I haven’t written a Scout Labs “vision” post in a while, but now is the time. Because the new enhancements that come online today take Scout Labs closer to our vision than ever before.
Today’s release incorporates lots more data - more forums, more news, more Tweets - and offers more powerful (and beautiful) graphing capabilities. Our product team will detail those enhancements in an upcoming post. What I want to discuss today are the new collaboration features and place them on the backdrop of the Scout Labs mission.
We founded this company upon a fundamental belief: that brands are protected in “packs”; that listening should NOT be one person’s job, but the every day job of many. The un-mediated voice of the customer should flow to the desktop of everyone - Product teams, Marketing teams, Customer Service departments, senior executives, PR teams, and the Agencies and Agents of all of the above. When the voice of the customer is in the hands of knowledgeable people, innovation happens - new product ideas, new marketing ideas, new service ideas, new connections with customers.
Collaboration at Scout Labs So, “collaboration” is a not a FEATURE for Scout Labs. It’s not a thing that we launch in month 10. It’s a belief system and vision that permeates our product, our UI, our pricing model and, yes, even our technology and our algorithms. Because if you believe that listening is the job of TEAMS, not an individual, you build your app in a very particular way:
You create an app that is intuitive and simple to use and understand instantly. If it’s a crazy flex app, people won’t use it. If it takes tons of training to figure out, people won’t use it. If you make people work hard or if it takes a long time to get actionable insight to come out the other end, people won’t use it. When people rave about Scout Labs’ ease of use, how intuitive it is, and how much insight they gain for so little work, we are very proud but we are not surprised or amazed. This is what we work at every day. Quick story: A major television network signed up as a customer recently and immediately had dozens of people logged in. When our account team reached out to welcome them and asked if anyone on the team needed a quick training the answer was, “Our team has taken to Scout Labs like fish to water. I can’t imagine needing training but I’ll ask around just in case.” How many other social media monitoring vendors / listening platforms can point to stories like that?
You focus on the functionality that the most people need every day to do their jobs better. You give them the insight they need in an easy to digest way and you remove confusing advanced controls (for most). Do people need to see social-graph-visualizations every day to do their jobs? Not very many, so we didn’t start there. If you layer in too much deep-dive researcher functionality, you will baffle the people who need the information the most and who can do the most with it - those on the front-lines.
You do NOT charge by seat. Charging by seat just limits the product’s viral potential and its effectiveness in the organization. If you care about teams really uniting around your dashboard, then, instead, you encourage team usage and sharing and find other ways to earn revenue. We choose to charge by the number of things (searches) your extended team tracks / we analyze on your behalf. So, if we are useful and valuable, you will rely on us more and more, and you will pay more.
You cherish collaborative interaction by teams and use it to get even smarter! At Scout Labs, we have architected for user feedback loops. As users work with each other and with the data - change a sentiment score, flag something as spam, etc. - we use that feedback as labeled data which can train our algorithms (which are almost all learning and adapting). This gives us a major competitive advantage, because we have thousands of highly motivated, highly skilled Scout Labs users unwittingly “labeling” data for us, which we use to improve algorithms and augment dictionaries and linguistic rules.
All of the above are core tenets of Scout Labs and fundamental to how our platform works and what makes us unique. It’s why Scout Labs is the hands-down platform of choice for extended teams that want to tune in to social media.
(One of the many things) New in this release: Assignments If you are a customer of Scout Labs, you have a common, voice-of-the-customer dashboard and a common set of social media metrics to navigate by. You have adoption and usage throughout the company, and you have a robust platform for taking action.
But you may also need help to NOT trip over yourselves - a way to coordinate your interactions with each other and with your customers. You need “Assignments”, a flexible ticketing and workflow feature which is what has launched today as a feature at the Professional level.
As Scout Labs users know, you have always been able to tag and discuss and route things via email to others on your team, and Standard level plans will have all those same capabilities, but this Pro feature offers:
A built-in ticketing system so that any piece of content can be assigned to a person, given a status, and tracked by all.
