Today at Cloudforce New York, being held in the Jacob Javitz Center, Salesforce.com unveiled a powerful new approach to marketing data analysis designed to give marketers much clearer insights into the social data they collect. The company says that this insight will drive more actionable information and sales.
Just what the social doctor ordered, I think.
One of the big issues of social marketing has been the under appreciated need for analytics — but analytics specific to a task. It’s fine to capture a lot of customer data for analysis and many of us have discussed that but what’s been downplayed in the conversation has been a sense of what the analysis is supposed to do. For many, “analytics” or “analysis” has been a black box and “sentiment” a far too generic word.
But if you spend any time thinking about the challenge you realize that the key question in analytics can be phrased as, What kind of analytics? or more bluntly, What are you looking for? There is a saying I am fond of — if you bring your car to Meineke you’re going to get a muffler. That’s not saying anything bad about Meineke it’s just an updated way of saying that the man with a hammer sees all the world’s problems as a nail. Bad marketing follows that logic.
Social marketing has been there but it is moving away from a monolithic approach to something more nuanced and Salesforce’s Radian6 group is providing some important leadership.
A raft of new companies has sprouted up over the last few years that focus on things like emotion, natural language processing (NLP), predictive and trending analytics, affinity and segmentation and, of course, influence. But these are all point solutions. The problem with this richness is that a marketer has to have access to all these tools if he or she expects to begin to understand what all the collected data actually says.
Today’s announcement ties this all up in a bow. Salesforce is announcing its Social Insights Partner Ecosystem, which consists of twenty analytics partners with a variety of analytics capabilities to provide the insights that social marketers crave.
Less celebrated but definitely worth mentioning is the Radian6 platform technology that provides a common interface for all the partners to access social data, perform analysis and submit the results. The platform is open and additional analytics partners will be added in the future. Radian6 had most of this in place when it was bought by Salesforce but in the intervening months, the companies have focused on the business and technology merger, so it’s good to see this return to the knitting.
The result is a system that can collect data and turn it into useful information — they call it insight — upon which marketers can take action like making campaigns and drive decisions and sales.
But marketers are not the only beneficiaries. For instance, service and support workers accessing the social channel can use sentiment, emotion and natural language analysis to find customer situations where a service call is in order. At least in theory, no customer with a legitimate problem will be able to Tweet #$%^&! COMPANY without a reasonable expectation of action from a vendor using this tool.
That’s 180 degrees away from old fashioned calling and waiting in a queue. More importantly, though, all the various forms of analytics make it possible to screen out the false positives too. That means being able to focus on the issues that really matter while leaving behind the sarcasm or, hopefully, the double entendres.
Is it perfect? Nope. Does it have to be? Nope, again.
At the end of the day these are sophisticated screening tools designed to take the majority of the noise out of the data. It’s like using a powerful magnet to find your needle in a haystack and that’s progress. As time goes on the screening becomes more sophisticated, the magnets more powerful and that’s what’s important.
I can’t help a self-reference here.
Over the summer ninja analyst, Esteban Kolsky and I did some research into social media adoption and customer attitudes. We found that the marketing department followed by service and support were the more advanced groups employing social media in the enterprise. But we also discovered that most of the uptake was in the FLiT group — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter — social products, plus blogs.
But these are all outbound channels and there was a certain amount of latent frustration noted in the research that social wasn’t able to do more than provide cheap outbound contact. Using social output without pausing to consider the customer’s needs serves no one and you could say that social marketing doesn’t even start until you have first analyzed the customer situation. Salesforce announced more sophisticated analysis and insight today which leads naturally to action and deals and that is what I think is so important about today’s announcements at Cloudforce.