments and more. Right now, we are limited to the English language.

Create Custom Social Signals For Your Business

Using our Social Signals API, you can build custom “social signals” for any type of need or requirement and immediately gain access to them from our API.

The diagram below explains how this works:

NeedTagger API how it works

Creating a new social signal for your business is easy. Our StreamBuilder tool lets you create a custom signal filter and view the types of posts it finds, in real time.  StreamBuilder works a lot like Twitter Advanced Search, just with more search options.

If you’d like to learn more about our new Social Signals API, use our API Inquiry Form or send an email to info@needtagger dot com.

Step 3:  Get Social IDs for Your Marketing Contacts

In order to take full advantage of the signals you receive, you’ll need to know the social IDs for the contacts in your database, so when a social signal comes in you will know who posted it.

Most MAPs today allow you to maintain social ids for contacts.  If you are doing this religiously, then move on to Step 4.

If you aren’t maintaining social IDs for your contacts, you can leverage third party services such as Social123Fliptop and FullContact to maintain the social data for your contacts, automatically.

fliptop logosocial123 logofull contact logo

Couple of cautions, though:

  • no provider can map social IDs to email addresses with 100% coverage.

  • the mapping process works 1-way: you can retrieve social account IDs for email addresses & social IDs, but you won’t be able to retrieve an email address for a given social ID.

To keep your contact database fresh you will need to send all new contacts through your provider’s API immediately, and you may want to build a polling routine to update existing contacts every month or so.

Step 4:  Create Social Triggers In Your Marketing Automation Platform

The final step is to create social triggers in your marketing automation platform that can be used to send emails, score leads or whatever you think is appropriate.

marketo lead scoring setup

Marketo lead scoring setup

Some MAPs are better than others in utilizing external data to trigger events. Silverpop and Marketo are two that can do this today (with IT assistance).

The process of building social triggers is the same used to create any other type of trigger, except the trigger signal is from social media. Each MAP has its own process for creating a marketing trigger, so I won’t go into that in detail.

hubspot email trigger setupFrom this point forward, your social triggers will work like any other trigger – email, web hook, landing page, whatever.

Cool, huh?

The “social triggers” discussed above can be implemented today with some packaged marketing automation platforms. If you use an in-house marketing automation system, you will need IT’s assistance, but it can be implemented today.

We hope this article has opened your eyes to the new marketing automation capabilities that real-time, social data can provide for your business.

 

NeedTagger Logo

NeedTagger Releases Intent-Mining API for Social Media

New API mines social media data for over 70 types of commercially important posts. Self-service app lets developers to customize intent filters for any requirement.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRLog (Press Release) – Jul. 10, 2013 – PENSACOLA, Fla. —  Today, NeedTagger announced immediate availability of the Social Signals API, a unique self-service data-mining platform that identifies buying signals, questions and other expressions of commercial intent in social media.The API provides application developers with programmatic access to NeedTagger’s intent-mining platform, used by thousands of social marketing & sales professionals to connect with sales prospects, market their content and manage their reputation on Twitter.

Machine Classification of Commercial Intent
For many companies, identifying the people and posts in social media that truly matter to their business is an expensive, slow and error-prone task. To date, manual monitoring and classification of social posts has been the only reliable way to accomplish this.

As NeedTagger’s CEO, Vernon Niven, explains,

Mining social networks for meaningful opportunities to engage with customers and prospects is a huge challenge for many companies. The volume of social data available online is almost doubling every year, but in our experience only 3-5% of it is commercially relevant. While no machine can detect business opportunities better than a skilled professional, automated intent-mining services like ours reduce labor requirements, improve an organization’s responsiveness and open the door for entirely new types of applications.

By automating the discovery of commercially important posts, businesses can:

  • respond quickly to customers asking questions, complaining and requesting help
  • identify new sales prospects and potential leads during critical moments of need
  • market content directly to people expressing a need for it
  • better understand the behaviors and intentions of an audience
  • build new social applications to address very specific needs.

 

For Real Time Social Applications

Social Signals is a modern, cloud-based RESTful API that is highly scalable and suitable for use in real-time applications. It is designed for marketers who want to take their social media programs to the next level.

Potential customers for the new API include a wide range of organizations that consider social media a strategic channel, for example:

  • social media monitoring teams
  • agencies and social ad platforms who want to target social ad campaigns by intent
  • third party social data providers, to leverage social intent data in their offerings
  • marketing automation providers, to use social data to trigger emails and score leads
  • app developers building marketing, customer support and content apps
  • market research firms seeking deeper behavioral insights from social media
  • equity and options trading desks, to mine social media for market demand
  • direct marketing firms seeking to upgrade social media listening capabilities

 

Self-Service Text Analytics

NeedTagger’s API is a unique offering in the fast-growing social text analytics industry that includes pioneers NetBase, Clarabridge, OpenAmplify, Attensity and Lexalytics.

Vernon Niven explains how Social Signals API is different:

“Our goal is to provide natural language processing that anyone can use and benefit from. Not only is our API easy to understand and use, it’s also easy to customize for any application using our self-service app. I’m excited to see what developers will do with it! ”

Social Signals API - sample output

Social Signals API – sample output

Social Signals offers several advantages over other text analytics services, including:

  • 100% self-service, cloud-hosted platform
  • High-speed, rules-based classification suitable for real-time applications
  • Build, test & tweak filters against Twitter in real time
  • Easy-to-understand classification tags
  • No ontology work, machine training or post-processing required
  • Classifies Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other short-form social posts
  • Optimized for Twitter
  • Excellent precision and recall

Out of the box, the service detects 14 basic types of intent, 8 life events and buying signals for 60 common products and services in any short-form social media data (supplied by the user). Custom filters can also be created using NeedTagger’s self-service Twitter apps. The NeedTagger team is available to engineer custom filters for any need.

 

Pricing

Pricing is tiered according to daily API call volumes and starts at $1,000 per month. A Free 30-day trial is available that processes up to 1,000 social posts per day.

To learn more about NeedTagger’s Social Signals API, visit http://www.needtagger.com/api/ .

Source: NeedTagger Releases Intent-Mining API for Social Media

Photo: http://www.prlog.org/12172202/1

Social Data: The Rocket Fuel for Real-Time Marketing
Did you know? Dolphins sleep by resting one half of their brain at a time so that one eye is always open.

NOTE: This is the second post in a 3-part series that addresses the future of real-time, multi-channel marketing and the critical, driving role that social media plays in it.

 

In the first post, we discussed the critical role that marketing automation platforms play as the system of record for real-time integrated marketing. We also pointed out the gaps that must be closed with social media marketing to make real time, cross-channel marketing a reality.

 

In this post, we discuss how real-time social data can be used to make your organization more agile and responsive, across all channels – even if you don’t do a lot of social media marketing today.

Social Data = Real Time Intelligence

During the past couple of months, I’ve had the good fortune to talk with some of the brightest minds in the marketing automation and social media marketing industries about the future role of social media in enterprise marketing.

A question we explored was:

How should real-time social data be used in enterprise marketing to optimize bottom-line results (traffic, leads and sales)?

To stimulate our discussions, I shared the following diagram we prepared last year.

It illustrates how real-time social data – scored for commercial intent – can be used to drive all sorts of well-proven marketing actions like sending emails, alerting sales reps and more.

social intent powers real time marketing by NeedTagger

One thing we all agreed on: social data can and should be used to drive  engagement in more marketing channels than social media. 

Why would you want to do this?  Because some channels are more suitable for listening and top-of-funnel engagement, while others are better at driving results and sales.

