October 19, 2012

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20 Free Social Media Tools The great promise of the Internet is that we can instantly access encyclopedic experiences, opinions, insights, lessons and data sets -- the sum total of human wisdom in 2 clicks. Imagine if we could hear from and have direct knowledge from our customers and prospects on topics that matter to them. Better yet -- imagine if you could get to this mother lode anonymously without having to actually see or engage these people, hear them whine or see their bad haircuts and off-beat fashion choices. How great would that be? The idea that "everything is a conversation" was first articulated in the Cluetrain Manifesto. Now years later a bevy of free tools exist that instantly plumb social networks by scraping their feeds to reveal the authentic ongoing conversation and lay bare the themes that characterize consumers’ popular, political or personal agendas that incubate cultural phenomena, influence popular tastes or drive brand marketing. The promise is simple -- type in the topic. These tools reveal tweets, posts, comments and blog entries in seconds. Some offer insight into timing, influence, virility and trending topics. You still have to dig into the details to get context and to understand trends over time, but these quick snapshots can be useful for optimizing social engagement, monitoring the competition and/or developing resonant content. Test drive these 20 free tools to see what I mean … Monitter.com, BackTweets.com, TwitterCounter.com, Twazzup.com, Sentiment 140.com Twitalyzer.com, Topsy.com, Hashtags.org, Stats.brandtweet.com, Starcount.com Tweetfeel.com, Twittratr.com, Tweetreach.com, Tweetcharts.com, Twialert.com Addictomatic.com, 48ers, SocialMention, Who’sTalkin and Tweriod. And while none of them is foolproof, using several to address real-time intelligence gathering or to monitor the same topics in social sphere can yield impressive insight and potential competitive advantage. As a dedicated student of social media, I can vouch for the wisdom, opinions and accurate information that emerge from social communities. And who knows? Just maybe free tools like these will help us get a little closer to accessing the complete font of human wisdom.
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Beware of Big Data Hype Big data is no big deal. Big data has been around for years and years dominated by financial services firms, telecom providers and sophisticated retailers And while incremental advancements in computing speed and software design have enabled us to dice and slice data better and faster, don’t expect a groundswell of new activity. Here are three fundamental reasons why. Sensibility. Big data users and believers share a common POV that the cost and trouble of collecting, holding, cleaning and analyzing data is worth it. And while its easy to say, its almost impossible to graph this sensibility onto running companies or agencies who are brand oriented or who have not hired enough numbers guys to influence their go-to-market strategy or the operational aspects of their business. Embracing big data means embracing an ROI-driven numbers-oriented culture where data trumps opinion; even high priced, big ego executive opinion. The best big data users are numbers guys at the core. They believe that if you can’t count it or measure it; it doesn’t exist. It’s a pervasive micro viewpoint where God is in the details. They are skeptical about big ideas and reluctant to embrace the unknowable magic of creative agencies. They will take a base hit over a home run everyday because its predictable. They live for testing, iterations and incrementality. It’s a slow, detailed and often frustrating process. Rarely do the numbers reveal immediate or market-altering insight. Investment. Big data doesn’t come cheap. And while the cost of computers, software and even skilled data analysts or outsourcing solutions has come down in recent years, its still not chickenfeed. Beyond the cash outlay and the intense IT landscape, organizations have to attend to the care and feeding of data guys, who need their toys and need to be managed and motivated differently than employees with other skill sets. The pay-off is rarely immediate and often requires considerable marketing spend to generate enough data to find relevant patterns or to discern the nuances of consumer behavior. You can’t dabble in big data. You have to go all-in. Interpretation. Data guys think, talk and act differently. They need to be nurtured and directed differently by managers who understand them and can translate numbers and geek talk into English and into persuasive arguments for meeting or exceeding business objectives. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds, if you don’t hire, mobilize and motivate the right interpreters. More importantly the interpreters need a seat at the decision-making table so that the analytics pay-off can be recognized and incorporated into the business. Big Data isn’t a passing fancy. The current hype will wane. Some verticals, like CPG, will dabble a little more or a little less, but don’t expect a mad rush to embrace these tools. In a short while big data will slip below the line, where its always been.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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