Social Media Monitoring from the Minds of Crimson Hexagon

If you’ve been paying attention to the new business intelligence of social media, you may have seen Fast Company listed Crimson Hexagon in their top 10 list of the most innovative web companies this year.

Last summer, I had the privilege of doing a podcast with Gary King, the Harvard professor and co-founder of this social media monitoring company.

This week I caught up with CTO Chris Bingham and VP of Marketing Wayne St. Amand to talk about what’s new and what social media marketers should be aware of when it comes to the tools and offerings in this emerging space.


Jason Cormier: The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has documented well over 100 social media monitoring tools as part of an effort to help establish a criteria for selection. What do you believe marketers should understand about the differences among so many of these tools?

WSA: Although there are hundreds in the space, relatively few have the kind of investment, research and development to support the unique technology underpinnings that create real value.

Every player is doing at least one of three things. The first is a keyword/buzz-based, volumetric analysis. These providers are providing a detection and count of posts (tweets, blogs, forums, etc.) containing certain keywords.

As an additional offering, they may also provide a workflow functionality to help companies not only track the buzz they are interested in, but also follow up and respond.

A second methodology to social media monitoring is to work with these tools in addition to a very manual, human-powered process of analysis. Imagine using something like Google Alerts to collect a massive number of posts about a particular subject matter… then leveraging a room full of offshore labor to individually classify and apply context to the data.

The upside to this approach is typically an accurate and detailed aggregation of data to apply relevant meaning. The drawbacks are how expensive this process can get, and how long it can take. It can be good if you have months as opposed to hours or days.

The third and more technically advanced approach to social media monitoring, one still based on volumetric keyword analysis, includes natural language processing. Although this is “business intelligence” by definition, the limitations are in the pre-defined assumptions and judgment calls often made by engineers, who essentially attempt to apply all-encompassing definitions or meanings to a set of words.

JC: This makes me think of the kind of social media monitoring I witnessed for Travel Channel’s show, “Bizzare Foods.” Andrew Zimmern would be eating bull penis and people would be tweeting about how “bad ass” and “sick” he was.

In the context of what made the show successful, this was positive sentiment. But as far as the pre-defined social media monitoring tools were concerned, this language was bad news for the show – which of course, was inaccurate.

So getting to the punch, where does Crimson Hexagon fit among the three approaches you’ve mentioned, and why should we care?

WSA: With Crimson Hexagon, you are supplying the context from your own point of view, your logic, your intelligence to leverage the computer in a different way.

It’s the human-powered approach that is uniquely combined with the algorithm on the computer – only it is you who is replacing the pre-defined assumptions typically used by other advanced social media monitoring tools.

JC: So in using Crimson Hexagon, I may be reading and manually classifying one hundred posts (tweets, blogs, Facebook comments, etc). But by dedicating maybe 6-12 hours to doing this, I’m also training the algorithm to know how I think so it can then apply my rules and my context to the thousands of posts it will eventually collect and categorize on it’s own.

WSA: Yes, the yield is what’s most critical. Every tool seams to be capturing the “what” that is happening, but not necessarily the “why.” Quantifying the qualitative information is the key to determining the why.

JC: Chris, let’s talk about some of the newer items with respect to the focus and technology of your platform. We were working with your API last year to analyze Facebook comments that were being scraped in somewhat of a manual fashion on our end. What should marketers know about this?

Chris Bingham: Crimson Hexagon now has a Facebook application that can retrieve posts from brand pages for analysis. This is public facing data, so to speak, for those who are logged in to Facebook, which means you don’t have to be an admin of a page to enable the analysis.

JC: Cool, how far back in time can I go to review Facebook posts and comments?

CB: Facebook’s APIs have different, undocumented limits in terms of how far you can go back – so it’s somewhat varied based on what Facebook allows us to get for any given page.

JC: What else are you paying attention to over there in Harvard land?

CB: We are building on the principal that humans do what they are good at and computers do what they are good at. Each can achieve far more working together than apart.

A couple of things we are focusing on include proprietary (offline) data analysis, and the expansion of our product to help address better address engagement and workflow. We believe we can do for engagement the same thing we did for monitoring, but all within a comprehensive solution.

For us, it’s about having a massive volume of data, historical and current to provide analysis that gives real insight, not just numbers. There is a great deal of latent power and value that exists in the data… somewhere in there is the insights your company needs to make smart business decisions.

Note: I hope you found this post of value. Crimson Hexagon is one of several social media monitoring vendors my agency works with. We receive no compensation from them for sales, referrals, posts or articles related to their products and services.

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