For example,

  • If an existing lead asks a question on Twitter about an issue your product addresses, then you might want to send them an email and update their lead score.

  • If you identify a new hot sales prospect on Facebook, then you might want to route the message to a call center or a rep for follow-up.

As hinted in the diagram above, there are many potential applications of real time social signals, especially when the data is scored for commercial intent.

Social Intent: The People and Posts That Matter Most

By “scored for commercial intent”, I mean that you have identified the people and posts that matter most to your business.

intent action resultsThese are the people who are asking questions, sharing complaints, discussing explicit needs, talking about key trigger events and life events, etc. related to your business, your type of business or your competitors.  They are indicating commercial intent about your business or about something you or your company can provide to them, such as your products, services, content and advice.

Whether they come from cookie data or from social media, signals of commercial intent represent new opportunities to engage, convince and sell.

14 Types of Commercial Intent on Twitter by NeedTagger (estimated)
14 Types of Commercial Intent on Twitter by NeedTagger (estimated)

In our experience, 3% to 5% of social media posts contain commercial intent. We monitor social intent on Twitter for thousands of businesses in 13 industries (B2C and B2B), so we know a little about this.

It’s important to note that analyzing social data for commercial intent is nothing new. It’s what your social media teams do every day as they monitor social streams for questions, complaints and prospects.

The Rise of the Machine: Surfacing Opportunities In Real Time

A big challenge faced by all marketers is sifting through the rising volume of social media posts to find those nuggets of intent. The volume of social data is currently growing faster than new users, because as a new user becomes acclimated to a network their posting activity typically increases.

For many companies, the volume of posts they have to mine is beyond their labor capacity to mine it. When peak times of day and major events are considered, most companies struggle mightily to keep up with social media monitoring in real time.

And, as we all know, responding to a prospect in real time makes all the difference, whether in lead generation, customer support or closing a sale.

Web Lead Sales Response Rates, Kellogg/MIT study 2007

Web Lead Sales Response Rates, Kellogg/MIT study 2007

Given that data volumes are overwhelming our labor constraints, machine-scoring of commercial intent makes a ton of sense. Using a machine to mine social media for commercial intent provides value to enterprise marketers in several ways, including:

  1. Save time monitoring social media: it separates the few really important signals from the noise, saving your social media teams time.

  2. Focus on the people and posts that matter: tagging your social data with intent makes it possible to focus on the people and posts that drive your business.

  3. Respond in real time: real-time responses produce better outcomes.
  4. Behave consistently: auto-tagging posts with intent means they don’t have to wait for people to flag them.

To date, the challenge has been: how do you machine-classify commercial intent in real time? As any text analytics vendor will tell you, this requires a deeper level of machine analysis than keyword search or sentiment analysis.

A handful of data mining companies have taken on this challenge and now offer working platforms, including us.

We think we’ve cracked the code generically for all industries. But it’s early, and we learn something new every day.

Listen in Social; Engage Where It Pays

When you bring real time social signals of intent into your marketing automation platform, you can market in entirely new ways in whatever channel that works. And you can listen and respond in real time.

You can leverage social signals of intent to improve the responsiveness and performance of many tasks, including:

  • sales prospecting

  • customer segmentation

  • behavioral targeting

  • lead scoring

  • customer support

  • reputation management

  • content marketing

  • ad-targeting (by intent)

  • real-time alerts for sales reps to follow-up

For example, here are some specific ways your company could leverage real-time social signals in Marketo:

Social Intent Unlocks New Marketing Capabilities
Social Intent Unlocks New Marketing Capabilities

Let’s drill into some of these in detail:

  • Social-triggered emails:  using social signals of commercial intent, you can identify when a lead discusses a very specific need or issue in social media that you can help them with and then reach out with a targeted email to address that issue (using a blog post or similar). This moves the lead closer to a sale. It’s also a lot less creepy than sending a message to someone who isn’t connected to you on that network.

  • Capture more prospects (social prospecting): identify people with the right profile discussing trigger events, complaining about competitors or outright looking for a solution like yours.  Then, use these signals to send an email or alert your sales rep to engage with the prospect – right now. This is how most NeedTagger customers use our apps.

  • Target ads by needs/intent: identify the intent-laden language your prospects express in social media during each stage of their customer journey; then, use these keywords to place native ads in front of them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

  • Score leads with social intent:  use social expressions of intent – not just mentions of keywords – to update lead scores. Intent signals are much more precise, so they are better suited for this type of real-time marketing.

  • Monitor social demand: social expressions of purchase intent, questions and complaints are important signals of how your audience and market feel about your brand and products – they tell you a lot more about your market’s likely behavior than keyword mining or sentiment classification can.

All of the above are practical ways to compress sales cycles and to keep you engaged with prospects and customers during important moments of need. It’s is how you would probably behave in the real world, if you had access to this type of real time intelligence.

Moving forward, if you want to behave like a real time business, then real-time social signals (scored for intent) will need to be incorporated into your marketing applications and processes. Because social media is where you’ll find the most real-time signals, long term.

Still A Greenfield Opportunity

Listening to social media for signals of intent, then using them to trigger marketing actions in other channels makes a ton of sense.

But most marketers aren’t aware of how big the opportunity is.

If we consider the volume of commercial signals expressed on Twitter alone, it’s already really big.

290 million needs expressed on Twitter every month (source: NeedTagger.com)

290 million needs expressed on Twitter every month (source: NeedTagger.com)

Leading enterprise software vendors clearly understand the opportunity. They know intent-mining is important, as evidenced by their recent acquisitions & partnerships:

It’s time to start experimenting!

If you’re interested in seeing what “social intent” looks like, try our Free customer prospecting app now.  Or mine your own social data for intent using our new API.

In our next post, we’ll show you how to leverage real-time social signals in your marketing systems today, so you can start driving real-time actions like the ones described above.

 

 

Marketing With One Eye Closed: Closing the Gap Between Social Media & Marketing Automation
Did you know? Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was punishable by death.

Marketing with One Eye Closed

For many months, I’ve been stewing about the obvious lack of integration between social media monitoring software (SMMS) and marketing automation platforms (MAP).

I’ve been thinking about it because NeedTagger’s users are evenly split between marketing and sales professionals. Both use our tool to connect with customers and prospects on Twitter (for different purposes).

Popeye-pipe-logoEvery day, I see how disconnected social selling pros are from inbound marketing and lead generation teams. At times, it’s like they live in two different worlds. 

That’s unfortunate, because both teams are trying to communicate with the same people for basically the same reason. It’s also unfortunate for the prospect or contact being targeted, because the messages they receive can be redundant, conflicting or downright confusing.

As a social selling professional, I need to know what our marketing team knows about the person I’m talking to right now, for example:

  • what were the last few marketing emails we sent to them?
  • what marketing content is available to share with this person?
  • what content are we sharing today from our key social media accounts?

Likewise, marketing automation platforms send emails to contacts all the time without considering important information available in social media, such as:

  • what is our history of social interactions with this person?
  • what recent signals of purchase intent – positive or negative – has this person demonstrated in social meda?
  • are there any outstanding questions or complaints posted by this person on Twitter?

Perhaps this disconnect persists because social media is so new that marketing automation platforms haven’t caught up. Or maybe it’s because social prospecting and selling tend to be more of a “grass-roots” initiative by sales reps, whereas marketing automation tends to be a top-down budgeted program.

Whatever the reasons, real-time, cross-channel engagement with individuals is a bit of a mess from the customer’s point of view – so we’d better clean things up!

Of course, our company sells a social media monitoring/prospecting tool, which means we own 1/2 of this problem.

