Archives for the month of: November, 2012

Red Bull Stratos Mission Control: Not a Bad Template

Today, let’s take a look at 5 key considerations in the development of a digital mission control center. You didn’t think that it was going to be as easy as throwing a few monitors and monitoring tools together, did you? It’s a good start, but if you want to do it right, make sure that you follow these five guidelines (or at least give them some thought).

1. Let purpose be your guide.

We’ve talked about this before, but it bears bringing up again: don’t back yourself into a shiny-object-syndrome corner. You aren’t investing resources in a state of the art digital mission control center for the sake of having a state of the art digital mission control center. Instead, give some serious thought to what you hope to accomplish with it. Let purpose be your guide. And by purpose, we mean value, utility, benefits, advantages. The two most important questions driving the development of a digital mission control center are “how will this make us a better at (insert whatever you want here)?” and “how will we incorporate this into our day to day business processes?”

2. Move beyond buzzwords like “monitoring.”

The purpose of a digital mission control centers is rarely just to “monitor” the internets. Dig deeper: Why are you monitoring social channels? Why are you monitoring mentions of your brand or products? To what end? What do you intend to do with the information you uncover? This brings us from purpose to function. Monitoring digital channels without some follow-up function is pointless. You have to think beyond the obvious. What business functions does monitoring ultimately serve?

First, think about the monitoring piece as the first in four phases of action: Discovery. Reporting. Analysis. Response.

Second, think about whom the reporting would be geared towards. It depends on the type of information discovered, right? Here are a few examples:

Can your monitoring of digital channels help a product marketing team track reactions to a new product they just released?

Can your monitoring of digital channels help an online reputation/crisis management team spot a problem early enough to keep it from  snowballing into a full scale PR crisis?

Can your monitoring of digital channels help a consumer insights team measure changes in sentiment towards certain products, features and product trends?

Can your monitoring of digital channels help your HR department identify potentially dangerous social media behaviors in some of your employees that could be curbed through internal training?

Can your monitoring of digital channels help your marketing department adjust the tone, frequency and message of a digital campaign?

Can your monitoring of digital channels help your community management team and customer service department effectively address customers and potential customers’ questions and concerns in real time?

These are just some of the things that should drive the development of a digital mission control center. Monitoring is only the first step. Make sure it plugs in with steps 2, 3 and 4: reporting, analysis and reaction.

3. Plan for scale.

Understand the importance of your digital mission control center to the entire organization. Do this early. At first, your control center may just be three or four screens sitting in a cubicle with one person managing the monitoring function. Invariably, you will reach a place where the mission control center will outgrow the cubicle and require its own room. More likely than not, the three or four screens will quickly turn into six to eight. Instead of one person managing this, you will likely have two or three. Before long, your mission control center will grow again. Plan for it.

Take a look at mature mission control centers (NASA and CIA are good places to start). What you will see are walls of screens and rows of desks with their own banks of screens and controls. If you are a small company, you may not ever reach that kind of scale, but of you are a national or a global brand, before long, that is what you will be replicating. Same with digital agencies: if you intend to offer monitoring services for more than one or two clients, you will need to hardware-up and build capacity.

In item #2 (above), we touched on the breadth of departments that should be (and will be) leveraging your digital command center: PR, marketing, product management, customer service, community management, tech support, business development, etc. Hold that thought for about thirty seconds. Tip: you won’t need to hire “digital monitoring experts” to fill those rows of seats. Ideally, you will assign at least one person from each of those departments to be a part of that monitoring, reporting, analysis and reaction team.

Note that once it reaches a certain size, someone will need to manage workflow, coordinate collaboration, and ensure that your digital mission control center is working at 100% efficiency at all times. This person must be senior to the rest of the team and own every aspect of the mission control center’s operations. The most complex piece of this scale puzzle may actually be the selection of this individual, as the ideal qualifications and temperament for the role may be a bit of a puzzle for HR managers at first.

4. Plan for new collaboration and approval processes.

We aren’t talking about breaking down silos between departments, but we are talking about building doorways and windows connecting them all in real time. This isn’t a pipe dream. It’s an operational reality. With real time data and insights coming in in real time, and the ability to also respond to threats and opportunities in real time, the nature collaboration between departments that may otherwise be siloed outside of the mission control center changes. With PR, marketing, customer support and community management working side by side as a team, new types of processes (internal to the command center structure and external as reporting, analysis and approvals radiate outward and back) need to be established. That also means fresh tactical training for much of your staff, based on the new requirements of their roles.

This isn’t complicated or expensive, but it is necessary. And yes, building these new processes and establishing new best practices across your organization will considerably improve its reaction times and overall effectiveness.

5. Consider your monitoring, collaboration, analysis and management software carefully.

Again, let function and purpose be your guide. It doesn’t matter how pretty a piece of software is or how many Fortune 500 brands already use it. If a less sexy, less well known piece of monitoring or data visualization software helps you do your job better, then go with that one. Substance first. Flash second.

