I had a demo of BrandWatch recently, ably accompanied by Seb Hempstead (Account Exec), and was impressed both by their current Web Dashboard and it’s forthcoming incarnation.
BrandWatch are serious data-heads. Having started out building monitoring systems for the British Government, they struck out on their own, creating a high quality social media monitoring and tracking system of their own. While some services (notably Market Sentinel) employ human intervention to measure “sentiment” in the posts people make on Twitter, forums and blogs, BrandWatch concurs with Scoutlabs, among others, that automation is the way forward when dealing with large quantities of data (as Seb points out, you get real-time trends, regardless of thhe inevitable inaccuracies).
BrandWatch works by enabling companies to set up a range of “classifiers”. These might include “industry”, “country”, “sector” etc. within which data should be tracked. They can then set the “keywords” they want to track within these boundaries – and the system does the rest. Once the data has emerged, the user can slice, dice and present it in a wealth of useful, fun and, if I’m honest, mind-boggling ways.
A particularly nice feature is “Groups” that enables companies to track their keywords across a set list of websites. So Mothercare, for example, might discover that they get more comments about their prams on Netmums, while their baby clothes stoke up more interest in the Confetti.com forums. Similarly, users can check which keywords appear most often in comments and which are increasing in frequency over time – i.e. what the hot topics are. These kind of stats and flows can have a huge bearing on advertising spend.
BrandWatch also measures the Influence of the people making the comments. This is done using a straightforward calculation of the “most mentions for a particular keyword” plus “credibility” – which is gauged by site traffic, in-links, page-rank and the age of the site. Evidently there’s a hole here – Twitter followers for example – but Seb assured me that will be filled in due course.
For anyone not familiar with tracking social media, BrandWatch, like many other services, offers hours of fascination: the peaks of activity on a Monday; the troughs at the weekend; the emotive spikes generated by “new” products (about which people are much more opinionated that old ones); the wild differences in sentiment detected between a brand and it’s latest product or marketing campaign; the amusing acceptance that, no matter how clever they get, computers will never understand irony.
The new version, BenchMark. looks to be a Netvibes-inspired mixture of drag and drop usability with some juicy additional features thrown in. In addition to the inclusion of more video data (i.e. stats and ratings), it will include “proximity” targeting of keywords, i.e. the ability to limit the terms covered according to their proximity to other words. I look forward to trying this out when it’s launched in a few weeks’ time.