During the past couple of months, I’ve reached out to leading marketing automation consultants and platform providers to discuss the gaps between our types of solutions and to identify ways we might integrate our apps and data with their platforms. This post is based on those conversations.

This is a long read because we address a number of related topics:

  • why seamless integration between social media and marketing automation technology is a must, moving forward.
  • how social media and marketing automation solutions are evolving to adapt to the new world of the real time customer
  • what gaps must be closed between social media and marketing automation platforms
  • where the software industry stands today re. closing these gaps. 

Marketing’s Future: Real Time, Personal & Data-Driven

Marketing professionals are under increasing pressure to master the art of real-time, data-driven personalized marketing in all channels.

As a member of a real time marketing team, you are – or soon will be – charged with listening to your market and engaging with prospects and customers “in the moment”. Your responsibilities may include:

  • monitoring social media and the real-time web for engagement opportunities

  • engaging directly with prospects & customers in real time

  • activating influencers

  • recruiting & rewarding brand advocates, and,

  • creating, curating and publishing reams of fresh content to take advantage of trends.

In his recent response to Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget, Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo, explained where the pressure is coming from:

Twitter_Phil

Phil Fernandez

We believe that marketing is undergoing a deep transformation driven by large-scale trends such as the rise of self-directed consumers and broad and instant availability of information online. This means marketers must fundamentally change how they engage with prospects and customers.

 

And this in turn requires a new kind of technology solution – one that helps them to create relationship-building dialogs across fragmented channels, one that helps them think holistically about the entire range of responsibilities of the modern marketing professional, and one that is powered by deep insight and analytics.

For those who step up to the data-driven marketing challenge, the good news is that there is no shortage of real-time data to mine for opportunity. Especially in social media, the world’s largest real-time customer database.  

But mining data is only half the story.  Marketing in a social world also requires getting personalThe importance of real-time, personal engagement was highlighted when HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, discussed why they released their new 1-to-1 social media monitoring and engagement panel, Social Inbox:

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot

Brian Halligan

Over the last five years, social media marketing has been far from lovable; in fact, brands were typically using social media to push out contests, sweepstakes, and promotional content—tactics that are impersonal for customers and ineffective for marketers. HubSpot Social Inbox allows marketers to create, share, promote, monitor, respond, and integrate social media into their overall marketing approach. Social Inbox is a powerful vehicle for marketers that results in a singular narrative for customers.

Not many organizations are experts at turning real-time social data into personalized marketing and selling actions.

But that’s starting to change.

Social Listening Moves From Analytics to Action

First-generation social media monitoring platforms like Marketwired (Sysomos) and Salesforce (Radian6) led the social data mining charge by helping marketers convert social data into useful insights. Social media monitoring and analytics are still powerful ways to monitor and learn about your market.

The problem is that in most companies today, social data is not being mined in a systemic way to generate sales, leads and customer satisfactionInstead, most of it is still stuck in analytics for market research, branding, PR and advertising. 

When it is leveraged for action, social data is recirculated within social media marketing silos – we see an opportunity on Twitter, so we respond on Twitter – as though our customers only live on Twitter! Very little social data is being leveraged to drive actions in the channels that we know work best – be that email, direct mail or a telephone call.

Radian6 Dashboard

Radian6 Dashboard

But times are changing.  Social data mining is moving past its role as an analytics tool into driving results in real time.

New targeted ad products from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are examples of how social data mining can drive bottom-line performance. For example, Twitter just launched a new lead generation card.

Twitter's New Lead Generation Card

Twitter’s New Lead Generation Card

In addition, new data mining and social selling tools have arrived that makes it easier to spot business opportunities & to engage with prospects in social media, in real time.

Using NeedTagger to Mine for Customers in HootSuite (live demo)

New social data mining APIs (like our new Social Signals API) are making it easier for marketers to listen for buying signals in social media and take action in other channels – in a fully automated way.

Yet another example of data mining for action is the new crop of predictive sales intelligence applications like LatticeEngines that analyze your customer data, then scan social media and the web to identify high-probability prospects for your business.

Clearly, social data mining has moved into the “action zone”.

But is it producing results?

Social Media’s ROI Problem

Wimpy - well fundedMany smart people claim that social media marketing will never pay like we think it will. That it may never generate sales and leads. That it’s all about “top of the funnel”.

Their claims ignore a large & growing body of evidence that social media marketing actually does generate sales, improves the performance of inbound marketing and can reduce lead costs by more than half. Those of us who serve customer-facing professionals with social media technology know the ROI is there.

But to be fair, the skeptics are correct that it has been really difficult to impossible to prove social media marketing impacts sales and lowers costs in a consistent, reliable way.

Why is this so? We think for three reasons:

  1. Harvesting social media for leads and sales is mostly a manual process today: finding business opportunities in noisy social networks is an expensive, error-prone task. Record keeping is abysmal. Better advertising options are coming along, but they are siloed within each social network.

  2. Social media marketing systems remain mostly disconnected from other marketing and CRM systems. So, the full range of social interactions with a given person isn’t being tracked.

  3. Sales attribution is a mess across all digital channels, anyway. Before social media it was really hard to know what specific actions drove each sale. Now, it’s harder. Let’s face it: “last-click” attribution is not an accurate way to measure social media’s impact on sales.

In other words, a lot of Social Media’s ROI problem is due to a lack of integration with other customer systems of record.

Obviously, we need to clear up this confusion. But how?

Marketing Automation’s Future: Real Time Demand Generation

Like other CEOs of marketing and sales technology companies, I believe that the real-time and pervasive nature of social media is forcing enterprise marketers to integrate the best features from their social media listening platforms, CRM and marketing automation platforms into a real-time demand generation platform.  By hook or by crook, we’ll all have to get there.

The real time demand generation platform of the future will serve as a company’s system of engagement with a wide variety of external stakeholders – not just email contacts and social media followers. More specifically, it will do at least six things well:

  1. listen and respond to individuals on a 1-to-1 basis, in real time (in any channel): to do this, we have to manage and track every type of communication, marketing action and selling interaction we have with each person, in real time. This is not a recommendation that we should respond to every signal in real time, nor that every engagement needs to be personalized – that’s not scalable. But we do need to keep tabs on people in real time and be ready to respond in a personal way & in the most appropriate channel, when needed.
  2. listen to every person that matters in our market (not just our contacts & followers): maintain real-time intelligence on every person that matters to our business: prospects, customers, contacts, influencers, advocates and partners. Social media’s strength lies in its ability to not only listen to everyone that matters, but to leverage social relationships where possible to spread the word. In contrast, most marketing automation platforms restrict our market reach to email contacts & followers.
  3. completely inform every engagement and action we take with every person: capture a complete & accurate view of each person’s behavior, profile and history of our interactions (manual or automated) throughout the lifecycle of our relationship with them. Then, make this profile available to every automated system and to every employee that might interact with that person.
  4. select the right channel for every engagement and automated action: marketers should be able to leverage all of the intelligence we have on a person to take action in the channel(s) that make the most sense for each interaction.  We should be able to listen in one channel and act in another – seamlessly.
  5. automate as much work as possible, reserving the hardest problems & most sensitive interactions for our most valuable resource (our employees): using a blend of predictive analytics, natural language processing and human expertise, we should automate as much predictable work as we can, so we can spend our scarcest resource – skilled labor – on the most important people, events and exceptions.
  6. provide analytics suitable for A/B testing cross-channel, real time engagement with individuals: support agile, data-based decision making regarding the owned, earned and paid media investments we make, down to the individual person or persona where needed. Content, contacts and market segments will be shared across multiple channels and across owned, earned and paid media. We need analytics that can deal with this complexity.

