Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Crimson Hexagon: Tracking Online Conversations

Checked in this morning with Mike Troiano, a former ad agency and tech company exec who linked up with Crimson Hexagon back in April as an advisor -- mainly to help the company secure new funding. Crimson Hexagon, based on technology developed at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science, is a Cambridge start-up that digs into all kinds of online conversations to figure out what people are saying about a given product or service. The company got going in 2007, has been funded by angel investors and angel groups, and officially launched last fall.

Lots of companies, Troiano says, are good at searching for keywords (like "Ben & Jerry's") across the Web and assessing how much buzz a given brand is getting. Crimson Hexagon, he says, has "the ability to find patterns in the dots of online conversation, across blogs, Twitter, bulletin boards, and forums. It's not just about the volume of buzz, but what people are saying." An example: the firm recently explored the positive and negative reactions on Twitter to Microsoft's Bing search site.

As for a new round of funding, Troiano told me to expect an announcement from Crimson Hexagon within a few weeks. It likely will come from angels, rather than VC firms. "I've never seen a [fundraising] market like this," Troiano said. "VCs are protecting their cash to allocate it to current portfolio companies." (Though Troiano admits that some VCs may simply think that Crimson Hexagon is still too young a company for them to fund.) "If we got paid by the meeting, we'd be sitting pretty," he quipped, referring to investors' willingness to take a meeting -- even if they're not doing much active investing.

Another company in the "social media monitoring" space, New York-based Techrigy, was just acquired today for an undisclosed sum. That could bode well for Crimson Hexagon.

Crimson Hexagon is part of what I think of as the "metrics and measurement" cluster here in Massachusetts -- a cluster that includes firms like Visible Measures (video measurement), Compete (Web traffic), and Localytics, a mobile measurement company that's now participating in the TechStars Boston summer program.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Are these guys the new 'Mad Men'?

Sunday's Globe column touches on the writers, consultants, and conference organizers based here in Boston who are helping to define a new approach to marketing.

    Lots of different terminology is being tossed around to try to describe the shift, from social media to content marketing to social marketing to inbound marketing. The word "social" implies that the personal connections between individuals who can help spread your message to others are increasingly important. "Content marketing" alludes to creating content that people choose to spend time with, whether it's a list of tips for maintaining a beautiful lawn or a funny video, like the "Will It Blend?" series created by the Utah blender maker Blendtec. "Inbound marketing," coined by the Cambridge-based software company HubSpot, implies that a company has a prominent presence online and is delivering value to customers so they'll come find it, rather than simply broadcasting "outbound" messages and hoping for the best.

This new marketing mafia includes companies like Brand Networks, Hubspot and BzzAgent, and people like C.C. Chapman, Chris Brogan, Paul Gillin, and David Meerman Scott. (I'm sure I've left key players out here, so feel free to add a comment...)

(Mashable took a look recently at Boston's social media scene, from a slightly different perspective.)

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Social Media Meets Lay-Offs; Forrester Response

My Globe column this Sunday is about some lay-offs earlier this month by Mzinga, a purveyor of social media software to businesses. From the piece:

    On March 19, about 40 employees - roughly 18 percent of the workforce - were terminated as part of the company's second round of cuts in 2009. But what was unusual about Mzinga's situation was how widely it echoed throughout the universe of bloggers and Twitter users, since so many of the company's employees and customers - and the analysts who track its ups and downs - are part of the online community that shares morsels of information and "status updates" on a moment-by-moment basis. This was a layoff for our Twittery new times.

I wanted to share here some responses that I received from Forrester Research CEO Charles Rutstein; the first hint that something was going on at Mzinga appeared here, on Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang's blog, igniting a bit of a controversy. (Owyang had suggested that Mzinga clients and prospects put off any new deals with the company, without really explaining why.)

Here's what Rutstein sent, via e-mail:

    Q: Was Jeremiah acting as a blogger or an analyst when he wrote about Mzinga?

    A: Jeremiah is both an independent blogger and a Forrester analyst. In his blog posts about Mzinga, he erred by speculating and not applying the same standards of quality as would be required in a Forrester research report. He has publicly apologized to his readers for this oversight. Importantly, however, Jeremiah was acting as an advocate for Forrester’s clients – making them aware of information they might need to make a critical purchasing decision. And, it’s worth noting that Jeremiah’s speculation, while insufficiently researched up-front, has proven to be grounded in fact.

    Have we been in touch with Mzinga about what happened? Absolutely.

    All of us – Forrester included – are still learning how to live in the world of social media. While our experts are among the foremost in the world on these topics, we continue to learn every day.

    Q: Has the blogging incident resulted in any modifications to existing policies or new policies about engaging with social media for Forrester employees?

    A: Forrester has blogging guidelines which have been in place for some time and which have been shared with all Forrester employees. Forrester has 18 blogs which cater to the professional roles of its clients . Separately, a number of Forrester analysts maintain personal blogs which is their prerogative. We do not control what analysts write about in their personal blogs although we ask them to clearly state that their content is their own and may not necessarily reflect Forrester’s views. Naturally we ask them to respect Forrester intellectual property based on our blogging guidelines. As the web 2.0 world continues to evolve, we will continue to encourage Forrester analysts to participate thoughtfully in the community while respecting Forrester’s content and social media guidelines.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Does Larry Weber Get the Social Web?

Back when the first edition of Larry Weber's book "Marketing to the Social Web" was published in 2007, I noted that he didn't have a blog.

Now, there's a second edition out, and still, Larry has his minions blogging about the book on his behalf, and shooting YouTube videos for him.

After a quick glance today, it seems that Larry has no Twitter account, no Facebook account, and no MySpace account. (There are other Larry Webers on MySpace and Facebook, but not the famous social media guru.)

I guess it's possible to really understand this stuff in the abstract, without really using it?

Here is Larry's first YouTube video, to promote the book. Does this count as social media, or is it really just a TV commercial?

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