The selection of the software you will use in your command center should be the first subject of collaboration between command center team members. You don’t ever want to find yourself in a position where a digital team forces their choice of software on a PR department or digital customer service representative. Collaborate. Discuss everyone’s specific needs. Share information on new digital tools. Test. Experiment. Repeat. Seek to continuously improve your team’s capabilities by improving on the current model.

In mature (large) digital mission command centers, you may find that twenty to thirty types of software are required to allow everyone to do their jobs properly. Big community screens may focus on macro views of what is happening across all channels while individual monitors focus on what individuals need to do. A community manager may be working almost exclusively with a Radian 6 or Spiral 16 dashboard, while a CSR might have a Hootsuite or Tweetdeck tab open alongside his CSR software. A business development manager may be using Tickr to overlay sales data, inbound call data and mentions of the brand right alongside a Google analytics dashboard. As a particular event (like a possible PR crisis or a campaign launch) becomes a priority, the mission control center’s team lead may choose to dedicate the large community screens to information relating to that event and thereby change the team’s focus for a specific interval. The specificity of certain types of monitoring and response software will obviously play a key role in this process.

We’ll have more pro tips on the way. Until then, we hope what we shared with you today will help.

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If you’re only now discovering us, take our free version out for a spin. (It’s super easy.) If you’ve already done that, make sure that you follow us onTwitter and Facebook. (If not for our awesomely curated feed, to be among the first to hear about the new product we are launching very very very soon. It’s going to blow you away.)

Cheers,

The Tickr Team

 One of the perks of working in the social monitoring and social business worlds is that we run into all kinds of cool new apps and tools on a quasi-daily basis. Most of the time, we just file away that knowledge for future use, but today we figured we would share a few of the latest nuggets of social media tech you might have missed. In no particular order…

1. TweetBeat: Sentiment heat maps of the twitterverse. 

SGI has been working on a project they call the Global Twitter Heartbeat. Basically, think heat maps that convert sentiment on Twitter around the globe in real time. Applications for this range from seeing where natural disasters and political disruptions are taking place to being able to (eventually) see how Twitter users react to a campaign or particular message by geographic area. Easier said than done, but… SGI seems to have done it, and they do make it look easy.

Check them out here and sign up for their webinar/demo. There’s a video too.

2. Cloud.li: Quick contextual word cloud searches for twitter.

Want to figure out what types of conversations people are having about your company or product on Twitter? Cloud.li lets you quickly enter search terms and creates an interactive word cloud for you in real time. Click on any of the terms, and the next word cloud layer takes over. Think of it as a daisy chain of purposeful word association. Uses: campaign monitoring, digital reputation management, lead generation, community development. Simple, free, fast and super easy to use. Not a bad way to be quietly alerted to shifts in conversations (topic and volume) regarding your brand or product.

Check it out here.

 3. Trendsmap: See what is trending on Twitter… everywhere. Or anywhere.

How you approach the geo piece is up to you. You can look at trends by country, city… or even globally, if you feel particularly ambitious. Breaking trends are tagged with a little red tab that says… wait for it… “Breaking.” Trending topics with a little more history come with a handy 7-day history graph and an activity window that lets you see who is saying what and where. (You can engage users directly from that window by hitting “reply.”) Trendsmap now also supports Youtube videos and Instagram as well, so you won’t be limited to Twitter chats. We keep finding new ways of using this tool, so we’re pretty sure you’ll like it too. It’s worth dedicating a screen to, especially if you are a reactive organization that monitors news and trends. Not a bad way to monitor the effectiveness and virality of a campaign.

Check it out here.

 4. Social Collider: Discover quantum cross-connections between conversations.

Okay, this one is a little off the beaten path, but we really like it because it’s so… well… different. In its team’s own words:

The Social Collider reveals cross-connections between conversations on Twitter. With the Internet’s promise of instant and absolute connectedness, two things appear to be curiously underrepresented: both temporal and lateral perspective of our data-trails. Yet, the amount of data we are constantly producing provides a whole world of contexts, many of which can reveal astonishing relationships if only looked at through time.

 This is a pretty unique tool that helps you (if nothing else) expand your networks and locate otherwise invisible points of connection between you and either potential new communities to tap into, or more directly, net new lead generation where you least expected to find it. Probably not something you need to dedicate a full time screen to, but worth checking into if you are having a slow week or your community development trending is down.

Check it out here.

5. TweepsKey: Visualizing and understanding your network.

Here’s how it works -

The X axis: The more tweets a follower has tweeted the more the tweep will be displayed to the right on the x-axis. The scale of the x-axis is logarithmic. When two “dots” (eg. followers) have similar values the graph will reposition the dot second dot as close to the first one in a random angle, on the next space available.

The Y axis: The more “friends” the follower has (“following”) the higher the tweep will be displayed on the y-axis (vertical). As with the x-axis the scale is logarithmic.

The Z axis: The size of the dots indicate the amount of followers for each follower. The bigger the dot is the more followers. Again on a logarithmic scale.