Note: some MAP vendors call their vision, “Revenue Generation” – but unless their system is closing the deal and taking the order, I think that’s stretching it a bit.

Putting aside the jargon, I think it’s easy to understand why we’ll need marketing technology like this in the future.

It’s because our customers are pressuring us to get our digital act together – and real-time, personalized engagement is what they increasingly expect. Social media makes it too darn easy for people to share bad experiences, so you must respond to people and address those issues in real time if you want to compete in the public marketplace of the future.

I am a customer of many brands myself, and I would love it if the brands I do business with would behave in such an informed & responsive manner. Wouldn’t you?

Of course, I am not the first to point out what we need. Lots of visionary technology leaders led the way. Some of them are putting their words in to product.

If you attended Marc Benioff’s keynote at last year’s Dreamforce event in San Francisco (“Business is Social”), then you heard this integrated vision in spades. With lots of emphasis on “social”.

Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop, describes their company as a enabler of Behavioral Marketing, which is:

Silverpop CEO, Bill Nussey

Bill Nussey

…real-time, cross-channel, insanely relevant campaigns to one person at a time automatically driven by analytics of their actions, preferences and profiles.

 

 

Silverpop’s Director of Product Strategy, Bryan Brown, further explains how real time behaviors can, and should, drive better performance:

Marc, Phil, Brian, Bryan and Bill all seem to agree that marketing is going to be real time, personal, social and data-driven. They also understand that more social media marketing features must be integrated within their platforms (see update below).

Of course, implementing this real-time demand-gen nirvana will take time and effort. There are challenges we have to overcome – starting with where we will store all of our real-time data about people.

What’s Missing: A Complete System of Record for 1-to-1 Engagement

One thing I’m sure we need (soon) is a single system of record (SOR) to house all of the data about the people that make up our market – especially social data, which is the largest data resource available about people.

Some of my colleagues in the software industry might argue that we already have this system of record – theirs – but I disagree. We’re not there yet.

So what type of enterprise platform should house it? In the enterprise software world, there seem to be four candidates:

  1. a social media monitoring/management system (SMMS): HootSuite, Sprinklr, et al
  2. a customer relationship management (CRM) system: Salesforce, SugarCRM, NimbleCRM, et al
  3. a marketing automation platform (MAP): Marketo, Eloqua, ExactTarget, Hubspot, Responsys, et al
  4. a new type of real-time marketing/customer experience platform (RTM/CEX?):  lots of startups chasing this right now

I don’t think there are any social media monitoring systems out there that are capable of serving as a single system of record for multi-channel digital marketing and engagement, so I’m not going to analyze the pros/cons of doing that.

Some think the best system of record for real-time 1-to-1 engagement is a CRM system like Salesforce.com. There are good arguments for doing this. And, there are new “Social CRM” platforms like Nimble CRM (which we use) that provide much better 360-degree views of your interactions with a person online.

Today’s SocialCRM platforms work well for on-the-ground social selling and relationship management, but there’s still that nagging issue that each person’s marketing context is missing. For example, we don’t know what emails our marketing team sent to that lead. And, we don’t know what sort of content they’ve clicked on in Twitter. It’s easy to ruin a good sales opportunity when you work like this.

While it’s theoretically possible that some of the new crop of startups focused on real time advertising and marketing in social media will take the lead, I won’t address that group here because I think it’s too early to know.

Besides, this post is long enough! There are many new companies focused on parts of this problem – just in social media (chart courtesy LUMA Partners):

Social LUMAscape

Social LUMAscape

Another potential system of record for 1-to-1 engagement is a marketing automation platform (MAP). 

Using a MAP as the system of record for real-time demand generation makes a lot of sense to me for several reasons:

  • we maintain our marketing contacts there
  • we measure cross-channel digital marketing performance there
  • we analyze and score our leads there
  • most social media engagement and marketing activity is top- (or middle-)of-the-funnel
  • most MAPs are already integrated with that other important system of record, CRM. 

If you use a MAP & a CRM platform today, then using your MAP as your marketing system of record is a “duh” conclusion.

But half of businesses haven’t made that leap yet. For them, here is a quick overview of what a marketing automation platform does:

WHAT IS A MARKETING AUTOMATION PLATFORM (MAP)?

Marketing automation platforms reduce the cost of acquiring customers by automating and integrating digital marketing tasks that companies traditionally perform in a solo’d fashion, including:

Marketing Automation features by Marketo

Marketing Automation features (by Marketo)

Marketing automation is also referred to as inbound marketing (Hubspot), behavioral marketing (Silverpop) revenue performance management (Marketo and Eloqua) and revenue marketing (The Pedowitz Group).

An important side-effect of integrating so many marketing activities around a single contact data base is that you get much better insight (and hard data) regarding how well your marketing investments are paying off in terms of leads, sales and satisfied customers. As long as all channels are integrated with your MAP, that is.

More than 20 vendors offer full-featured platforms for various industries and company sizes. Most marketing automation platforms were designed in the early- or mid-2000s, before social media came on the scene. They were designed to optimize web content management, SEO and email marketing activities. So, naturally, that’s where most of their capabilities lie. 

And business is good – demand for MAP technology increased by more than 50% in 2012.

Enter the new kid on the block, social media marketing.

In just a few years, social media marketing has grown from an experiment into a legitimate digital marketing channel that competes for billions in budget with search engines, display and email.

Closing the Gaps

mind the gap

For most digital marketers today, it is obvious that their social media data and applications must be integrated with other digital marketing efforts (eventually). Otherwise, we’re just marketing with one eye closed.

Likewise, most of the marketing automation industry executives I’ve talked with readily admit their platforms will need to integrate with many social media marketing activities.  Many are working to accomplish this right now.

But how, exactly, should these two worlds come together? what are the specific gaps that need to be closed?

Integration gaps exist on both sides of the divide: within social media monitoring and marketing platforms; and, within marketing automation platforms.

In social media platforms, for example, users do not have access to critical information about customers and prospects stored in CRM and MAP platforms. As a result, many social media teams lack a complete view of the company’s relationship with a person during an engagement. This is not a good thing.

On the marketing automation side of the house, there are at least four integration gaps with social media platforms that need to be addressed:

  1. most MAPs treat social media as a content publishing (broadcast) channel, rather than as a place to engage with people directly (which is what it is). For example, most MAPs lack social media prospecting tools, social customer segmentation, social lead scoring and real-time 1-to-1 engagement panels. Hubspot’s new Social InBox product stands out as an exception.

  2. most MAPs limit your social marketing reach to existing contacts (email contacts and followers). This flies in the face of the reality that very few brands are directly connected to more than 10% of their socially-active prospects on any social network. If you limit your reach to fans and followers, then you’re ignoring 90% of your prospects!  Act-On’s Twitter Prospector tool, LoopFuse’s Nearstream tool and Vocus’ Buying Signals offering are recent attempts by marketing automation providers to close this gap.

  3. MAPs rely on keywords to identify social media posts that matter. Analyzing people and posts for commercial intent is extremely important in social media marketing because that’s how we identify actionable events, prioritize our work & save time monitoring. Unfortunately, due to the conversational language of social networks, searching posts for keywords is not a reliable way to surface commercial intent in social media. Leading social media monitoring platforms offer natural language processing options for this reason. To get a feel for the difference, watch this video in which we demo keyword-filtered streams next to intent-filtered streams inside HootSuite.

