Twitter has quickly gone from being a quirky little microblogging site where you can find out what celebrities had for breakfast to a nearly indispensible digital marketing tool for brands. Using Twitter as a business intelligence tool, however, has presented a lengthy list of challenges to anyone with enough courage to try to ford the Twitter stream. The sheer volume of information being shared via Twitter is daunting to say the least, especially when all you have to battle the tide of information is a few keywords and hashtag searches.
According to Ned May, VP and lead analyst at Outsell, Inc., “Twitter had been a bit of an enigma” when it comes to “harvesting information very effectively.” He adds that Twitter has been “a good marketing tool but not a market intelligence tool.”
Now FirstRain, Inc.—a company specializing in enterprise customer intelligence—is aiming to help companies stem the tide of information overload with FirstTweets. According to FirstRain, FirstTweets delivers real-time industry- and customer-specific information to uncover revenue opportunities, including customer developments, industry trends, news, market analysis, emerging themes, and much more. FirstTweets delivers the information directly into CRM systems, social enterprise platforms, iPads, and other mobile devices.
Solving the problem of Twitter noise, however, is not easy. “The technology problem associated with producing extremely good results is very difficult,” says Penny Herscher, president and CEO of FirstRain.
“In every single case the tools that are out there today are focused on brand management and media monitoring,” says Ryan Warren, FirstRain’s VP of marketing. Up until now, Twitter analytics tools mostly helped brands understand what the conversation is around their products.
FirstRain reports that unlike keyword-based media monitoring and public relations-focused applications, such as Radian6 and Meltwater News, its technology takes the full fire hose of 250 million tweets per day and applies patented semantic analytics and algorithms to uncover, categorize, and deliver high-quality, business-relevant intelligence about global companies, industries, and business topics.
“Less than .1% of tweets are high quality business content,” says Warren. He adds that even that small fraction of content still represents more than 200,000 tweets. Warren says that FirstTweets can carve out the information each user needs for his or her specific business needs. FirstRain’s engines analyze and filter out not only business-irrelevant content such as entertainment, sports, political, junk, and spam tweets, but it also includes consumer-generated commentary that is not helpful to the majority of sales and marketing professionals and executives.
Users can choose from a wide variety of preselected companies and topics of interest. If FirstTweets doesn’t have a topic in the system, it will create it when it encounters the term during semantic analysis of the web. After a user tells FirstTweets what company he or she works for or what information they are interested in, the system will pre-check companies and topics of interest with the best calculated overlap, but you’re also able to customize the suggestions if need be.
“I haven’t seen anyone do it this way yet,” says May. “There’s a lot of activity on social media monitoring, but no one is applying the filters up front.” He says that LinkedIn’s integration is fairly effective—it funnels the Tweets of your professional network to you—but that FirstTweets is the only product taking on the ambitious task of deriving truly actionable business information from the noise of Twitter.
Results can be delivered to just about any device or system. From your iPad to your CRM system, FirstTweets is capable of integrating with just about any system and delivering results to almost any screen. And it presents information by dividing it up into a few categories: First Reads, Analytics, Business Influencers, and Topics. “Most of our users—sales and marketing and leadership folks—who are out there in the field are using the apps,” says Herscher.
All of this, FirstRain reports, can help enterprises improve the value of CRM and SFA investments by delivering relevant, revenue-generating customer intelligence directly into a salesperson’s account workflow; drive greater engagement within social enterprise platforms by integrating the highly specific customer and market intelligence around which users collaborate; better leverage their mobile workforce, delivering real-time business-relevant Twitter and web intelligence directly into enterprise-deployed iPads, iPhones, and Android phones.
The visual analytics presentation can also give users a quick, at-a-glance look into the Twitter conversation. A simple dashboard can show users who/what the business influencers and market drivers are, along with a variety of other info. And thanks to beta users, FirstTweets has been able to tweak its user-interface and presentation.
According to Warren, beta users had plenty of good suggestions that were later incorporated into the final product. Those changes included layout improvements such as moving the list of monitors above the list of latest email briefs on the home dashboard or adding a link that allows you to instantly open an article in a new window. New capabilities such as intelligence analytics, article summary pages, as well as both the substance and presentation of FirstTweets were strongly influenced by beta customers.
“We frequently get the feedback from customers that they just can’t believe the precision,” says Herscher—which explains why FirstRain had received purchase orders from companies before even going into actual production.
Without a tool like FirstTweets many companies trying to use Twitter for business information could quickly find themselves overwhelmed. “It’s so noisy, you’re not going to be able to do it on your own without a tool,” says May. “It can help you stay ahead of the curve. You still have to read the mainstream news, but this is a way to make sure you’re not missing anything.”
With no comparable products to compare it to, FirstTweets’ achievement has no choice but to stand alone. “They’re doing it well … better than anyone else,” says May. “Recognizing the enormity of it will set expectations going in.”
FirstTweets is now available and will be included for FirstRain subscribers. For standalone integration into CRM and social enterprise platforms, FirstTweets starts at $10,000 per year for 100 users.