The color of the dots: Colors of the dots range from light-blue to green. The color is defined by the ratio followers/friends.

You can scroll over any of the dots and an interactive user profile appears. Slick and simple. Handy little visualization and community engagement tool. We wouldn’t necessarily dedicate a screen to this one, but it’s worth a look on a regular basis, so give it a shot.

Check them out here.

6. Tori’s Eye: Not the most practical Twitter visualization tool, but pretty as all get-out.

Tweets about your topic or brand appear as origami birds flying across your screen. Scrolling over them stops them in mid-flight and unveils the tweet they carry. Definitely not a quantitative tool, but if your digital control center has an extra screen and you feel like bringing a little life into your setup for a few hours, this will liven-up the joint a little. Other uses: Good for triggering serendipitous engagement points with Twitter users. Kind of like spinning a wheel, but with a lot more style. Bonus: it’s kind of relaxing, having this run on a screen amid all those graphs, pie charts and boxes.

Check it out here.

Okay, that’s it for today. We hope at least one or two of those will be helpful, especially when used along side… ahem… you know… Tickr.

If you’re only now discovering us, take our free version out for a spin. (It’s super easy.) If you’ve already done that, make sure that you follow us on Twitter and Facebook. (If not for our awesomely curated feed, to be among the first to hear about the new product we are launching very very very soon. It’s going to blow you away.)

Cheers,

The Tickr Team

by Olivier Blanchard

As the year ends and you start to meet internally to discuss next year’s planning, it might not be a bad idea to think about the changes already underway when it comes to media consumption, channel erosion, technology shifts, and what this all means to your business. Hopefully, this post will help you make smart decisions about where to focus your attention, efforts and funding in the next 12-18 months. No need for us to write a white paper on what it all means. We want to give you the information you need without saddling you with filler, so expect some bullets and key takeaways, but the graphics we have selected should speak for themselves. Pay attention and you should be able to connect the dots all on your own.

Let’s start with the graphic at the top of this post: Global Media Consumption per week 1900-2020. What do you see?

1. The main line: Global media consumption doubles every 25 years or so. Bear in mind that there are only 24 hours in a day, so that curve eventually levels off (even with second and third screens… but we won’t get into that today).

2. The nature of media is changing: 5 years ago, 50% of media was digital. In 8 years, that ratio will be 80%. Think about that and what it means.

3. Individual performance of specific media:

Print is steadily shrinking and has been since the 1940s, contrary to popular lore about the internet killing print. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s accelerating, sure, but it isn’t new. TV started that trend long before most of us were born.

Analog TV and radio formats have been replaced by digital formats. Radio has been relatively flat for a very long time. TV saw enormous growth from 1940 to 1980 but has been relatively flat ever since. Note that this graph doesn’t look at the growth of channels (channel proliferation and fragmentation, but consumption only. Adding 100 new TV and radio channels per day wouldn’t affect consumption).

Outdoor has been relatively flat for over a decade, as has been cinema.

So what’s growing? You already know: Internet, mobile (wireless) and games.

Speaking of mobile:

What this graph tells us:

Mobile cellular subscriptions are steadily increasing worldwide each year, as is the number of internet users. Active mobile broadband subscriptions are also growing quickly. That’s the black bar on the graph. It isn’t even there in 2006 but by 2010, it already reaches about 1 billion.

What’s flat (or close to flat?) Fixed broadband subscriptions and fixed telephone lines.

What does this graph show us?

1. Look at the relationship between internet users (green) vs. Fixed broadband subscriptions. What do you see? There are far more internet users than broadband subscriptions. Part of the reason for that is that one broadband subscription may serve an entire household or office, but there is more to it than that: Mobile broadband. More and more people now access the web through mobile devices. It isn’t to say that PCs are dead, but this indicates a pretty key shift in how people (it’s okay to call ourselves consumers) now access content and information.

2. Look at the relationship between fixed and mobile broadband (pink and black, respectively). In 2006, fixed broadband was it. By 2008, they were essentially tied. By 2011, mobile broadband was double the size of fixed broadband.

Bear in mind: Mobile broadband subscription = 1 user. Fixed broadband = several users. It’s simple math. Regardless of the apples to oranges comparison, growth is growth. Shift is shift. 75% of media will be digital in just 4 years. 80% of it will be digital in 8 years. Mobile devices are becoming the interfaces of choice for digital content. If you aren’t building your business processes and designing your content with this in mind, don’t blame “the economy” for what is about to happen to your market share.

Now let’s look at a quick graph on the relationship between age and internet use in developing economies vs. developed economies:

 Now look at this:

See the change in just 5 years?

Here’s another one that should make you think a bit, especially if your company has a global footprint:

Three things:

1. Globally, 45% of internet users (regardless of the interface) are under the age of 25. Though it may be obvious to most of you, don’t take for granted that every CEO and CMO has figured this out yet: It doesn’t matter if your typical customer is mostly over the age of 35. In 10 years, those 25-year-olds will be potential customers and they will expect you to do business the way they want you to do business. Better start working on them now. And while you’re at it, better start working on bringing every aspect of your business and its marketing/communications up to speed. You wouldn’t believe how many senior executives completely miss this.