  4. MAPs don’t incorporate enough social data in their analytics. Hubspot’s Megan Kearney recently wrote an excellent piece about the gaps between SMMS and MAP platforms, in which she commented on the social analytics gap:

By integrating social media into full marketing analytics that pull data from all channels, more and more marketers are starting to be able to understand how many leads, customers, and dollars their social media efforts are generating and what type of content generates the highest quality lead.

The Race To Integrate Is Underway

salesforce-exacttarget

Oracle’s recent acquisitions of Eloqua & Collective Intellect and Salesforce.com’s acquisitions of Radian6 and ExactTarget/Pardot are clear signals that more MAP-social integration is in the cards.

It will take time for these products to be integrated, but it’s pretty clear that real-time demand generation platforms are on the way.

Another sign: leading marketing automation providers are now adding native social media marketing features to their offerings, for example:

Nice progress, but a lot of integration remains.

Which begs the question: what can a marketer do today to bridge the social-MAP gap?


NOTE: If you had the patience to get this far, then I’ll let you in on a secret: this is the first of a series of three articles. In our next two posts, we’ll explain how you can tap into the massive amount of social data created every day to improve the performance of your marketing automation systems – even if your organization doesn’t use social media that much.

The Flipboard Effect: What If They Never See Our Content?
Did you know? Marine dolphins see quite well both below and above the water.

It took Google thirteen years to fill the online marketplace with search-friendly customers and web-enabled vendors.

Today, blogging, social sharing and marketing automation are filling the marketplace with content – and most of it is crap.

In response, your customers and prospects are starting to use apps like Flipboard to filter the crap out of their media streams – then sharing only the best with others.

What is your strategy for dealing with this shift in buyer behavior?

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

Content Marketing Takes Off

During the past five years, content marketing has become a respected field in marketing. Spending on content marketing technologies is surging – dramatically:

  • The Content Marketing Institute reports that 45% of marketers will increase their content marketing budgets in 2013; the CMI now has 38,000 subscribers
  • eMarketer says that content marketing has become the top digital marketing priority for 2013
  • AdAge reports that 81% of marketers have content marketing in their budgets for 2013

The adoption of content as a marketing tool is a big reason that marketing automation vendors like Hubspot, Demandforce, Marketo and Eloqua (now Oracle) are growing like weeds:

  • Hubspot recently announced that sales of its all-in-one inbound marketing suite rose 82% in the past 12 months to $52 million. Total customers increased 42%, indicating strong pricing power.
  • In Marketo’s IPO filing, just released, they reported 80% growth on $58 million.

All of a sudden, it seems that companies of all stripes are hungry to learn content publishing, targeting and distribution practices.  Their aim?  to create and market timely, quality content in a coordinated fashion across multiple digital channels including email, web, mobile and social. So customers find them, instead of the other way around.

Blame It On Google

Google started all of this when they launched PageRank and created the first content marketing industry: Search Engine Marketing.

For the first time ever in a public setting, Google offered a convenient way to both find the content we need and to market our content (website) to those who need it.

Today, Google understands and benefits greatly from the shift in behavior they enabled.

Google also knows that content marketing and social media are tightly linked during branding, shopping and research activities. This is why they continue to tweak their page rank algorithms to prioritize high-quality content that is frequently shared by others.  The Penguin release in April, 2012, focused on prioritizing quality content, and the more recent Panda release started incorporating social signals into search engine rankings.

Google’s adoption of social signals is huge. It forces businesses to start sharing ever-increasing amounts of high quality content in social media – or risk losing the attention of their market.

I think the recent Google algorithm changes is the biggest reason every business is now scrambling to get their content/inbound marketing act together. So blame them.

The End of Cold Calls?

It is clear that buyer behavior is changing in most industries. And the pace of change seems to be accelerating.

In our personal quest for economic independence (and better deals), we all seem to be choosing to rely more and more on web sites, search engines and social networks to guide our decision making.

Ask any B2B marketing or sales professional, and they will tell you that an increasing number of prospects are ignoring sales calls in favor of researching their options online.

Ask any consumer brand marketer, and they will tell you about the declining effectiveness of traditional media and direct mail.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for people who hate cold calls (on either side).

coldcallobjection

The Rise of Marketing Automation

To meet the demand for more efficient content marketing, over 20 marketing automation vendors including, MarketoHubspotEloqua and DemandForce now offer sophisticated platforms that help companies of all sizes manage email interactions, publish and track content and manage social media marketing in an integrated fashion.

Their common business purpose is to help marketers create and distribute high-quality content to the right audience at the right time, with lead capture features and metrics for every step in the conversion process.

But, as VentureBeat recently explained, there is a dark side to marketing automation: by making it easier for more companies to publish more content more frequently, every potential customer now now must sift through a LOT more content in social streams and in search engine results.

Social Sharing Ups the Ante

Due to the content-sharing behavior that buttresses most social networks, it’s only natural that social media marketing, content marketing and marketing automation are all joined at the hip.

Today, most marketers know that if you’ve published good quality content on your website or blog, then you ought to be sharing it in social media as much as possible.

But marketing content to search engines is quite different than marketing content in social media.

Search engines wait for someone to ask them a question; social media streams are endless rivers of content that flow fast. Keeping your message in front of a socially-active audience takes a lot of timing and publishing skill – and reams of fresh content.

In other words, social sharing has increased the content marketing challenge by at least one order of magnitude.

Harvard Business Review has even piled on, to remind us that Marketers Are Not Publishing Enough Content.

With social media marketing becoming a standard budget line item, marketing automation vendors are beginning to add social prospecting and social publishing features.  For example,

  • Marketo, Eloqua and Hubspot offer social media publishing and content sharing features.
  • Most marketing automation tools offer social network/account integration features like follow-me buttons in emails, one-click publishing of content to social networks and traffic analytics for social media posts.
  • Leading marketing automation vendor, Act-On, offers a keyword-based tool called Twitter Prospector that customers seem to love (see comments on blog post)
  • Hubspot recently released their Social Inbox tool that lets you follow your marketing contacts in social media, and when they use certain keywords
  • LooptFuse (a marketing automation platform) and NearStream (a social media lead monitoring tool) recently merged their companies
  • Hubspot and HootSuite recently announced #ClosedLoopSocial, a product integration designed to improve content marketing and lead generation efforts around existing contacts

How Much Content Can We Take?

Using marketing automation and content marketing technologies, now any business can be both a publisher and a distributor of content in multiple channels. In social networks, a single piece of content can get shared 100s of times a day.

But:  in a world where personal attention is limited – and the volume of content is exploding – how does one compete?

Velocity Partners recently published a humorous but spot-on analysis of where we are headed next in content marketing.  It paints a picture of a market FLOODED WITH CONTENT, where only the absolute best will attract attention.  The rest will be white noise.

If you want confirmation of this, take a look at what the most successful social media brands are doing today.

James Gross, co-founder of digital content-marketing startup Percolate, noted:

Red Bull is creating 100-200 tweets per day. It’s a leading indicator of where brands have to go. I’m fine with the newsroom metaphor [for brand marketing] if it leads us to brands creating more relevant content.

But here’s the rub for most marketers:  not everyone can create high quality content all the time.  Not everyone can be the life of the party.

Jane! stop this crazy thing!

Fast-forward this trend a few years, and it becomes clear that there will be waayyy more content flying past our eyes than we’ll ever have time to consume.

The implication of this crappy content conundrum is easy to see.

The long-term challenge for marketers is not to publish great content.  The real challenge is on the demand side:  how will we get our content through personal media filters?

In other words, you can push all the great content you want onto the web and out to customers via email, but if people aren’t searching the web or checking their emails for fresh content any more, it’s not doing you much good.