A team control panel showing how well you are doing at responding - # open tickets, # closed tickets, average days to close tickets, etc.
A personal to-do list and stats for your own engagement metrics.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts This is not a new idea. Other platforms in our space have a workflow feature, BUT they do not as completely live and breathe collaboration the way Scout Labs does (see above), so the feature’s utility has been limited.
If you charge by seat and hence hardly anyone buys additional seats, there’s no one to collaborate with! If the app is difficult to use and thus is mainly used by the one person who had training and can figure the thing out, what’s the point of a ticketing system? Scout Labs did it the other way around. We EARNED the honor of being the voice-of-the-customer dashboard to entire organizations, and now, with “Assignments”, we give our customers even more powerful ways to collaborate, coordinate and take action.
Again, the new Assignments feature in this release is in addition to major new data enhancements that everyone gets access to - lots more forum data, general news sources broken out, richer Twitter data options, and sexy new graphs. Look for a post from Margaret next that will give more detail on those enhancements soon.
Previously posted on scoutlabs.com/blog on Feb 8, 2010
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There is a lot of confusion out there.
Many of the posts and tweets about social media monitoring and brand monitoring these days are asking, “What application should I use? Which app is the best? Who has used what? What do you think?” Very often, the RFPs I receive and the questions I am asked about our platform are pretty surface-skimming. “Does it have Twitter?” is a fine question, but there are so many more tough questions you should be asking all of us.
Don’t even ask me which platform is best. You already know my answer is Scout Labs. I have no credibility there.
But, having thought about this and worked on the technology for nearly 3 years, I do think I have credibility in offering up a checklist of things to look for and to think about if you are choosing a social media analysis platform for your company. I will get the list started but I hope that you will add your own thoughts:
How many months of live data are you serving in the application? (I need to be able to read all the posts and also see trending graphs).
Do you price based on the number of results returned or otherwise limit the number of results that I can see? Or do you return all the search results for my topics?
What social media content types do you index?
Can I add sources if I don’t see them in your app? How fast does it take to see them in results?
How good are your spam filters? What percentage are your algorithms catching as compared to human-scores? How often do you mis-classify something as spam?
If you say its spam, can I see what you filtered out? Can I add them back in to my main results?
Can I curate the results for my team? E.g. If I think a result is either irrelevant or spam, can I flag it as such and will it be instantly removed from the results?
Can I order mentions within a given date range by importance - what’s most important to pay attention to - or is it just by date?
What sentiment-related features do you offer? Is it just positive and negative scoring, or can you identify other customer emotions?
With regard to sentiment (positive / negative / neutral) how accurate are your sentiment scores? Specifically, how often does your algorithm agree with human scorers? When is the last time you tested your algorithm versus human scores?
How are you improving your algorithms over time?
Do you do only go-forward sentiment scoring (as posts come in, after you create a search)?
Or can you back-fill sentiment scores for old things that were posted before I created my search? If so, is there an addition charge for backfill? How long does it take to back-fill sentiment for all my searches?
Does the application support multiple people / departments and groups in the company? Is it easy to add people? How much do you charge additional users or is it free?
Is there a way to “bookmark” and tag interesting content as my team finds things and people that we want to remember?
Can I annotate things I see with my own commentary and tags, so that my colleagues can see my thoughts?
From when a customer posts to when it is live in your application, what is the lag time (by media type)?
How long does it take for a dashboard to populate from search creation?
Is everything totally automated or do you have your analysts or outsourced labor doing some part of it?
How much honing and set-up of the results need to happen to get really good results?
How much training time would you say is required to become an expert at using the system?
What is the average number of users that are using your platform within a typical company. One? Twenty?
How do you price? What’s the cost for an addition person to get access? Is there any limit on the number of search results that you return to me?