2. Developing economies have some catching up to do when it comes to internet use, but they are quickly closing the gap.

3. Look at the growth of 3G penetration between 2009 and 2014: From 39% to 92% in Western Europe. From 9% to 40% in Eastern Europe. From 38% to 74% in North America. Japan hits 100% two years from now. 100%. (Japan is the model, by the way.) Even developing regions like Africa, the middle East and AsiaPac (minus Japan) are quadrupling 3G mobile penetration in the next two years. We are moving towards 80% of all media being digital. Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the digital interface of choice for consumers. Connect the dots.

Here’s a thought if you still don’t understand how this applies to your business: Follow the money. If it isn’t clear why any of this matters or even where things are going, look no further than shifts in advertising budgets in relation to digital and other media:

What do you see? Ad spend is flat in print (actually shrinking a bit) while digital ad spend is steadily growing. Every graph that compares online ad spend to other types of media ad spend look basically like this. If you don’t understand why this is happening, the graphs further up the page will help connect the dots.

Here’s another graph that ought to make you think about how your media planning strategy should already be shifting:

 What this graph shows is the point where online video wins the attention war and TV begins to recede. Same content but different interface, different medium, different level of user control. 2019 will be here before you know it. (The graph may even err on the side of caution. Things might already be moving faster.) What are you doing today to prepare for the television set’s Waterloo? From media buying to content production and distribution, are you sitting on your hands talking to analysts about future trends or are you staffing up with people who understand this and know how to prepare you for it?

Just as importantly, how are you restructuring your market research and consumer insights programs? (Are you? You should be.) This might help.

Let’s continue with today’s #graphfest. This ought to shed some light on what is happening on the interface front:

The 411: Desktop PCs are flat and mobile PCs (laptops) are growing. No surprise there. Also no surprise as to the growth of smart phones and tablets. But check this out:

Smart phones sales overtook desktop PC sales in 2008 and will take over mobile PC (laptop) sales in 2013. That’s next year.

Tablet sales will overtake desktop PC sales (that boxy thing taking up space in your employees’ cubicles) next year.

If you are an executive, go for a walk around your offices and ask yourself: What decade are you operating in? In fact… What century are you operating in? Look at your business processes, internal collaboration, media planning and productivity. Go spend a day at a media conference or tour your local coffee shops. Ask yourself if your business is operating in a bubble or if it is as technologically and strategically competitive as it could be. Be honest with yourself. Tip: If the average twenty-something hipster lounging around at Starbucks is better equipped than your average middle manager or business development team, the answer is no. Here’s another one: If your business isn’t creating apps or content specifically designed for these new devices (let alone social channels), the answer is also categorically no.

Every time you spy an executive working on a presentation on a plane, look at what kind of tech they use. Every time you see one using a boxy old laptop, you know the organization he or she works for is already falling behind. Why are these folks still using 2007 technology in 2012? You don’t see five year old tech winning on the racetrack, the field, the court or the links, right? Business is no different from sports in that regard: Outdated technology doesn’t give anyone an advantage. All it does is make you less competitive. Get unstuck.

Here’s a thought: When the world is changing faster than you are adapting to that change, it’s time to start a) worrying, and b) doing something about it. The idea isn’t even to eventually catch up, mind you. That’s a defensive position, a survival position. The idea is to actually get ahead of that change. That’s where the real competitive advantage is. Survival is a nice default position, sure; many businesses aren’t even there. But with only maybe 5% more thought and work than it would take to just play catch-up, you can shift from being just an “also in” company to becoming the leader in your industry or category inside of 5 years. That sort of surge in competitiveness doesn’t happen by accident. It takes will, foresight and initiative. That takes leadership. Real leadership. And sorry to have to tell you this, but real leaders make it a point to know what matters. “I don’t understand this new digital stuff” isn’t going to cut it anymore. Not understanding how things work anymore isn’t a sign of leadership. It’s an urgent call to action. Learn this stuff. Get caught up. It isn’t that difficult, and yes, we can help.

One last little media-related graphic to close today’s post and help you get your bearings:

Something else to think about: Becoming more “social” is only part of the shift that is taking place in media. It’s important, vital even, but without understanding how media as a whole is evolving, being “more social” probably won’t do most companies a whole lot of good. We’re seeing that already. There is a much bigger field, and the more of that field you and your senior leadership see, the better equipped you will be to not only survive the next decade but come out of it stronger and more competitive than ever. That’s the goal, right?

Final thoughts:

Don’t forget to plan beyond next quarter and/or year.

Get IT more involved in the day to day discussions that affect your business.

Rethink your hiring requirements.

Rethink the way you conduct market research.

Rethink the channels you use to connect with customers.

Rethink your relationship with consumers.