And this is exactly what’s happening.

jane stop this crazy thing

Get Ready To Be Filtered

The competition for who gets to filter media for our consumption is fierce.

Over the past 100 years, responsibility for filtering & curating the media we consume has moved all the way from the supply side to the demand side of the media supply chain.

Control over media has moved from authors; to publishing conglomerates,  distributors & retailers (Amazon & Comcast); and, to digital media aggregators (Huffington Post and Netflix).  Most recently, control has begun shifting to social networks (Facebook).

On established social networks like Facebook and Twitter, we are already past the content saturation point for most users.  Consider:  

  • If we actually saw all of the content shared with us by our friends and the Likes we have access to on Facebook, we would quickly be overwhelmed by our Newsfeed.  So, Facebook uses EdgeRank to throttle the messages we receive from our friends. 
  • On Twitter, power users receive thousands of tweets an hour in their stream. So they rely on tools like HootSuite and NeedTagger to filter the fire hose for signal.
  • To try and retain their position as media curators for their users, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook continue to re-design their interfaces to provide a more efficient media consumption experience.

Today, the consumer is assuming control.

The widespread availability of personal media curation apps like Pinterest, Tumblr and Flipboard are making it easy for your prospects and customers to filter and curate their own media streams.

Why go to ANY website for your content, when you can carry a media curation app around in your pocket?

Given the extraordinarily fast rise in users of these apps, it seems pretty clear that people like controlling what they read.

For example, take Flipboard.

(Full Disclosure: I am an investor in Flipboard).

flipboard 86174v5-max-250x250

Flipboard’s recent 2.0 release ups their game as a mobile-friendly way for people to filter (curate) any type of content, then share what they like best back to their personal networks (ie, stronger social signals). Using Flipboard 2.0, I can follow people I trust and subscribe to topical magazines published by professional curators to get all of the content I need – music, video, photos, short form and long form content, whatever. I can even shop there.

Personal curation platforms are booming as a category. Twitter (+200mm users in 7 yrs), Flipboard (+60mm users in 3 yrs), Pinterest (+40mm in 3 yrs) and Tumblr are redefining how people find and consume content in all its forms.

This shift in behavior is occurring really quickly, too. For example, Flipboard just announced they grew from 20 million to over 50 million users in the past 6 months.  Flipboard is a mobile-only app!

Perhaps most ominous is the fact that Google is clearly trying to eliminate the need for people to search for content (at all).  As evidence, check out Google’s announcements at I/O 2013.

google-io-keynote-167

google-io-keynote-2013 by Mashable

Google is clearly working hard to enable consumer experiences that are best described as serendipitous (one term for this type of technology is ambient intelligence).

Google expects us to all rely upon a select few web services who know what we want to deliver important content and information to us, when we need it. Without forcing us to search or ask for it.

Features like this are already embedded in many of Google’s strategy platforms such as G+, Google Glass, Google Now, etc.

How Should Marketers Respond?

In our opinion, there are three competencies that modern marketers must master to thrive in an era of customer-filtered content, as follows:

1. Content Curation: build strong in-house content curation (not just publishing) skills, so you can publish the Flipboard magazines and Pinterest Boards your target market wants to follow.

2. Customer Acquisition (Digital Direct Marketing): get very good at mining web apps, personal curation platforms and social networks for customers. This means getting really good at data mining (identifying prospects you want to target), maintaining an active presence on every network that matters to your business; and, buying native ads on the apps and networks your customers use most.

3. Real-Time Marketing Optimization: you must ensure that you rank high in the search-like web services that your target customers rely on for real time/personalized recommendations – services such as Google Now or anything built on top of Google Search, for example. Many of the principles of SEO will remain sound (great quality content, domain authority, etc.).  But traditional SEO will no longer be enough.  You are going to have to get to know each web service and social network on an intimate basis, and you’ll have to optimize each according to your unique requirements.

 

The age of content marketing and noisy streams has arrived. Your customers and buyers are finding new ways to filter-out your content. What is your strategy for dealing with this change in buyer behavior?

 

How We Can Help

NeedTagger is a customer acquisition platform that helps marketers sift through noisy social streams to identify meaningful customer engagement opportunities for their business.

Our approach is the exact opposite of “spray and pray”; instead, we help you find and connect with people who actually need your content, products, services and assistance right now.

 

People discuss their most important life events in social media – in public – all the time.

This reality opens the door for savvy and sensitive marketers to connect with new customers in ways never dreamed of just five years ago.

But marketing to life events in social media requires the right attitude, the right tools, honesty & sensitivity to others – plus a few new skills.

HELP OTHERS WOOD LETTER BLOCK

What are “life events”?

Life events are the most important things that happen to us in our lives. They include events we control, like taking a new job, plus all the events we don’t, like getting laid off.

There are several lists of life events available on the web. One of them is the Stress Scale prepared by Holmes and Rahe.  It has the advantage of weighting each type of event based upon the relative amount of physical and mental stress involved – a proxy for the relative importance in the average person’s life.

The Holmes-Rahe list for Adults is shown in the table below.

NOTE: the life events we track at NeedTagger are highlighted in bold.

Life event Life change units
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violation of law 11

As you can see, many life events are quite marketing-worthy, but some are delicate private matters best left alone.

Life Event Marketing

Life events are marketing gold.

Major life events – things like getting married, having a baby and changing jobs – are directly responsible for a large portion of US consumer spending. The link between life events and consumer spending is easy to understand.  Getting married? find a new home together. Having a baby? buy a new SUV.  Changing jobs? buy a new suit.

There are plenty of studies out there that prove this. For example, a recent Forrester Research study of 26,000 online households showed that consumers are 43% more likely to buy a financial product around a life event.

Marketing to people experiencing life events is as old as marketing itself. Before the term “marketing” took hold, we probably called it “helping people during their moment of need”.

Today, marketers understand the intimate connection between life events and purchasing power and have wrapped their advertising spend around them. For example, many TV ads mention or imply a connection between their product and a life event. Retirement planning, real estate, pharmaceuticals and life insurance commercials are the most vivid examples.

Many internet media companies have embraced life events as their central marketing strategy.  As iVillage VP of Sales Marketing & Client Services Michael Streefland explains:

Targeting at key life events is the very core of (our business). Women like to gather and share with one another about events in their life that are mile markers.

Life Events & Social Media

As you might guess, we love to talk about our life events in social media, and we do it all the time. We ask our friends and colleagues for advice when planning our weddings, when moving to a new city and when choosing our next college.

Clearly, many large brands want to know when we do. That’s one reason Facebook’s Timeline design excites marketers so much.

But how big is this opportunity?

To get a feel for how often we discuss life events in social media, let’s look at one example: changing your residence.

The leading marketing data firm, Experian, reports about 290,000 changes in home ownership in the US each month.  On NeedTagger, we detect about 65,000 people discussing a change in residence each month on Twitter – even though only 15% of Americans use the network so far.

NeedTagger pre tested stream: Life Events Change in Residence

It’s still early days, but from what we see every day, people are really open to discussing their life events in a public social forums like Twitter.

How to Market to Life Events in Social Media

OK, so people talk about their personal lives online.  How can we leverage it for marketing? and, should we?

First of all, let’s understand that people experiencing life events are already being marketed to, en masse. For example, a large portion of the direct marketing / mail business is dedicated to welcoming people to their new home, new car, etc.

But blanketing the country with “welcome to your new home” postcards isn’t the same act as personally reaching out to someone you don’t know on Twitter to help them.

