Measuring the intensity of emotion is one way NetBase distinguishes itself in the crowded field of social media analytics. Or, as Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Joy Rosner puts it, "I'm quite passionate about how we measure passion."
The point is to distinguish between liking and loving, mildly disliking and intensely loathing, while also trying to dodge linguistic pitfalls like satire that can confuse a computer program. NetBase does a good enough job of it that it has been able to win the business of major consumer products companies like Coca Cola and Kraft.
Social media analytics products start to sound alike after a while, given that many firms now claim to be able to digest a huge volume of comments posted on social media websites and blogs. Where they differ is in how they parse and analyze the data, and NetBase has a reputation as one of the most sophisticated and scalable products. The sophistication comes from the firm's investments in cutting edge natural language processing to better understand the content of social media chatter, rather than just filtering for keywords. NetBase also gains scalability credibility from the fact that its CTO Mark Bowles was formerly CTO of Tibco Software, where he was one of the inventors of its high-performance messaging middleware.
NetBase CEO Peter Caswell said that's one reason his company will stay ahead of the competition. "To do what we do from a technical standpoint is extremely difficult," he said. "It's much harder than it appears on the surface."
In one key visualization of its results, NetBase shows the volume and intensity of sentiment on a given subject as colored areas above and below a midline of neutral feeling. The farther under water a brand is in the public's eyes, the deeper it sinks into the red, and the better it's doing the more it rises into the green area. NetBase then shows a Net Sentiment score showing how the two are averaging out over time. The firm produced one of these for a recent article on thecmosite.com about the McDonald's social media response to news of an attack on a transgender customer.
Beyond graphing the data, NetBase can extract representative verbatim comments from the data stream for review by analysts, to help them understand the reasons behind those positive and negative sentiments.
The power of that analysis is one reason market research firm J.D. Power and Associates became a customer even after acquiring Umbria, another social analytics startup.
"One of the things that became clear to us was that the social media analysis space is evolving rapidly, and in a number of directions," said Bill Tuohig, senior director of product management for Web Intelligence Research at J.D. Power and one of the people who joined the company with the acquisition of Umbria. Because J.D. Power is not a "pure technology company," it decided it wasn't positioned to compete in a technological arms race and would do better to cultivate relationships with NetBase and other firms, picking the best tools for each project.
There are other applications where a speedy keyword-driven review of social content is appropriate, but NetBase is one of the best tools for deep analysis, Tuohig said. "The vast majority of tools are just going to give a score that's overall positive or negative. But there's a difference between someone who says, I love this brand because of XYZ, versus just a passing mention--I bought this car, and yeah it meets my needs, it's good. Knowing that people talking about you passionately, versus in a passive way, that makes a difference."
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