You aren’t necessarily going to become a digital business, but your business does need to be as effective in the digital space as it is everywhere else.

Welcome to the great reshuffling of the Fortune 5000 world.

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Follow our feeds on Facebook and Twitter for a lot more updates and information about social business, digital media, monitoring and market intelligence. (We promise we won’t spam you.)

And if you haven’t yet, start building Tickr pages right now. It’s simple and quick, and you can take them with you everywhere you go.

We’ve already talked about the many commercial uses for digital monitoring tools, how they are becoming increasingly valuable to public relations firms, marketing groups, customer service departments, product and brand management teams, CEOs, even investors. And we’ve only scratched the surface there, you we will have plenty of opportunities to dive a little deeper into those areas on this blog. The basic premise of every one of these discussions is that digital channels are simply sources of information. The more connected people are via these channels, and the more people publish information on these channels, the more we know what is going on in the world.

By “information,” we don’t mean people publishing photos of their sandwiches or their new shoes on Instagram. We aren’t talking about the infectious posting of political memes on Facebook, or pictures of super cars and outfit ideas on Pinterest, or sharing their current TV programming choice on GetGlue. All of those categories of publishing are great, they come in scales of value which we could discuss until we’re blue in the face, but what we mean by “information” is stuff that will become news within an hour, once news networks have looked into it and confirmed it.

One of the many game-changing aspects of digital media, especially social media, is that it has changed the way we find out about things. Being plugged into the digital hive puts us within earshot of a global grapevine. The result is that we can learn about events taking place in the world in real time, and in many cases faster than news networks themselves. If a 7.2 earthquake shakes a city in Turkey, we’ll know about it long before CNN reports it. If a SEAL team raids a terrorist compound close enough to a neighborhood in Pakistan, someone will tweet about hearing helicopters and explosions before the story ever breaks on TV. If a tornado touches down five miles from where a Texas resident lives, chances are that they will find out about it on Twitter before the emergency sirens ever go off. Whether you are a brand manager monitoring digital channels for signs of an impending PR crisis or a citizen monitoring digital channels for the latest piece of relevant news, having the power to control how and when information comes to you is becoming an expectation, a commodity, even. We all want and need fast, real-time notifications and information relating to pretty much anything that matters to us, professional and otherwise.

To get an idea of how social media – and Twitter in particular – have changed the information landscape in the last few years, let’s look at before and after snapshots of information velocity in regards to news creation and circulation:

 When we developed Tickr, our idea was to provide decision-makers and brand managers a tool that simplified monitoring and filled very specific functionality gaps in the monitoring solutions market. Whether an organization was still thinking about digital monitoring in terms of having a social media manager working with a couple of screens in a cubicle somewhere, or developing a state of the art dedicated mission control center with 10-15 giant screens and rows of workstations, we wanted Tickr to be the overwatch app, the one eyes fell on first. The one that would, in the blink of an eye, give you the most complete snapshot of what was going on in your world, good, bad and otherwise. We made it clear, we made it simple, we made it portable. What we hadn’t expected though is that people would start using Tickr for a lot of other types of monitoring, and not just to do brand management and business intelligence work.

We’ve seen everything from Amber Alert and Hurricane Alert Tickr pages to Zombie Apocalypse watch pages pop up in the last few months. We have also seen an increase in pages focused on keywords like terrorism, scandal, election, explosion, storm, even the word “breaking,” which is pretty clever. Someone shared an Iran Crisis Tickr page with us this week, even though there is no Iran crisis yet (and hopefully won’t be). When we asked the creator of that page why he built it, he told us that a lot of the Tickr pages he saves into his library are what he calls “what if” pages. He’s an online reputation management professional (which is to say he works in corporate crisis management), so that kind of forward thinking goes with the territory. He explained that he is also a news junkie, so his digital monitoring savvy bleeds into that part of his life as well.  Put Google alerts and Tickr side by side, and you have yourself a simple but very effective early warning system for just about anything you want. PR crisis, natural catastrophe, even missiles heading towards your house. And here, we come to the catalyst for this post: how Israel’s live-blogging of their missile strikes on Gaza might be a bit of a game-changer when it comes to the role social and digital media now plays in warfare, and how that affects both the role and importance of digital monitoring in 2013 and beyond.

This from All Things D‘s Mike Isaac:

The Israeli Defense Force, the official military arm of the state of Israel, has launched a full-scale combat campaign against Hamas, the Islamist party that governs the Gaza Strip area of the Middle East. But instead of holding an official press conference, as is protocol for events as major as these, the IDF took a different tack. It announced its campaign via Twitter.

[...]

It’s a fascinating case study into the realm of social media, and the ever-evolving role of the social channels in the political arena. Recently, Web-savvy political organizations wielded Facebook and Twitter as major strategic tools in the U.S. general-election campaigns. And during the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia in 2010, Twitter was methodically used to facilitate and organize demonstrations of civil resistance, ultimately playing a part in the toppling of multiple despotic regimes in the Arab region.