Social media is different than other direct marketing channels in several important ways:

  • It is personal. People bare their souls all the time. For many, it is a form of self-therapy. But that doesn’t mean they want your company to know.
  • It is often intimate. One-on-one conversations can be embarrassingly private, even when held completely in public on a network like Twitter.
  • It is real time. A lot of information (and brand damage) can pass in minutes. So be careful what you say.

These characteristics provide a significant upside for marketers who can tap into life events to market their products and services:  they can gain new customer relationships for very little cost.

But the same characteristics introduce new risks.

In general, marketing to a person discussing a life event online is something you need to treat with the utmost respect and care. If not done correctly, your outreach can be viewed as creepy, in bad taste – or even threatening.

Caveats aside, did you know that life event marketing in “social media” has been going on for at least twenty years?

Before Twitter or Facebook even existed, marketers scored new business from online forums using time-proven customer prospecting methods. The same methods work today.

To see a few recent examples, check out our Pinterest gallery of companies marketing to life events on Twitter.

Best Practices

Successful social media marketers focus on reaching out to people who have specific questions or needs related to their business. Then, they meet those needs and answer their questions.

Based upon observing how thousands of people engage with prospects using NeedTagger, we’ve developed a list of best practices that we recommend using when connecting with a potential customer discussing a life event, as follows:

  1. seek to help people solve problems related to your core business (or your personal experience). Don’t try to be interesting, funny or cute.
  2. avoid canned messages (at all costs).  The primary advantage of social media is the personal touch. Lose that, and you’re better off ignoring the medium.
  3. focus on sharing information, not advice. Don’t address how someone feels, advise them on what they should do next, or provide any sort of personal advice.
  4. respect the emotional state of the author at all times.  If you are unsure, then don’t send a message.
  5. research the author’s profile and their recent messaging behavior before taking action.  Has this person used Twitter before to ask for and receive advice?  or is this really out of character for this person? if so, then the risk of backlash is greater.
  6. respect the conversational context of the post: is this person “shouting out for help” and thus will not be surprised if anyone responds? or are they speaking with a friend or engaged in a multi-party discussion? big difference!
  7. share links to helpful content with no strings attached; or, if there are strings, then provide an honest description in the post about what’s behind the link. For example, if there is a form required to obtain the information, then tell ’em this upfront.
  8. monitor and respond quickly (same-day) to any reactions, retweets and complaints generated from your outreach messages.
  9. lean on your profile/bio to help you sell. In your Twitter bio, explain who you are and what you sell. Most people will check you out if they like the information you share. You can even put a CTA (call-to-action) in there.

Getting Started

OK, let’s say you’re convinced and want to try “life event marketing” on Twitter. What do you do next?

The good news is that this is not hard to do – especially if your company sells something that can help someone solve a problem related to their life event. In this case, it will feel as natural as offering your business card to someone you just met at a dinner party.

That said, you do need to use the right tools and master a few new skills to make this new form of marketing work well for you.

For example, you will need to:

1.  Find people experiencing life events.

This is where a data mining tool like NeedTagger or Twitter Advanced Search come in handy. We currently monitor Twitter for several life events, with more on the way.

To see if we can help your business, try our Customer Search Engine (Free to use for one filtered stream).

You’ll find our Life Event filters under the “PreTested Streams” drop down menu for the industries they are most relevant to (see screenshot below).  

For example, you will find pre-tested streams for “losing weight” and “expecting a baby soon” under the “Health” industry.

PreTested Streams

We’ll be releasing more Life Event streams in the future.  Let us know if there’s one you’d like us to add.

2. Learn how to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.  

So what do you say to someone you don’t know and who doesn’t follow you online – when they seem like they might benefit from your assistance?

To stimulate ideas, check out our list of the 10 best ways to introduce yourself to a potential customer on Twitter. In it, we summarize the best practices we’ve seen our customers use during the past year.  A lot of it is common sense for expert Twitter users, but for new users it’s definitely worth reading.

3. Be honest. And be yourself. 

This is not “mom and apple pie” advice. There are very specific things you can and should do related to “being yourself”.

First, make sure you post from an account that explains who is behind the curtain. You are talking to people about their personal life experiences, after all! The least you can do is expose who you are, too. Put your @name in the bio of your company’s outreach account.  Or post from your personal account.

Second, use the same relationship-building tactics that you are comfortable using to connect with prospects offline. To map your offline skills to their equivalent Twitter gestures, read How to Connect With Customers on Twitter Using the Skills You Already Have.

Third, don’t act like you have an answer that can help – when you don’t. You’d be surprised how many professional marketers cannot bring themselves to be honest that they cannot answer a question. Don’t ignore the original request and answer a different question that you can answer. Don’t be afraid to send them to another website for the solution. Or even to a competitor of yours.

Above all, remember that your goal is to help them with their (very personal, very important) life event – not to drive traffic. If you’re lucky, you might even generate a moment of serendipity for your potential customer. Yep, they’ll remember you for that.

4. Measure your results. 

You’ll want to track how many outreach messages you send for each life event you market to, and you’ll want to measure the clicks and shares they delivered for you.

NeedTagger’s web app includes a simple set of analytics that helps.

To track which outreach messages generated leads and sales for you, add Google Analytics tags into your landing page links.

5. A/B test your messages and landing pages. 

This one is important if you want to scale efficiently.

Here’s something that you probably don’t know that we learned by monitoring Twitter: the questions and complaints that people post online tend to fall into rather a small number of categories, and the same types of messages repeat themselves across a large population.

“People are people”, after all.

Knowing this, your goal should be to learn which outreach messages and landing pages work best for each type of situation, issue, complaint and question you see.  Then, re-use the message and landing page combos that work best with everyone else, moving forward. This is how our most experienced customers use our platform.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll end up spending just a few minutes each day “tagging” the opportunities with pre-defined messages that work.

 

In summary, people discuss their life events in social media all the time. This opens the door for savvy and sensitive marketers to connect with new customers in ways never dreamed of just five years ago. To succeed at this new direct marketing technique, focus on finding people with specific needs you can meet with your type of expertise and content – and be sensitive to your prospect’s emotional state, specific situation and typical online behavior. Then, just be your helpful self.

 

Everything mentioned above can be done without using our software, by the way. We just make it easier to manage your customer prospecting as a measured process.

Let us know what you think about this by leaving a comment, below.

Marketing to intent expressed on Twitter can help you build your business in many ways.

Here are the five most popular ways our customers use NeedTagger to build theirs:

  1. Find potential customers who want or need what you sell
  2. Find potential customers complaining about your competitors
  3. Find potential customers discussing trigger events in their lives
  4. Content Marketing: share your content with people who need it or will appreciate it
  5. Customer Support: identify people complaining about your business.

The chart below explains how to set up your NeedTagger streams to mine Twitter for each type of opportunity.

For more detailed instructions on how to set up StreamBuilder for your business, check out How To Set Up a Prospecting Stream on NeedTagger: Step-By-Step Instructions.

Here’s where you select your Conversation Types and enter Keywords in StreamBuilder:

Once you know your objective, finding new business opportunities with NeedTagger is easy. 

On a recent webinar co-hosted by Radian6 and OpenAmplify, our team had the chance to sit in on an active and detailed discussion about the role of automated sentiment analysis in monitoring social media streams. OpenAmplify’s CEO did a great job explaining the pros/cons of sentiment analysis in a candid and open manner – and kudos to Radian6 for organizing open online discussions like this.

That said, it was clear from the comments shared on the board that the attendees who had tried to use sentiment and keywords to detect leads were less than impressed with the results.

I believe there are three good reasons for this under performance, and most of it is common sense.