If you do limit the number of searches that you return to me, (e.g. 10,000) and I do a search on “Google”, say, that clearly has far more than 10,000 results, what do subset do you show me? What am I not seeing?
We don’t mind the softball-inquiries when they are thrown to us. But we know that Scout Labs stands up to very rigorous scrutiny, so bring it on. I hope this makes you a more sophisticated reviewer of platforms and writer of RFPs.
I also hope that this forces more data into the discussion about social media platforms and raises the level of discourse throughout the category.
Previously posted on scoutlabs.com/blog on Aug 31, 2009
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It was such an honor to have James Smith, VP of Advertising for Disney Online (Disney.com, Family.com,FamilyFun, Kaboose and BabyZone), up on stage with me at Web 2.0 in New York talking about one aspect of“operationalizing” social media - measuring campaign effectiveness and real-time optimization. His deep-dive case study had the entire audience sitting up straight and taking frantic notes.
James eloquently walked through data and graphs showing how he and his team use social media data from Scout Labs throughout the lifecycle of major Disney Online campaigns.
Pre-sales. Disney uses Scout Labs to offer a new dimension to the traditional media metrics firms. According to the old-school metrics, Disney and competitor properties were “equal”, but when you looked at the social media metrics for Disney properties, they won hands-down. Disney’s properties are clearly earning more social media buzz and attention than its competitors, which if great data to share if you are trying to close a big deal!
Mid-campaign. Of course, Disney doesn’t rest on its laurels once its won a big media partnership. It launches a major media campaign and aggressively tracks buzz, sentiment, sentiment trending and even customer quotes to understand the impacts its efforts are having out in the real world. They have developed a smart methodology of creating benchmarks of key social media metrics before launch, then measuring lift and optimizing tactics throughout the campaign to ensure maximum impact and effectiveness.
Post-campaign. At the end of a promotion or campaign, everyone wants to see metrics. Thanks to a continuously updated dashboard, at least on the social media side, there are few surprises at the end. But Disney takes the all-important step of combining e-commerce and other “hard” business success metrics with the social media impact data (as well as quotes from customers during the campaign) to give a more complete picture of campaign success.
Disney is a marvelous example of a company that constantly evolves its marketing discipline in keeping with the marketplace. They embrace new tools and technologies and look to new and deeper sources of market data—like social media—for success metrics. And you don’t have to be one of the biggest and most beloved brands in the world to have access to this kind of data and to engage in real-time campaign tracking and optimization.
You just have to be as smart as Disney to choose Scout Labs 😉
Previously posted on scoutlabs.com/blog on Dec 9, 2009
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You all know Heelys — the roller skate / shoe hybrids that are beloved by “kids” of all ages. Well, Heelys and their savvy agency partner, 358 Communications, are using Scout Labs to get a real-time beat on who’s wearing Heelys and what product or communications issues might exist they can solve.
For instance, they noticed a number of people asking whether the shoes come in adult sizes (which they do!), so Heelys is now looking at campaigns to get that message out.
They have also used Scout Labs to find the all-important celebrity sightings. Right now Heelys is seeking endorsements and partnerships with a number of celebrity Heelys fans.
Previously posted on scoutlabs.com/blog on Feb 12, 2009
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OpenDNS, a leading provider of free recursive Domain Name Service (DNS) with Web content filtering and phishing protection, has some very savvy social media folks on board. They are very active in the blogosphere and have an avid (and vocal) fan base.
They have been using Scout Labs for the last few months and have really been enjoying the comprehensive email alerts that we push to them daily.
“This is fantastic!” — Allison Rhodes, Director of Marketing at OpenDNS
OpenDNS is getting creative with its searches, as well. In addition to tracking OpenDNS and its DNS-guru and founder David Ulevitch, the team is looking for people out across the Internet who are having problems with web content filtering or those looking for a better solution. Helpful tips and information from proactive OpenDNS team members are delighting potential customers.
Previously posted on scoutlabs.com/blog on Feb 2, 2009
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