It seems, however, that the IDF is using social in a different way entirely. It is a veritable “Shock and Awe” online assault, with Israel live-relaying updates on the combat situation. Among the tweets are updates on the successful interception of enemy fire against Israeli troops, citations of Hamas-backed violence against Israel and briefs on sites inside the Gaza Strip which Israeli forces have attacked. Perhaps the most jarring of the IDF tweets came stapled to a single photo of a top Hamas leader; The IDF broadcasted the confirmed assassination of Ahmed Jabari (seen above), complete with Jabari’s headshot and a list of his alleged offenses.

If you are old enough to remember CNN’s live coverage from the first Gulf War in 1991, then you are old enough to remember that the world of news changed that day forever. In one night, CNN changed the news game forever. A decade from now, when we look back on this week’s live-blogging of Israel’s strikes on Gaza, we might think of it in a similar way. Whether it becomes a lesson about the wonders of real-time information or dangers of real-time digital propaganda remains to be seen, but the world is a little different today because of how the IDF used social platforms this week.

The lesson here is that media is evolving, and with it the velocity of information sharing. A hundred years ago, information came in the form of a newspaper or a magazine. Media was print. It took time. There were delays. Even with the telegraph and the development of the telephone, news traveled slowly. Seventy years ago, radio started to edge out newspapers in terms of the velocity of news. Then came television news, then 24-hour news channels, and the internet, then social, then mobile. Today, our portable devices ping us whenever we get an email or a text or a tweet or a breaking news item we care about. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing. If we want to, we can be notified of any kind of development anywhere in the world on our phone or tablet. All we need is the right technology and a little foresight to set up our very own customized alert protocols. To put this evolution in perspective, take a look at the next timeline/graph (see below).

In 2010 66% of media consumption was digital. By 2020, that number will jump up to 80%. Look at the acceleration in media consumption in the last hundred years. Look at the shifts in channels and technologies.

If you know what you’re doing, and you want to keep a competitive edge, however you were collecting information, data and intelligence a year ago won’t be the way you will be collecting it a year from now.

But with all of this, a word of caution, again from Mike Isaac:

 The IDF’s updates are coming fast and furious, but the information isn’t necessarily being verified in real time. It is possible that the IDF could be spreading misinformation strategically.

 There is a difference between a vetted journalism entity like CNN, the Associated Press or the BBC covering a news event in real time, and a non-neutral entity publishing its own information in real time.

This may be a good time to remind everyone that there is a very big difference between monitoring and analysis. Monitoring alone isn’t enough. Whether you are focusing on a PR crisis for a brand or following a developing news story, be aware that as social media becomes increasingly integrated into corporate, special interest and government communications programs, propaganda and misinformation will invariably become more prevalent there. So far, most efforts to publish disingenuous information in black hat campaigns on social platforms have been foiled. Fake bloggers posting fake updates are increasingly easy to spot. But through trial and error, social misinformation campaigns will become more sophisticated, and there isn’t a tool out there that can automate the process of determining real from fake information. You will still need to vet your sources, confirm statements, do your research. Organizations and individuals with the right tools for the job and the right best practices in place will have an advantage over everyone else, but it takes forethought, it takes diligence, and it takes a thorough understanding of what tools are needed for the job.

If an hour is an eternity in the digital age, even two minutes could make an enormous difference in the life of your organization or in your own. That’s the new reality of the digital age we live in. The advantage increasingly goes to those of us – corporate and not – with the fastest and most reliable monitoring and analysis practices.

Food for thought.

 Follow our feeds on Facebook and Twitter for a lot more updates and information about social business, digital media, monitoring and market intelligence. (We promise we won’t spam you.)

And if you haven’t yet, start building Tickr pages right now. It’s simple and quick, and you can take them with you everywhere you go.

Let’s say that you are a brand manager, an agency working with a brand, a journalist following a brand (or just an ardent fan of a brand,) and you need to know what is being said about that brand, where it is being said, by whom, and when. Obviously, Tickr takes care of that for you, but let’s look at how easy it is to use.

Let’s start by building a simple brand page in the basic trial version. For the purposes of this post, let’s pick Nike (iconic brand, lots of content, and Nike was in the news this week because of rumors of its new shoe’s pricing and the Lance Armstrong decision).

By now, you’ve created an accountlogged in, and you’ve built your page by just typing “Nike” in the box. If you haven’t done that yet, start here.

After a few seconds, here is what your basic Tickr page for Nike should basically look like:

First, let’s get situated. Top left of your screen is your page tab. (See below.) If you are using the free trial version, you only get one page at a time. If you have signed up for the pro version, you can have several tabs per page. So what you could do there is do comparative analysis of say Nike vs. Adidas, or deeper analysis of the Nike brand by refining your use of keywords. For instance: Nike, Nike Football, Nike Soccer, Nike Shoes, Nike retail, etc.