Reason #1:  Keywords & Sentiment Aren’t Needs

Millions of people are searching for potential leads in social media streams right now. They are looking for prospective customers they can connect with – perhaps by answering a question or by offering some useful content. Most of them are filtering social media streams using keywords. Some are using sentiment signals to enhance their filters.

When trying to detect potential leads in social media, it’s really important to understand what your tool is actually searching for. Because keywords, sentiment and needs are very different things:

Keywords are “word markers” used to identify specific places, people, concepts, brands, products, etc. A  keyword is nothing more than a single spelling of a noun or a phrase.  A simple topic like “sports car” has many dozens of relevant keywords that identify it online. By itself, a keyword isn’t an expression of need.

Sentiment analysis aims to determine the attitude of the author with respect to some topic or for the overall post.

A statement of need is typically a question, a complaint, or an explicit request for information. A need is often expressed as a sentence or a question (although it doesn’t have to be).  A need usually involves an actor and a verb phrase plus perhaps an object of action or intent. A single need is a complex thing, linguistically speaking – it may be represented by hundreds or even thousands of meaningful word combinations.

Because of these differences, Keyword Filters, Sentiment Analysis Tools and Need Detection Tools differ in their ability to spot a lead:

Keyword & topic filters give you a stream of posts containing specific words and phrases.  That’s it.  There’s no particular meaning or intent guiding the results. There’s no room for interpretation. Spam is included if it contains a keyword. If you don’t type the right keywords into your filter, then you won’t get good results. Most SMMS tools allow you to slice and dice your stream with “tags and flags”, but the bottom line is that while keyword filters are easy to use, they generate streams that omit a lot of needs and contain a lot of noise.

Sentiment classification is typically applied to a keyword-filtered stream. Sentiment doesn’t help you detect more potential leads, but the messages you do find are tagged with positive and negative sentiment.  This is useful information when lead-hunting – complaints tend to be negative, for example. But many other expressions of need are often neutral. Bottom-line, sentiment analysis provides a little better signal, but it doesn’t overcome the limitations of keyword filters – it just adds a little more information.

Need detection platforms like NeedTagger yield a stream of posts containing human expressions of explicit needs, implied needs, feelings, opinions, questions and frustrations related to your content, your brand, your target audience, your products and your industry. Need detection produces a highly filtered stream – the number of posts (yield) tends to be much less than keyword-filtered streams. For the most part, spam is also filtered out of the stream.

If you want to detect potential leads, which of these three methods should you be using?

Reason #2:  Keyword-based Tools Require You To Be a Language Expert

How good are you at generating keyword lists?  Before you answer, consider the following two posts, both of which are decent leads:

“I need an affordable new car with great gas mileage”

“I need to replace my VW”

If you search for brand names like “VW” or “Volkswagen”, then you won’t ever see the first lead.

This illustrates a common but important limitation of all keyword filters:  if the user doesn’t understand and load all of the most important phrase and keyword combinations into their query – every possible combination that matters –  then s/he will miss many potential leads.

Problem is, there are often thousands of valid word combinations that can accurately describe a specific need (lead) in the language of social media. Which ones matter most?

In the real world, most business professionals have neither the time nor the skill to generate & prioritize huge lists of relevant word combinations.  They aren’t language experts, and they won’t be any time soon. This issue is a major stumbling block preventing SMMS tools from detecting leads with broad coverage and precision. This is one of the reasons we built NeedTagger.

Reason #3:  Keyword & Sentiment Filters Miss Implied Needs

Implied needs are statements that represent precursors, symptoms or root causes of commercial intent. Expressions of implied needs often contain no recognizable keywords, so they are tough to detect.

For example, consider the following tweet:

@johntaylor:  “I just totalled my ride, can’t tow the boat any more!”

Three observations:

  1. John probably needs a new truck.  (implied need)
  2. what keyword would you have used to detect this need?
  3. if you searched for any of the common keywords contained in this post, you would have introduced off-topic noise into your stream.

Social media monitoring tools are simply not designed to help people detect implied needs with broad coverage and precision, because they lean so heavily upon keywords and a limited set of very explicit phrases.

Why Not Just Add Action Phrases to My Keyword List?

Some SMMS providers tell customers they can find leads by searching for action phrases in addition to keywords. While this is technically correct (you will find some needs this way), if you do this then it is highly likely you will miss a lot of needs out there, and you may introduce new types of noise into your filtered stream. The reality of doing this well – creating exhaustive lists of 2- 3- 4- and n- word phrases – is a very time consuming exercise. Also, most SMMS tools limit the number of keywords you use in a filter.

Keyword Filters & Sentiment Analysis Are Great… for Certain Things

We are not arguing about the general utility of keyword and sentiment filters – keywords are fundamental to NeedTagger’s platform. We use keywords a LOT. We use sentiment classification in our platform, as well.

Keyword filters and sentiment analytics definitely have their place in social media monitoring:  they work well for tracking brand sentiment and measuring explicit product / brand mentions over time. They are also great for monitoring popular channels, for example by using hashtags.

But keywords and sentiment are not needs; so, relying upon keyword and sentiment filters to detect leads is not enough. Detecting needs in social media requires a different approach.

To Detect Leads In Social Media, You Need To Analyze More Than Text

Human expressions of needs are complex and nuanced things. And complex/nuanced things require a lot of data to identify exactly what they mean.

Keyword filters and sentiment analysis tools typically only analyze the text contained in the body of a message. On Twitter, that’s at most 140 characters. Not a lot. Blogs, discussion forums and many other social networks also consist primarily of short text messages.

Unfortunately, a short text message is usually not enough data to precisely classify a post as a need you can meet… from a person you care to help… with content, products and services you offer… right now.  You need more data to do this with precision. Unfortunately, the vast majority of SMMS tools today still only look at the body of the message when classifying a post for intent or action.

Thankfully, there are a LOT more signals available in social networks than the body of a post. Modern “need detection” platforms like NeedTagger are built to take advantage of multiple signals to do their job.

NeedTagger’s platform considers multiple signals when detecting a need for your campaign, including:

  • What is the context of the post?   Is this a need within this specific industry and campaign?  Is this post part of a conversation?  or is it a request for help?  a news-sharing event?
  • What is the profile of the person discussing the need?  What is their job title?  What is their posting history, social graph, and interest graph?
  • What is their conversation history? do they regularly talk about topics you care about?  have they expressed a need in the recent past?
  • Is the person influential in your industry?  how do they rank – within the scope of your campaign?
  • Historically, what signals have best served your campaign?  what types of posts & people tend to deliver the best results for your organization and content?
  • and of course, what does the post say? are there important keywords in it?  what meaningful part of speech patterns exist?  what actors, verb phrases and objects are involved?  what links exist?
  • does this person want to speak with you?  has this person asked you to stop sending posts in the past?

NeedTagger’s platform is designed to leverage all available signals to detect relevant needs for your campaign. We do this with a high degree of sensitivity to the unique terminology used in your industry and in the social networking platforms that matter to your campaign. In fact, everything we do is optimized for each campaign – the keywords, speech patterns, hashtags, author profiling, etc.

So far, the engagement levels our customer messages have been able to produce with our vertically-sensitive, multi-variable approach are an order of magnitude better than most other forms of marketing currently deliver on Twitter.  Plenty of work left to do, but our customers seem to appreciate the results so far.

We hope this post explains why keyword and sentiment filters struggle to detect human needs for content, products and services that you can meet – right now. That said, keywords and sentiment remain excellent tools for tracking mentions and brand sentiment.

NeedTagger was designed to detect needs in social media that you can meet – right now. 

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