Next, look to the top right of your screen. (See below.) Though when your page launches, it will default to automatic scrolling, you can switch to manual scrolling, either by clicking on the up and down arrows or the on/off button. Your choice.

You can also easily share your page with friends and colleagues, edit your page, and there is also a help page that will help you navigate all of the elements of the page in case you have forgotten how to do something.

Now let’s look at the content being displayed on the page.

As you can see, each source of data is clearly displayed and color-coded so your eyes can easily discern between blogs, news, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Here is how each source timeline further breaks down: the boxes of text and the images you see at the top of each timeline are called content windows. They are there to give you a sense for what kind of content is being shared and create context.

The gray blocks below the content windows make up the activity graph. You can interact with all of these elements at any time just by clicking on them. (See below.)

So for instance, if you click on the blogs feed’s content window featuring the “Just Do It – Four Steps to Filmmaking,” you can pre-select it. In the top right of that window is a little symbol with a box and an arrow. Click on it and you will access the page that the original content came from. (See below.)

In that particular instance, the link took me to Garrett Robinson’s blog (hi Garrett), where I can read the full post.  (See below.)

Now, if I were a community manager for Nike, I might decide to do nothing with that information… or I might reach out to Garrett and thank him for the mention, or make Nike resources available to him, or decide to share his content on a community blog, Facebook page or via Twitter. The options will vary depending on your role, your objectives, the opportunities and risks presenting themselves, but the point is that this feature allows you to go beyond simple content discovery. It allows you to drill down into stories, mentions and content, explore them fully, and interact with them at will.

What about the activity graph? Same thing. Click on any bar you want, and you will be able to drill down into a summary of the activity for that time frame. (See below.)

Once the window for that time frame is open, you can scroll up and down (or move to the previous time frame or the next without having to close the window, which is kind of handy).

Top right of each item in the summary window is a hyperlink, allowing you to go straight to the source if you want to. Same as with the content window. The feature also works with the Flickr feed:

See? Super easy.

On the macro level, a Tickr page works as a visual ticker that aggregates then organizes data from a breadth of relevant sources. Dedicate a screen to it in your office, lobby or digital mission control center, and you will immediately get a sense for the volume of conversations and mentions going on about your brand, what category of channels these conversations and mentions are taking place on, and what the nature of these conversations and mentions is. The page’s design and automated updates can therefore alert you to shifts in attention, to the impact of breaking stories, the possibility of looming PR crises, the effectiveness of a campaign, the stickiness of a message, etc. (We’ll get into those and more in upcoming posts.)

On a micro level, the ability to drill down into the content summaries then track mentions directly back to their source 1. allows you to understand then analyze mentions and conversations, 2. choose who you want to interact with and where, and 3. gives you complete control over the degree of engagement you want to have with your audience and/or community.

Combining Tickr’s macro and micro capabilities makes for a pretty powerful social media monitoring and management tool.

We’ll focus on more advanced features in future posts, so stay tuned. (There’s a lot more to talk about.)

In the meantime, feel free to try Tickr’s free trial version, and if you haven’t yet, unlock some new features by creating an account (recommended if you want richer results and want to be able to build pages with more than one tab/keyword at a time).

And as always, don’t be shy: share your thoughts and feedback with us, either in the comment section below or by contacting us.

We hope this post was helpful to you.

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We’ll keep things simple: no matter who you’re rooting for, today’s a big day in politics. A historic day. Either President Barack Obama gets four more years, or Mitt Romney wins his bid for the White House. Most US political polls have the candidates in a dead heat. Voter suppression efforts seem to be getting some attention in various parts of the US. Voter turnout is still, as we write this, a big question mark. A lot of things could happen in the next 48, maybe even 72 hours. One of the two candidates could win in a landslide and the whole thing could be over by midnight. Or it could be a virtual tie, and the election could be dragged out for days.

What we know is this: The next couple of days will be the biggest political event in social media’s short lifespan. Millions of people will be tweeting, blogging, updating their Facebook accounts, posting photos and videos, discussing their experiences, their opinions, their hopes and fears and dreams. Millions of people will be sharing their election with the rest of the world, and for those of us who study human behavior online and offline, it’s going to be a fascinating experiment in qualitative and quantitative digital data mapping.

To make your digital experience as fun, rewarding and immersive as possible, we’ve put together a short list of digital tools you might want to dedicate a screen, device or browser tab to.  If you have any to share that you feel should figure on this list, definitely share them with us. We’ll add them.

1. Build a 2012 Election Watch Tickr page.

Track news, blog posts, tweets, instagram photos and more on just one self-refreshing page with a timeline-based activity graph. You can drill down into every time block and see what’s going on, or you can just let the content windows give you a general sense for the latest news and opinions. It’s really easy.

If you don’t have a pro account, just use the free trial version. You won’t get every single piece of content that the pro and enterprise versions would dig up, but you will get a pretty good feel for what is going on. Anything that goes viral or gets any traction at all will turn up in the feed. (In a way, the free version turns out to be a nice skimming-off-the-top option sometimes.)

Click here or on the screen shot below to go to the page we already set up for you. If you want to build your own election watch page, click here and follow the simple instructions.

2. As poll results start to come in, test out possible scenarios with the Wall Street Journal’s interactive election map. See if you can predict the outcome of the election before anyone else does. It even has the 2004 and 2008 election maps for you to reference, which is kind of handy. Check it out:

3. As results get more certain as time goes by, use the New York Times’ 512 Paths to the White House online app to help you quickly understand where things can go next. All you have to do is scroll your cursor over any part of the tree to see where things go from there. When a state gets called, click on it (above the graph) and the app will rebuild the graph for you. If either of the candidates gets the required amount of electoral votes to win, you will be rewarded with their beaming mug. It’s slick and clever, and we really like that one. Here’s what it looks like before the counting begins:

4. Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight blog has been one of the most talked prognostication resources this year. This is your chance to see if the numbers guy was right (again). There are tons of great resources on that page, so definitely devote a tab to it. You’ll want to consult it regularly.

 5. Still from the New York Times, also check out the interactive electoral map. We like the geovolume blocks & bubbles design. It’s also interactive, so you can let the site create scenarios for you, or you can create your own by just moving the states around from one side of the screen to the other. Pretty slick.

 

Note: Many of these tools also allow you to track state and other elections, so feel free to dig deeper than the big Presidential race.

Between those five tools, Google’s Politics & Elections page and your favorite TV channels, you should be set to track the final sprint of the election like a pro.

If you have time, don’t forget to come say hi to us on Twitter and Facebook. And may the best candidate win.

Cheers, and see you on the other side of this one.

Update:

6. Here’s another cool interactive resource you might enjoy. (Hat tip to Sally Crunch – @MaverickNY on twitter –  and Jamie Cara Kennedy.) It’s C-Span’s historical map of the electoral college. By scrolling along the timeline, you can see how every presidential election played out since 1900 (McKinley-Bryan). You’ll be seeing red and blue for days, but it’s a fascinating way to visualize history using a simple political map.

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We recently touched on the topic of purpose vs. shiny object syndrome, so let’s dive a little deeper into that today by looking into data and insights. This will eventually evolve into a practical discussion about the difference between monitoring, measurement and analysis, so think of this as a small part of a bigger whole.

Let’s start at the beginning. The point of collecting data in the first place is twofold:

1. Funnel certain types of information to the right people and departments in real time (customers requiring immediate assistance, sales leads, the first phase of a potential PR crisis, etc.) and trigger a response.

2.  Derive insights from data obtained from consumers.

We can talk about the response piece of this discussion in an upcoming post. For now, let’s focus on the insights part of it.

Simply put, the building blocks of insights are data, and insights are the building blocks of business decisions. The core equation you want to hitch your strategy wagon to is this: good data + good insights = good decisions.

Easier said than done, sure, but you have to start somewhere. (Ideally, the people in your organization tasked with translating data into insights and strategy are both competent and intellectually agile. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that they are.) As a CTO (chief technology officer) or CIO (Chief intelligence/information officer), your job in building a digital control center, no matter who ends up owning, running, and sharing it, is to equip the insights folks with the best data collection, management and communication ecosystem possible.

Aside from the response functions we mentioned earlier (tech support, customer service, community management, sales and PR), the driving force behind the design of that ecosystem must be to provide analysts and decision-makers with everything they need to quickly derive the clearest and most inspired insights from what would otherwise be endless oceans of data. A short list of the process you should focus on in choosing your monitoring and management software and designing your display structure would look like this:

Acquire Data (what channels & sources)

Filter Data (separate signal from noise)

Translate Data (format and clarify data)

You could collect data all day long, amass mountains of it, and still not have what you need to derive useful insights or draw helpful conclusions about the effectiveness of an activity (or of your overall business performance). So you have to know what data you want to collect and why, then figure out where and how to collect it. For all the bells, whistles and amazing displays one might expect to find in a digital control center, the primary purpose of that array of screens and keyboards is to properly acquire, funnel and manage data for customer-facing employees and decision-makers.

The selection of each monitoring tool assigned to this piece of your digital practice must be driven by an understanding of what kind of data are most valuable to each key function and why, where they can be collected, how quickly and how reliably. The tools you select must give you the ability to organize, manage and present that data in ways that make that data actionable. Simple, right? In theory. In practice, it takes a good deal of planning, testing and analysis to get this right. It isn’t hard, but it takes work. So don’t rush into investing into cookie-cutter digital control center solutions. Make sure that you build the right ecosystem for you. Make each screen count. Build best practices and functional workflows around your control center.  It might seem like a little more work than you expected to do on the front end, but it will be well worth it in a few months when your data and insights ecosystem is humming along like a well-oiled machine.

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As always, we welcome your comments here, on Facebook and on Twitter. And if you haven’t tried Tickr alongside your other digital/social monitoring solutions, you’re about twenty seconds away from a test drive. Just click here.